Garden Photo of the Day

A Suburban Garden Without a Blade of Grass

Shrubs and stone instead of boring lawn

Today we’re visiting Michael Goltzman’s garden in Bethesda, Maryland.

Over the last 10+ years, my wife and I have taken our small suburban plot, which was all lawn and yews against the foundation, and eliminated the last blade of grass, using Japanese maples, dwarf conifers, and perennials to create our garden. We moved all of the rock and dirt. My wife is the stone mason, while I am the brute force and the plant guy. As old houses were torn down in the neighborhood, we saved some bushes, bulbs, and perennials that have augmented our garden.

Thanks for the blog, and sharing everyone’s beautiful work.

Wide view of the garden in spring, with trees and perennials coming into growth.

New foliage on a spectacular weeping Japanese maple (Acer palmatum, Zones 5–9).

cobalt blue plant containers

These cobalt blue containers make a dramatic focal point. They are filled with blooming snapdragons (Antirrhinum majalis, annual) and a tree peony (Paeonia hybrid, Zones 3–8), both in shades of dark wine-red.

bearded iris

Old-fashioned bearded iris (Iris hybrid, Zones 3–9) blooming beautifully with some work on the stone in process.

Shrubs provide the backbone for the garden, which ensures year-round interest and beauty.

garden stone walls

Beautiful stonework is such a wonderful feature in this garden, elevating the beds and the perennials growing in them up to where they can be more easily appreciated.

More perfectly laid stone.

And most important in any garden: a spot to sit and enjoy the fruits of all that hard work.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 06/05/2020

    Thanks for posting, your garden is lovely.
    I always wonder how the elements, leaves, the escaped soil, and other fallen matter impact small pebble pathways, and in your case a much larger area.
    Weeds will eventually emerge even if there's a weed barrier below. Cannot stop what establishes from the topside.
    What approach do you undertake to maximize the stone effects will minimizing the natural and eventual unwanted issues?

    1. mgol1068 06/05/2020

      When we put the gravel down initially, we use newspaper as a barrier because it decomposes, and then, we do some minimal weeding once a year to address the maple seedlings that emerge.

  2. User avater
    user-7007816 06/05/2020

    I really like the work that you have done in creating a beautiful and interesting garden. I particularly like that you have included so many shrubs and small trees. I have learned the hard way that do grow and will become an issue later, but in the meantime, they are a beautiful asset.

    1. mgol1068 06/05/2020

      Thanks, we have chosen dwarf varieties from the beginning to minimize these challenges, but like any garden, it's always a work in progress and you do have to move things from time to time.

  3. Maggieat11 06/05/2020 fulfilling to create a garden together. You must have made the nursnurse🌿 Love the stonework too.

  4. Maggieat11 06/05/2020

    Should have read... " You must have made the nurseries happy!😉"

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/05/2020

    Your garden beds and walkways have a beautiful aesthetic and all your additions of ornamentation are very appealing...who doesn't swoon over eye-catching cobalt blue planters? Your wife's stonemason work is impressive...having such a skill set is so cool. Was the lovely wooden arch and gate work also done by one of you? Kudos on such a successful transformation of your landscaping over the past 10 years.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 06/05/2020

    I love that you rescued plants from the yards of demolished homes. I just love what you two have created- it's really artistic and pretty and so is your home. I also like that there's no grass to mow! Super nice!

    1. mgol1068 06/05/2020

      I grew up having to mow an acre of grass weekly, and swore that I wouldn't be doing that with my own home. lOL.

  7. janeeliz 06/05/2020

    You have done such a beautiful job! Your garden /yard is warm, inviting and so lovely. The stonework is gorgeous and must have been quite a challenge.I thought I would miss the grass-but I don't. Thanks for sharing your very unique creation.

  8. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/05/2020

    My, my, my, how very lovely.

  9. btucker9675 06/05/2020

    Love, love, love!!! Grass is a waste of valuable space, in my opinion. In our neighborhood, you're not permitted to get rid of all of the grass in the front yard, but we have been whittling away by enlarging our borders and planting a couple more trees... : ) Where there's a will, there's a way! Your garden is an inspiration! Since we've been doing that, a few folks around us have also started - makes each property more unique.

  10. arboretum 06/05/2020

    terrific aesthetic and realization of it; esp. the importance of varying heights, anchor plants, varied surfaces. Thoughts: big sweeps of hachonechloa and geranium Rozanne make great , season-long fountains over rock walls, which complements your handsome pathway flows. polygonums [many] love
    gravel. stuffing plants into the rock walls will blend the elements. and finally, IF you ever wanted more privacy, one can LOWER the paths by digging down [15 inches to 2 feet for us] which makes one less aware of the world outside your fence and brings one's vision of the plantings closer than ground- level paths. what a terrific job you two are doing!

    1. mgol1068 06/06/2020


  11. user-5117752 06/05/2020

    Let's see, what words haven't been used to describe your garden? Well, I'll just go right to those stone walls! And, I actually prefer the less perfect ones. The best picture for me was with the iris and the unfinished stone project. Oh, what you might do with that ramble of stones and mosses and ground covers! Thank you so much for taking the time to share!

    1. mgol1068 06/05/2020

      You are so right, and my wife is frankly not happy with the walls which she thinks are far from perfect, or what a real stone mason would do. I get in trouble whenever I try to place a stone. LOL.

  12. User avater
    bdowen 06/05/2020

    So much to learn from and compliment your garden design- the stone walls set off the plants beautifully. Practical questions for those of you who use gravel- how do you keep it out of your sneakers and out of the house. No shoes in the house?

    1. mgol1068 06/06/2020

      We don't find too much trouble in the summer, but we take winter boots off at the front door given that the treads do sometimes pick up gravel. The stone mason, my wife, also put flag stone in the gravel on the path to the front door, and we're planning to add it where we took up the driveway as well.

  13. sheila_schultz 06/09/2020

    You and your wife make the perfect team. Her walls are amazing in my opinion... if every stone was lined up in a perfect, orderly fashion it would lack personality! Your plantings are simply delightful with lots of texture and contrast. You both are masters with what makes you happy! Keep having fun!

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