I’m giving up grass once and for all. I’m through with that. The things I have had to do in my life to manage a serious grass habit have worn thin, the trade offs are no longer worth it, and it’s time to get straight.
As with all habits, the problem is in finding a substitute. Something has to fill the space. Also, it was easier to get fine, green premium grade stuff in Michigan. The supply is unbelievably short in Chicago and down here in Florida all the grass appears to be laced with really bad stuff, like something the Walmart Easter bunny would dream up. What to do, what to do?
Our Florida place is a second home. It started as a real estate investment but then we decided we loved the place too much to let anyone we didn’t know use it. Soon, we decided to make it nicer with an addition and now I’m thinking, well, maybe Chicago can be the second home. The one I use May through September.
The addition decimated the yard, what little there was. Fairly early on I figured that was just as well because I wanted to try my hand at xeriscaping and I wanted to go native. Clearly, grass is not well adapted to this climate and the amount of water it takes to keep it going is just plain wrong. In letting go of our half acre in Ann Arbor and the cottage at Wit’s End, the good news is that we use a smaller footprint. We take up less space, rarely drive anywhere, use less heating fuel and so forth. Planting a yard full of thirsty grass would be going in the wrong direction.
Still, I need my fix. If not grass, then really good substitutes. I’ve been on a crash course, learning about what grows here naturally, what’s invasive (many things, really) and what can be grown that fits the parameters of xeriscape philosophy and still is pleasing to my gardener’s eye. One thing I’ve discovered is that a lot of plants that look good up top or from a distance are very very pokey up close.
Since arriving I’ve been going to nurseries, looking up local native gardeners and bicycling about the neighborhood taking pictures of grass free yards that have plantings I like. Then I come home, look at the pictures and research the plants. FC has suggested Coontie as a good place to start and I’m hot on the trail of some of those.
Here are a couple of pictures of a yard down the street that has great landscaping. It sort of walks the line between low water, some water plantings. I love the giant tree ferns; I also like the succulent stuff growing around the edges. I "borrowed" some that was hanging over the sidewalk edge and brought it home. I’ve whacked it into pieces and dipped them in rootone and they’re now residing in a tray out back. (Homegrown is always better, yes?)
Tomorrow morning the irrigation guy comes. This place used to have an extensive system with 5 or 6 zones and many of those got torn up in the process of adding on. My thinking at this point is I’m going to try and get it down to two small zones that utilize drip hoses rather than sprinkler system so I can have some lush stuff up near the house and then, moving out into the yard, plant things that can be self sustaining in the natural climate. The one we used to have. I have a feeling the irrigation guy thinks he will persuade me otherwise but no. It’s not gonna happen. Wouldn’t be prudent.