Garden Photo of the Day

Kristin’s no-lawn yard in Minnesota

This shows our front yard, with a Japanese lilac tree, various shrubs, and native geraniums and sedum for groundcover. The geraniums (Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo') and sedum are divided by a paver walkway. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Kristin Hansen

Today’s photos are from Kristin Hansen in Minnesota. She says, “I live in the Twin Cities in Minnesota and this is our front yard. We started gardening in late 2010, wanting to avoid the hassles of a lawn.

This is a close-up of Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’, chives, and Salvia nemorosa ‘May Night.’ Behind the salvia is a low growing forsythia, and to the left (outside the photo) is a grouping of Russian sage. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Kristin Hansen

“Throughout that winter, we researched native plants and cultivars, and have had to make adjustments over time due to deer, groundhogs, and the clay soil, which we heavily amended with manure. We put in dry streambeds to direct rainwater from the downspouts. Our goal is to have four seasons of interest. We’ve had painted and snapping turtles nest in the gardens, as well as birds year-round! These photos are from June 2013.”

This shows a closer view of a dry streambed, a few of the evergreen shrubs, and iris. Major credit has to go to my father, helping with the design, and providing the bulk of the iris, geraniums, and sedum. He also built most of the dry streambeds! Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Kristin Hansen

How great, Kristin! I love the way the yard looks. It’s not a total departure from lawn–it still has a somewhat lawnish look (in that it’s low-growing), but it looks so much better!

***Who’s coming to the meetup here in Connecticut this August? Check it out HERE!***

Close-up of the iris blooming. These may be ‘Caesar’s Brother’? Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Kristin Hansen

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  1. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 06/25/2013

    What a great alternative to lawn! I love the wacky, spiral topiary shrub. It's a fun exclamation point.

  2. crizmo 06/25/2013

    Bold & beautiful!

  3. User avater
    meander_michaele 06/25/2013

    How nice that your front yard redo was a family affair with your dad making such a contribution. The dry stream bed is a nice element for 4 season interest although, come to think of it, with you being up in MN, I guess snow cover is your biggest winter element! Do you live near a natural body of water that you have turtles nesting?

  4. deeinde 06/25/2013

    I love the idea of doing away with lawn! How is the weeding? Do you just let leaves in the fall settle in? You have done a great job!

  5. Annesfirst 06/25/2013

    This is really beautiful. The way you incorporated the utility box into your design is sheer almost looks beautiful. With all the beautiful textures and colors, it is the most compelling alternative to a lawn that I've seen.

  6. briandowns 06/25/2013

    Thank you thank you thank you. And I bet the neighbors don't have to listen to the insufferable and inevitable series of lawn mower ( 6k horsepower no doubt ), gas engine weed eater louder than a jet engine flying into St. Paul, and subsequent dust, er I mean leaf blower to polish off the kitchen clean look. Meadows rock!

  7. Quiltingmamma 06/25/2013

    Great job. I just did something similar to my front last month. Same concept of low growing native plants with a few herbs and nursery plants thrown in so that the neighbours don't think it will be some wild meadow in the front.
    What have you done in the back? traditional or no lawn there too. I'd love to see that.

  8. user-7006902 06/25/2013

    I love that you are lawn-free! I love sedums. There are so many varieties and they look spectacular "weaved" together. What a great design you have with the walkways and dry stream beds combined with so many interesting plantings and evergreens. Inspiring!

  9. GrannyMay 06/25/2013

    Good for you Kristin! With deer and other critters to restrict your choices, creativity is important. I love the flow in picture 3.

  10. Wife_Mother_Gardener 06/25/2013

    Great work!

  11. tractor1 06/25/2013

    Hmm, I must be missing something... I see plenty of "lawn/sod" in those pictures... I also see a huge flatbed truck that I definitely would have cropped out, and I don't know what to say about that atrociously FILTHY storm drain... makes a NYC subway terlit look purty.. tell me including that is some macabre joke that I just don't get. I'd certainly plant evergreen shrubs to hide that array of utility hardware. And I see nothing negative about lawns, a garden without a lawn is like a Picasso without a frame. I love my lawn... and other than mowing it's no work/expense at all, I apply no chemicals and never water, it's always lush and green.

  12. cwheat000 06/25/2013

    Kristin, your front yard project turned it great. It is a fun alternative to a lawn. I love all the textures. That said, if I am being honest, I spend much more time on my garden beds, than I do my 2 acres of lawn.( where I live no extra irrigation is required and I don't use chemicals) I hope it proves to be as low maintenance as you planned. Either way, it is beautiful and I am sure quite different from anything your neighbors have. A big shout out to your dad; nice work and even nicer to get all those free plant divisions.

  13. NevadaSue 06/25/2013

    I love it all, you and your dad did a great job. Thanks for sharing it with us. You inspire me to do something like that with the dry stream beds I'm working on. Thanks so much. :)

  14. BethinIowa 06/25/2013

    I am in complete agreement with briandowns! Meadows rock! This bold and confident landscape change is fantastic. You are being a very wise conservationist with your choice to eliminate lawn. The whole "lawn thing" is a holdover from our English ancestors and we would do well to adopt more of the practices that were in place among the native peoples of the New World. Every year I dig up more lawn and plant other things. I have decided that lawn is a rather sterile environment. It provides no shelter or nesting for birds, it attracts no beneficial insects, and it requires mowing---which, as briandowns pointed out, is a mostly unpleasant and wasteful side effect of a lawn. Here in my back yard, our lawn is consistently attacked by a fungus that the nursery people told me has no "cure" and I must reseed every fall and spring, plus weeds are a constant bother in our lawn due to the massive amount of natural vegetation around our property, and I refuse to use pre-emergents or weed killers because of the devastating effects these products have on aquatic wildlife. We have so many frogs in our yard--I see one just about every time I go outside. So, bravo to you and your dad! I will share your photos with my sister in Texas who has sworn to have a completely "lawn-free" front and back yard, and instead to have a native and drought-resistant landscape that is both beautiful and responsible, and a much preferred environment if you ask the birds, toads, snakes, butterflies, and bees.

  15. user-1020932 06/25/2013

    i gotta chime in, yes, meadows rock and no turf lawns work for some BUT they don't work for everyone. i, for one, need grass i can't garden/bed out 2 acres ,if i had a no mow lawn i would be over run by ticks in high grass. i need turf areas for recreation, kids and grandkids to play on and in a rural area there are no parks on every block (there are no blocks) . i do not fertilize, i do not use any chemicals, i have a mix of bluegrass, fine fescue, LOTS of red and white clover and various weeds but they are green and i am happy to have them. i have butterflies,honeybees, bumble bees, dragon flies, damsel flies, birds out the wazoo of every kind, snakes, toads, bullfrogs in the ponds, squirrels, chipmunks and raccoon, opossum, deer, fox, and the occasional coyote passing through. i'm just saying that no lawn yards can't work everywhere but i applaud those for whom it works. i mow once a week at 3 inches and leave my clippings on the lawn and i also have LOTS of beds planted with several hundred species of ornamentals and oddball plants. great job, Kristin and i'm glad to see this alternative use of traditional turf areas but sometimes you gotta have grass

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