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Turn Grass into Garden 


Have you considered turning your lawn into garden?

Most of our front yards are grass we keep watered, fertilized and green....more for show because we don't usually lie on the grass there - no privacy….

Street-side spaces are often for getting to and from the door or drive. They are also for passers-by, dogs, walkers, cyclists ..or garden voyeurs.

Green Grass can dress up the front of our homes as they are often the bits of 'land' leftover from building our homes, porches and decks.

Whether you have a verandah to sit on, a view of the lake or neighbourhood, or no view, the front yard garden is the first thing you see when you come home…. The first thing your guests see when they come to your door… 

The other thing about grass, is it  needs a lot of water and fertilizer... both are not ecologically supportive to nature or our pollinators.... 

When this house (photo below) was new to me, we spent most  money on the inside - where we do most of our living.... besides, winter was coming so except for the birds, who would sit on the grass in the front yard?.

And so the outside was left until Spring  because I wanted our private spaces in the back garden.

My house was built in 1906 but someone decided to “modernize” this lovely old house by adding an ‘Angel Stone’ porch in the ‘50’s. It didn’t fit with the house, but there it was,  glommed onto this hundred-year old house.

Not very attractive.



 I had to think of something.


The grass wouldn'e grow under this humongous maple tree in spite of shops selling ‘grass seed for shade’.  

Still didn't grow. Not enough sun and the tree was greedy.

I needed a makeover... but how?

The old junipers were neglected; left untrimmed and overgrown.

Not knowing what else to do, I gave them a haircut but alas, but my lack of experience in pruning didn't help – poor things.

I painted the "stone" but it stood out even more… sigh…

Next, I took up some of the grass and tried to make a garden by planting dozens of Impatiens….. but, once again, not knowing what to do next, they didn't make much difference.…

so they just kind of sat there.




I needed something drastic - and I painted the whole house a sort of Provence-periwinkle and that sad porch sort of faded into the arms of the old house…  much better. 



Inspired, I took another risk – a big one… I had no luck growing anything in the front garden so I hired some muscle and we dug up the whole yard; got rid of all the "grass".

I even made a deal with a nearby construction site that was  removing stone and broken marble pieces - saving them from some heavy dumping fees and we made a trade - my sod (lighter) for their stone and marble pieces

– win-win….

At a local plant sale, I found some large cement heart-shaped stepping stones like rhubarb leaves with a bit of peachy pink in them… they were gorgeous and added a totally different perspective to my makeover.

Taking up grass still means replacing it with something else or it will be full of weeds in a heart-beat.

When you choose plants, find some pollinators... ask your local nursery for plants to suit your sun or shade (and zone)

If you choose stones and/ or rocks, you might consider putting down landscape fabric.  I don't support this under plants, but under a stone pathway, it can help to keep the weeds down for awhile...

BE AWARE, though, use it only under things that do not need to grow roots - like stones or gravel - putting soil and plants ON TOP of it, means they cannot get their roots down into the soil.... and the fabric, will stop water and nutrients from entering into the soil.

Plan where your stones or walkway will go. You can use pea gravel, which comes in several colours and add some smooth river rock for added interest.

A few lines on a scrap of paper constitutes a plan just as much as a lot of ink on fancy paper….you need to know your zone, the amount or lack of sun etc BEFORE you buy your plants.

Then put your plants in first –  for me, it was Hosta. (They free an they love the shade)

I put a row of them with white blooms at the back of the garden nearest the porch, and the others with mauve blooms at the front. 

And then, lots of mulch... keeps moisture in and weeds out.

Here’s how my front-yard garden went from grass to garden makeover

- before and after…on the front side of the house…

BEFORE......



AND, AFTER


Near the fence, a lovely “Dappled Willow” with feathery leaves with tips of white and pale pink.

Trim it and shape it how you like… I like an open, natural shape 

I found a wonderful metal gate and before mounting it on the fence, I painted the idea of a scene under it.

Making you think there was more behind the fence than just an air conditioner and some ugly storage stuff.

On the corner by the porch, in one of the sunnier garden spots  a ‘Burning Bush’(Euonymus alata)

… it has a lovely shape, but in the fall, the leaves turn a brilliant red… a stunning display of colour, making a statement, while remembering it can get huge and needs regular pruning.

The side bed has a chain link fence… good for keeping out small children and other small pests…. But not so good-looking.

But is a gardener’s dream and a place to grow vines…. Like Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) and Clematis’ if you have sun. Or if lots of sun, climbing roses or even 'Virginia Creeper'(Parthenocissus quinquefolia) as it looks like a green hedge - no maintenance either. In the fall and bright red leaves. It will spread like wildfire though, and you will have to keep your eye on it or it will take over…



Clematis....



A front yard is usually all grass and small but there are ways to make it into a garden and appear bigger or more fascinating by adding dimension… pathways, and stepping-stones and fences with false doors….

Anything that draws the eye inward… as if there is more to see, tempting the passer-by to linger awhile, and stop to see your garden.

As you can see, the front ‘garden’ is very narrow… less than 15 feet from the edge of the house to the street…

But with a makeover, there is no grass to cut; instead, a series of pathways in pink pea gravel, and sinuous "river beds" with smooth river rock, Hosta plants and potted Streptocarpella flower.

Garden Design

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