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Last Update 06/03/08

Do Something with Yards of Boring Grass...

Lawns are a Yawn — Flowers Got Power 


According to the National Gardening Association, the average household spends double the dollars on do-it-yourself lawn care than on flowering gardens. Seems keeping those little green blades in perfect shape is costly. Sure, it’s a place for the kids to play, but lawns don’t deliver bountiful color and won’t bring the butterflies or grace a vase. 

Virginia Scott Jenkins exposes the roots of our lawn fixation in her 1994 book entitled The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession.  Jenkins details how millions of industry dollars are spent on developing turf that is both disease and pest-resistant—after all, lawn as we know it is not a native plant.

Ask any turf-obsessing neighbor to divulge their secrets of success… when to water, how to water, the right seed, fertilizer, pesticides, de-thatcher, aerator, and fertilizer spreader.  If your eyes glaze over when discussing just how far apart aerating holes should be, consider this: flowers and other plants can actually be easier and cheaper to care for than the perfect lawn.  Hmmm, maybe it’s time to reduce your lawn area and strike a new balance.

Turf Alternatives:

1. Ornamental grasses and foliage plants are a great alternative to lawn. Consider breaking up that big expanse of flat green with taller interesting plants like these.

Wind Dancer Eragrostis - This airy, bluish-green grass features tan plumes late in summer. It grows 3 to 4 ft. (90-120 cm) and provides lovely winter interest as well. It's hardy to USDA Zone 6 and because it's drought-tolerant and native to North America, you'll find it very low maintenance.

Wind Dancer Eragrostis

Purple Majesty Ornamental Millet - Deep purple foliage develops in the sunshine on this tall corn-like plant. Large flower spikes reach above the foliage creating a wonderful backdrop for compact plants in front. It's a beautiful fall plant with a harvest look and will take light frosts. This variety is an All-America Selections Gold Medal -- a testament to its outstanding garden performance. Also look for two other varieties of ornamental millet. Purple Baron and Jester are both more compact than Purple Majesty but share the same rich color changes over the growing season.

Purple Majesty Ornamental Millet



Purple Knight Alternanthera - The dark purple-leafed foliage grows about 18 in. (50 cm) tall and spreads about 3 ft. (90 cm).

Purple Knight Alternanthera

 Very heat tolerant, it thrives through the hottest summers in full sun. You can keep it more compact with regular trimming.

Purple Knight Alternanthera

Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper – The first black-leafed ornamental pepper on the market, Black Pearl is also a recent All-America selections winner. It features glossy black foliage on a bushy plant.  It loves heat, humidity and can tolerate drought, making it a super summer pick.  Black Pearl features round, shiny black fruit that matures to dark red and is very hot to the taste.

Black Pearl Ornamental Pepper

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