Blooming Boulevards

For the longest time that I can remember, I complained about the upkeep involved with keeping up with the Joneses in my neighborhood when it came to grass. The lush green lawns, regimentally being groomed, fertilized, and watered, is what I see on a daily basis, whenever I am buried in my evergreens or flowering shrubs that require little to no upkeep. The best kept lawns in our neighborhood belong to those who swear by their luxurious green sheen and the meticulous maintenance that most of their garden-work revolves around.

When I first moved into the neighborhood, I was ecstatic to find my lawn covered in a carpet of dandelions! I’ve never seen a prettier lawn than the brilliant yellow spread of edible flowers and leaves with no grass to be seen. After a while, the raised-eye-brows, helpful-tips on weed control, and concerns aired on my dandelions invading other lawns, got under my skin. I hired a lawncare provider to get rid of my blissful spread of pollinator and environmentally-friendly dandelions.

Since I have a corner lot, my big lawn wasn’t just a pain to maintain, it was pretty expensive to say the least. I grudged my time and energy spent on mowing, fertilizing, weeding, and watering involved with keeping up a healthy lawn. Knowing the fact that lawns weren't friendly to the environment either, made me dislike my chores more.

Each time I hear a lawnmower’s roaring, I think of burning gasoline and spreading of harmful fumes. When I see a lawn being overly-tended, I think of polluting effects of pesticide and fertilizer runoffs in waterways. When I see turf grass being watered frequently, I think of the environmental costs involved with unnecessary usage of a precious resource.

I wanted to grow pollinator friendly, native plants with little to no upkeep involved in boulevards surrounding my plot. I dreamed of a wildflower meadow less susceptibility to weed growth, requiring no fertilizing and little to no water. I let the grass be overtaken by weed over the years and be in their most deplorable state, so that when I finally replace it with flowers, hopefully the neighbors would be relieved!

This year, I did it at last! I summoned up the courage to dig out all the grass in the front boulevards, while inquisitive eyes watched me. I planted pollinator friendly, easily-naturalized, flowering natives such as coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, Gaillardias, poppies, daisies, asters, and catmint. I planted blue grass in between the flowers and annuals such as angle wings and purple fountain grass for contrasting fall color.

Adding spring and summer bulbs that would flower throughout the gardening season was another vision I had for my boulevards. I planted daffodils, tulips, alliums, Dutch iris, rock-garden iris, daylilies, and crocosmia in between the perennials and annuals. I covered the entire area with a layer of well-seasoned woodchip mulch that added to its aesthetic effects. Now, I eagerly visualize a stretch of brilliant color that would put a smile on anyone walking by from spring until frost next year…


  • Hi Rhea,
    Thanks for your comment! I smothered my grass, allowing it to compost in place so that it adds organic matter back to the soil. If you are doing it yourself, mow the grass right to the ground and cover the area with layers of newspaper or cardboard, overlapping compactly so light won’t get through. You can add the grass clipping, compost, woodchips, or any other organic matter as top layers. This will retain moisture and hold down the layers while blocking the light. It’ll take about 2-3 months for the composting process and has the lowest environmental impact. The layers will break down, adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. You can just dig through the layers and start planting.

    Yes, lift and replant the ones you already have there. You are not digging up the lawn this way, it requires less manual labor, and you are not disrupting the soil. I used this method for the longer boulevard last fall and will be planting natives in spring. Hope this helps.

    Deva De Silva
  • Right on. We moved from our rural home into town and felt the same as you with the manicured yards around us. I call them dead zones. They even spray for spiders around doorways and windows. We let the boulevard grow long and leggy and I planted into the grass monarda, little blue eyes, yarrow and some leopard bane. all native etc. My husband runs the mower along the front edge to indicate this area is maintained wildness. My dilemma is should I bite the bullet and get a sod lifter in, remove all the lawn and replant. (I would lift the plants I put in last year.) Thoughts?

    Rhea Seeger

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