Landscaping Without Grass

Landscaping Without Grass

A traditional English lawn is not to everyone’s taste. Here are some ideas for landscaping without grass.

I do love to see a well-maintained lawn, not least because natural lawns bring a whole host of environmental benefits. However, now that I have two young children and a couple of dogs, I can sympathise with anyone who’d prefer an alternative lawn.

So what are good alternatives for a traditional lawn? Let me show you some ideas for landscaping without grass.

Artificial Lawns

Many of our clients like the idea of a verdant grass carpet, but they don’t feel able to maintain a living lawn. Maybe they have a busy lifestyle and can’t commit to regular lawn mowing sessions. For others, heavy usage from kids and dogs means that real lawns quickly wear out and turn to mud.

Whatever the reason – an artificial lawn bridges the gap between traditional garden design and modern lifestyles.

circular artificial lawn in modern contemporary garden

Good quality artificial grass has a lifespan of 20-25 years (depending on usage) but MUST be properly installed if it is to stay looking good for the foreseeable future.

Good drainage is imperative. One of the biggest benefits of a natural lawn is that it allows rainwater to filter through the soil without putting a strain on our overworked drainage systems. Your landscaper will likely need to remove some topsoil and replace it with a sub-base similar to a patio.

Don’t forget too that artificial grass does need some maintenance. Regular brushing with a non-metallic rake will keep the pile looking fresh and stop moss or weeds growing in the sward.

Gravel Gardens

A gravel garden is a great way of landscaping without grass but still having lots of colour and life in your outdoor space.

back garden example of landscaping without grass

A more manicured version of a gravel garden. It’s landscaping without grass but it’s still vibrant and interesting.

Gravel gardens are usually relaxed places where plants thrive growing in a deep layer of aggregates. Well-built gravel gardens are usually incredibly low maintenance.  You can have as many plants as you want. Or, if you prefer, go for minimal planting and create interest with different colours, textures and sizes of gravel, aggregate, pebbles and rocks.

Our friends at Tapestry Design Studios recently wrote about designing a gravel garden. You can read the article here. I’ll post another link to it at the bottom of this page.

Wildflower meadows

For a wonderfully romantic garden that’s brimming with life but needs hardly any maintenance, swap your traditional lawn for a wildflower meadow.

You’ll still have all of the environmental benefits of a natural lawn – with several added extras such as flowers, bumblebees, butterflies and birds.

Grow wildflowers from seed, from plug plants, from turf or simply let your lawn grow and see what appears. If you want to introduce more flowers, you can find wildflower seedmixes to suit almost any soil type and aspect.

For a more formal or manicured look, divide your wildflower meadow into sections with pathways and add seating areas so that you can get relax and soak in the beauty around you.

Paving and Decking

coastal garden with decking and gravel

This large coastal garden combines decking and lighting with relaxed, gravel garden style planting

For the ultimate in landscaping without grass, you could opt for paving and/or decking. There is a multitude of different options. You can add water features, raised planting beds, changes in level, contrasting materials and of course things like outdoor kitchens and hot tubs.

For a small garden, I thoroughly recommend landscaping without grass. Hard surfaces are far more durable and will cope better with concentrated footfall. Plus, creating storage space for mowers and lawn care tools takes up valuable room. Far better to have a seating area than a shed!

Alternative living lawns

If your main reason for landscaping without grass is to save labour, you could consider an alternative lawn. How about a tapestry lawn? Imagine a colourful carpet of living plants that tolerate being walked upon. A mix of daisies, Birdsfoot trefoil, creeping buttercup, clover, cowslips and chamomile would look lovely and attract pollinating insects. Turfonline offers an attractive species-rich turf that only needs mowing once every 2-3 weeks during spring and summer. Click here to find out more.

Groundcover plants. If your lawn won’t be walked on very often, you could choose from a wide range of low growing plants to give a similar visual effect. Creeping thyme looks fabulous and is easy to grow. Or what about low growing sedums?

Clover makes for a bee-friendly alternative lawn or what about using Ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’ to make a purple lawn? I’ve seen Ajuga used with limestone pavers in a checkerboard pattern – stunning!

grass head

Grass is such a versatile plant that it can easily be incorporated into a low maintenance garden. How about this for a mini-lawn?

Designing your grassless garden

A garden without grass needs to be carefully designed lest it turn out to be impractical or devoid of colour. I would advise anyone thinking about a garden makeover to talk to a garden designer before ripping out the lawn. Garden design is not as expensive as you might imagine and more often than not it turns out to be a worthwhile investment. A garden designer can save you money by recommending plants and products that will perform well in the unique conditions of your garden.

Armed with a garden design that you love you can then approach a professional landscaper.  Landscaping without grass calls for close attention to detail. Particularly when it comes to contouring, drainage, levels, electricals (for lighting) and retaining walls. Investing in a great designer-landscaper combo will ensure that your garden brings you joy for many years AND adds to the value of your property.

Advantages of having your garden built by a professional landscaper 

Designing a gravel garden 

More about using decking in your new garden 


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