There is a growing movement to replace traditional, thirsty, fertilizer-hungry lawns with native grasses, groundcovers, and 'meadow' mixes. Here we'll explore several options for replacing your lawn and making your garden more attractive and sustainable.
Meadow Mixes/Ecology Lawn
The right mixture of herbs and fine fescue makes a stunning display. The benefits of such a lawn is that it is beautiful, does not require mowing or only requires some mowing (once a month in summer), increases and enhances wildlife, it takes less water, it doesn't require fertilizer, and you and your family can still walk and play on it.
Yarrow (Alchillea millefolium) Lawn (All Zones)
Yarrow forms a beautiful green mat that looks and feels very soft. If you keep it mowed regularly, it won't be able to flower, but it does make a stunning, prairie-like display in the warmer months. It remains green and lush with heavy foot traffic and little watering. It is a tough, versatile plant that keeps out the weeds and endures the heat.
Carex Lawns (zones 4-9, 14-24)
These are drought tolerant grasses that can look splendid all year round. Some of the grasses might go dormant in the summer without some supplemental watering, but the good news is that these mixes take about 70% less water than traditional lawns.
Light Traffic Alternate Groundcovers
Or ditch a uniform cover and opt for a beautiful mix of drought tolerant grasses, shrubs, and trees like The Aldrich Company's design here. Click on the picture for more design ideas!
Water-Wise California Native Plants
California is a diverse state rich in many different plants and habitats. Much of the state is dry--from the slopes of the Sierra Nevada Foothills down to the coastal bluffs and chapparal of the coast. The plants that thrive here are beautiful and tough. By utilizing natives, specifically drought-tolerant natives, we can conserve water, energy, and create beautiful and sustainable landscapes.
Note: all zones refer to Sunset Western garden zones
Perennials and Shrubs
Get Fire Ready!
Wildfires are devastating forces that can sweep through your property and destroy everything in its path. Prepare for the upcoming fire season by utilizing firewise design and maintaining your property with these tips and guidelines.
The first thirty feet around your home is very important in thwarting the worst effects of a wildfire. The first 5 feet or so from your home should be planted sparingly--no overhanging trees, chapparal shrubs, or flammable decking, fencing, etc. Remember that trees should be 10 feet away from your chimney.
Extend hardscape made of nonflammable materials like concrete, stone, and composite materials for the first thirty feet around your house for maximum fire safety. Use fire-resistant plants (see below) that are well-watered and pruned regularly in this zone as well. Lawns are ok for this zone--just make sure they are well-watered and mowed regularly.
The next zone is 30 to 100 feet away from your home is the green zone, with low growing shrubs (regularly watered and pruned), trees, and hedges. Plant trees far apart, so that a fire can't jump from one tree to the next easily, and refrain from planting shrubs and vines beneath them. Stagger your screening hedges; they act as a flame highway if planted in a straight line. Remember spacing is crucial, as well as cleaning up any dry debris from the plants.
Fire Resistant Plants
These plants can slow a fire down, but be sure to water and prune them!
These structurally striking, water filled plants are native to the most wildfire prone parts of the country, the West and Southwest. There are so many Agave species to choose from, each one remarkably beautiful.
Plant them in groups, or as a single specimen. They are also drought tolerant and look great with other succulents.
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is a great groundcover with winter interest (red-tinged leaves) and delicate pink blossoms in the spring and summer.
Plant in sun to light shade. Pinemat Manzanita is a good slope stabilizer, and its leaves make an excellent tea. Zones A1-A3, 1-9, 14-24
Mimulus sp. are charming, versatile, and heat adapted perennials native to the West. There is a recently discovered native Monkey flower to the Santa Barbara region, called the Vandenburg Monkey flower.
Blooms are usually orange, but also come in yellow, red, or bi-colored. They are easy to grow in Southern California and bloom for most of the year and attract hummingbirds and Checkerspot butterflies.
Monkey flower is also known to thrive in any kind of soil, so give it a try! Zones vary, take a look in Sunset Gardening book for reference.
Mahohia repens can be grown in zones 2b-9 and 14-24, and provides yellow spring flowers, blue berries in the summer and bronze leaves in the fall. This evergreen groundcover likes the sun or part shade.
It is a great perennial under oaks and can tolerate low water conditions and is tolerate of frost, heat and is deer-resistant. A tough and versatile plant!