Like any traditional American gardener, I’ve paid homage to the gods of turfgrass around my house. I’ll admit that lawns provide a place to rest the eye and showcase mixed borders; they also create a sense of order and safety around the house. But turfgrass is boring—not to mention high maintenance. All the buying and schlepping of products and the constant mowing and watering is overwhelming. Maintaining my lawn required carrying a mower down some tricky stairs, and because I didn’t water my lawn, it looked brown for most of the summer. So I was actually being selfish when I dug up and composted my turfgrass. And with the grass gone, I also kissed good-bye to the mower, the fertilizer, the sprinkler, and almost all of the weeding.
If you don’t need a tough playing surface for kids and dogs, grass can be replaced with just about anything—trees, shrubs, perennials, edibles, patios, gazebos—but I chose to simply copy the look of a lawn using plants more to my liking. No minimeadow for me—just low ground covers that require little or no care, are interesting and fun to grow, and look good all year. What I call my gorgeous “exlawn” is thriving with a mix of evergreen ground covers that enjoy sun, can handle light traffic, and will survive a heavy garden hose being lugged across them.