Lawns: Do you still have one?

I killed my lawn. Ask me how. (bumper sticker from Tree of Life Nursery, San Juan Capistrano, California)

My good friend Bonnie (who has since moved to France where she doesn’t have a lawn to kill) had this on her bumper for years. She transformed her front yard and as soon as you got out of your car, you could smell the sages and other aromatic native plants. Suddenly there were more birds and butterflies around. And the people who live there now have kept her planting scheme.

I don’t have a lawn at my place either. There was a tiny bit of one on the lowest terrace when I arrived here 12 years ago, but I neglected it to death as soon as possible. Other than the potted plants outside my door, the only things on my property that get supplementary irrigation are my three orange trees which get deep-watered 2 or 3 times a year. The rest of my plants, including some established rose bushes, do just fine and when the Matilija poppy in my front yard blooms every year, it stops traffic.

So this post by Lisa Cahill at Good, resonates with me.

Why do we love our lawns when they don’t love us back? We pay a gardener or mow every week. We weed, edge, and blow. We aerate and add chemicals that pollute our waterways. And still, our lawns need more—often a lot more.

If you’re interested in going the native plant route like Bonnie, there are lots of resources in California and a good place to start is the California Native Plant Society. There’s also a lot of information to be found on sites like those of Tree of Life and Las Pilitas nurseries.

In Texas, there’s the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center which maintains an information network that covers the whole country.


  1. The original purpose of lawns was for the uber-rich aristocracy to show that they had so much land they could use huge areas of it for not growing food.  Like many such things, the front lawn is a carry over from that. 

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