by Ray Allen
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by Guest Columnist, garden writer Suzanne DeJohn
Many Americans spend at least a few hours every weekend maintaining their lawns. Wouldn't you rather be lounging in a hammock sipping lemonade and surrounded by beautiful (and low-maintenance) flower gardens?
Over the last 50 years, as supermarket foods became more affordable, suburban American landscapes went from places filled with vegetable plants, berries, and fruit trees to vast expanses of lawn. A perfect carpet of green became a symbol of status and the envy of the neighborhood. But that perfection came at a price, requiring constant mowing and repeated applications of fertilizers and pesticides.
Now, more and more people are replacing some or all of their lawns with plants that require minimal maintenance and provide year-round beauty. A landscape filled with easy-care trees, shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses creates a backyard oasis for you, as well as for butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. It's easy to set aside areas to plant with low-maintenance Wildflower Seeds. And more popular every year is the wide array of Ornamental Grasses now available. Best of all, ornamental grasses don't need mowing! Many are as beautiful as the flowers, require almost no care, and add garden interest year-round.
You needn't transform your entire yard overnight. For example, you might start by creating a border garden, using a few ornamental grasses with tall perennials like hollyhocks and garden phlox at the back to create a visual and sound barrier between you and your neighbors or the street. Add medium height, shrubby flowers like rudbeckia and coneflowers among the taller perennials for color, and ground-hugging plants in front to form a natural transition to your existing lawn. Choose plants with different bloom times for season-long color.
Now set up a hammock near your new garden, then sit back an relax as you watch your neighbors toil over their lawns. Invite them over for a glass of lemonade so that can see the benefits and beauty of transforming their landscape into a flower-filled oasis, too!