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  • Writer's pictureCandace Kearney

Not Impressed by Your Lawn? Replace It with a Garden!

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

by Candace Kearney

Small yard? Postage stamp-sized space? Hard to get at with the lawnmower? Consider turning it into a garden. And while you’re at it use some native plants for ease of care.

First, know why you are replacing your lawn. Is it for easier maintenance? Then KISS (keep it simple, smarty!) and use lots of groundcover, rocks, gravel pathways etc. The last thing you want is to replace the work of the lawn with the work of mulching year after year. Is it because your yard is too shady to grow grass? Make sure you use shade-tolerant plants. Is it because your yard is simply too small for a lawn to have any “Wow” factor? Then punch it up!

Second, start with a design in mind. Think about large structures and overall layout before thinking about plants. Walls, mounded areas, boulders and stone, water features, sitting area – what do you want to see from your windows? Make sure you have pathways, so that people can enter the garden and enjoy it close up. Whether it is a paved front walk, a meandering gravel path with cobble edging or simple stepping stones, provide that opportunity for interaction with nature. Seating along the paths will add a welcoming feeling. Address all the senses: the fragrance of a lilac or butterfly bush, the gurgle of a bubbling urn or small pond, the play of fuzzy, silky, smooth and spiky plant textures. Also, have a color theme in mind. The repeating of color throughout your small garden will give it a larger and more cohesive look.

Next, the plants. Think about your large, vertical, focal point plants first. Dogwood, Mountain Ash, Serviceberry and Witch Hazel are some native, showy, small trees, but don’t rule out other non-native ornamental trees if you really love them. Incorporate evergreens for year round form and color, especially if your new lawn-to-garden area borders your house. A few excellent native evergreens are pieris, inkberry and mountain laurel, but also consider dwarf evergreens such as PGM rhododendron, Gumpo azalea, Helleri holly, ‘Tide Hill’ boxwood or creeping junipers, depending on your light conditions. Deciduous plants can also add color and fragrance to the small garden. A few natives that provide a lot of punch are red twig dogwood (pretty all year round), fragrant viburnum or winterberry with its bright red berries. No small garden is complete without areas of perennial color, whether it is a simple wave of black-eyed Susan or a toppling, scampering riot of blooms. Just remember to repeat plant varieties and use varying heights. Some long-blooming native perennials are Coneflower, Coreopsis, Hyssop, and Joe Pye weed.

A yard need not ever be ho-hum just because it’s pint-sized. So step outside the (grassy) box and get optimum enjoyment out of your small space. If you feel daunted by the project, remember that Candace of Wild Rose Landscape Design of Central Connecticut is happy to design your dream garden with you. Call 860 414-4384, or email


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