Garden Photo of the Day

Replacing a Lawn With Wildflowers

More flowers, less mowing

My name is Gail Bromer. I created mostly shade gardens at my home in Connecticut for over 30 years before transplanting to the mountains of western North Carolina four years ago. We were very fortunate to find a wonderful property sitting at 3300 feet in elevation with a southeast-facing exposure that is somewhat protected from the prevailing winter winds from the northwest. The house had good bones and a view. The gardens were virtually nonexistent. I consider this a Zone 6 or 7 garden. There’s a lot of variation due to the elevation, the southern slope, and the wind.

This is what we started with. The slope on the left was covered in forsythia (Forsythia hybrid, Zones 5–8) when we arrived. I transplanted all but a few to the bigger slope on the other side of the house. Our first January here we had a lovely warm spell of 50-degree temperatures, and we took full advantage. I hired a local landscape crew to get rid of the grass and augment the clay soil, lay out a path, and put in the first 50 shrubs and trees. The shrubs looked so small!

Since then I’ve planted hundreds of perennials and am creating gardens all around the house and along the driveway.

My Castle lupineThis is one of my favorite images from my garden. I was on vacation at the time and never saw it in person, but one of my sons shared this picture knowing how much I would love it. I’ve planted lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus, Zones 3–8) several times, and it often didn’t survive into a second year, but I keep trying to find a place where it will. This is a ‘My Castle’ lupine, with an ‘Emerald Gaity’ euonymus (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’, Zones 5–8), an ‘Old Gold’ juniper (Juniperus × pfitzeriana ‘Old Gold, Zones 4–9), and a gazing ball in the back.

Lemon Lime hostaI enjoy creating vignettes in the garden and am happy to have some metal sculptures to include. Here’s an early spring porcupine with pansies and a miniature ‘Lemon Lime’ hosta (Zones 3–8).

Double Take Orange quinceA large frog with a young ‘Double Take Orange’ quince (Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Double Take Orange’, Zones 5–8).

That same garden really comes alive in summer. Coneflowers (Echinacea hybrids, Zones 4–9) in red and yellow, liatris (Liatris spicata, Zones 3–9), yellow red-hot poker plants (Kniphofia hybrid, Zones 5–9), beautiful daylilies (Hemerocallis hybrid, Zones 3–9), and blue balloon flowers (Platycodon grandiflorus, Zones 3–8) come together to put on quite a show. Be careful with balloon flowers. While they are lovely to look at, it’s a constant effort to keep them in control. I cut the seed heads as soon as they’re done flowering and am vigilant about digging up new plants that have spread elsewhere in the gardens.

We decided before moving to North Carolina that we no longer wanted to cut grass. The house had a very steep front slope. Half of it had some mulch and a few azaleas. The other half, about a third of an acre, was covered in grass. A year and a half ago I bought 10 lbs. of perennial wildflower seeds, waited until after the first frost, and broadcast them by hand over newly trimmed grass. Every spring and fall since, I have dug out some of the largest clumps of grass to allow the flowers to take over and yet not lose the slope during heavy rains. The first year the blooms seemed a little light, but by the second year everything had matured.

white daisiesThe spring bloom on the front slope starts with daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare, Zones 3–9) and blue flax (Linum perenne, Zones 5–9). Coreopsis and sweet william (Dianthus barbatus, Zones 3–9) bloom next, followed by foxgloves (Digitalis, Zones 3–9) and purple lupine.

More of the front slope in bloom.

rudbeckiaIn the heat of summer the slope is full of rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta, Zones 3–7) and gallardia (Gallardia spp. Zone 3–9).

hosta bloomsOne last view of the slope, with some hosta blooms from one of the gardens along the driveway.

 

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Comments

  1. mgol1068 08/25/2020

    Amazing transformation and congratulations. It looks beautiful!

  2. Carolyn3134 08/25/2020

    Absolutely wonderful! Lots of hard work and lots of reward!!

  3. user-7726453 08/25/2020

    I’ve often wanted a wildflower garden rather than grass: what a blessing of an idea to spread the seed freely over the grass! Your results are beautiful and they must be ever-changing.

  4. alicefleurkens 08/25/2020

    Hi Gail. What a wonderful transformation. Lovely colour. I imagine you will have a lot of different birds and butterflies with all those flowers and seeds they will produce. You really have a wild flower garden that is gorgeous. Alice

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 08/25/2020

    Oh, my, it is all so very lovely. Love your little porcupine.

  6. moyra_b 08/25/2020

    what an amazing transformation, so lovely!

  7. BTucker9675 08/25/2020

    Oh my - I have no words! Everything is so beautiful... love the porcupine and frog sculptures!

  8. User avater
    SimpleSue 08/25/2020

    OMG that is gorgeous! Love that field of Daisies and blue flowers- so natural!

  9. User avater
    meander_michaele 08/25/2020

    It's always so enlightening when some before photos are included...brings to life the point that a picture is worth a 1000 words. So, wow, and sincerest congrats on all that you have achieved in creating delightful flower filled gardens. I also love your metal critter sculptures...they are adorable.

  10. Schatzi 08/25/2020

    Ditto to all the above comments. But a word of warning - if that Euonymus grows anything like it does in the zone 8 Pacific NW, watch out! It will take over everything in its path. It even climbed my deck posts and lilacs. I planted it years ago to cover a slope, and it did. in spades, as they say. I like it, but it requires a firm hand with the pruners. Overall, beautiful job.

  11. cheryl_c 08/25/2020

    You have really painted with a broad brush, and yet given so many little details and vignettes! Kudos for figuring out a good use for all those forsythia! I'm envious of your rudbeckia - I can get the straight gold ones to come back but have never succeeded with getting those with central red or copper tones to survive a zone 6-7 winter. Great job! Please send more photos of the back slope and gardens as they fill in.

  12. Sunshine111 08/25/2020

    So lovely! Your hard work and persistence is really paying off!

  13. User avater
    BDOwen 08/25/2020

    You have worked some magic with your spectacular site. Those flowers and the bird/ butterflies they probably attract will be a delight through each season. Beautiful!

  14. Sheila_Schultz 08/25/2020

    Gail... your slopes are splendid!!! They truly could not be more beautiful and you must smile a lot because to have a vision come to life is such a gift! BTW, I need your porcupine metal sculpture. I couldn't add the appropriate grass in my AZ garden, but I could add a few spikes that would amuse me!

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