Rock Mulch Inferno.
Nor do we recommend that you pour a truck load of red
gravel/mulch in the area where you currently have a front
lawn and call that "desert landscaping". That rock mulch
will reach temperatures of close to 150 degrees F in hot
summer sunlight, turning your front yard into a furnace!
That fake plastic grass, which these days looks almost real,
is also hotter than hot in the sunshine. What you save on
water you will spend on air conditioning if you spread lots
of rock mulch in any area around your home.
1. Plant Lantana (Lantana
Trailing Indigo Bush (Dalea
Desert Carpet (Acacia
redolens). And plant them densely enough so they will
completely fill in the area within a year. The idea is to
create a visual substitute for the water-gulping lawn.
||Lantana will give you brilliant color -
yellows, golds, pinks, or purples - for months on
end, so pick a color that goes nicely with your
home. Or mix them up!
Acacia redolens 'Desert
Carpet' is a low-growing, gray-green leafed shrub with
yellow, puffy round blooms in Spring. Trailing Indigo
Bush, a Western U. S. native is more subtle, low-mounding
shrub with pearly gray leaves and small lavender flowers in
All three require little watering, endure poor soil and keep
their leaves year 'round. And they never need mowing. (You
may even be able to say goodbye to your lawn service guys,
as well as to high water bills.)
2. Plant lawn pavers.
This solution can be quite striking if your front garden is
small and faces north or east. What you do, after you
remove the lawn, is install large concrete pavers widely
spaced in a geometric pattern. The idea is to lessen the
amount of plants requiring watering in your front garden -
not to create a front yard patio, so be sure to allow wide
spaces between the pavers. We suggest that you stain the
pavers in a color to complement your home before you install
them. Don't leave them concrete-gray.
Between the pavers, plant low growing herbs. Yet another
plant to go between the pavers is simply the lawn grass you
already have growing. But then you would still have to
trim/mow it somehow!
We are reluctant to suggest
as a lawn substitute. It is one of the sturdiest, most
drought-tolerant low growing shrubs, but attracts bees,
which may have been Africanized and are potentially
dangerous. At the very least the bees may sting.
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We also suggest that you plant a
wide border of drought-tolerant plants at the sides of your
front yard if you install pavers. It looks a bit weird
if the pavers extend from wall to wall across the front of
For suggestions of plants suitable
for the border, visit our
Beautiful Borders page. You may also wish to
consider planting taller
Ornamental Grasses, such as Pampas grass or Deer Grass,
in your border. In the border you should
consider positioning some small "boulders" to give the
border a natural, native look.
One More Thought About Lawns.
Albert Camus' novel 'L'Etranger' one character muses that
the green landscape of France hurts his eyes and he longs
for the soft browns of his native Algeria. We would
all do well to learn to love the subtle, soft colors of our
dry climates - wherever on our planet they are.
Very Tall Tall Grass.
Bamboo is the
giant of the grass family and Oldham bamboo (Bambusa
oldhamii) can be grown in low water usage conditions.
This timber bamboo has a clumping growth habit - that means
it more or less stays where you plant it. ("Running"
bamboos spread underground and will take over your entire
yard--and your neighbors yard, too--if they like the
conditions.) This giant grows fast - more than a foot
a day during its growing season - and rapidly forms a tall
screen. Under best conditions it can reach 50 feet
tall, but more commonly grows to about 15 to 25 feet in
height. Just the thing to counteract noisy neighbors!.
Planting it in partial shade is best.