Home & Garden

Landscape designer urges homeowners to ditch the lawnmower

A small waterfall flows into the pond in Haggard's yard. The sound it makes is much more soothing than a lawnmower's.
A small waterfall flows into the pond in Haggard's yard. The sound it makes is much more soothing than a lawnmower's. Herald-Leader

Even now, the signature sound of spring, the lawnmower's growl, lures you: a freshly mown lawn, flawless emerald turf unmarred by tufts of wild onion and the octopus stems of dandelion.

To this Ezra Haggard says: Get over it.

The Lexington landscape designer, who practices the away-with-grass idea at his own home, acknowledged that for many of us, being big enough to mow the grass is a rite of passage.

It's a great memory, Haggard said, until you consider that you will be repeating the process for the rest of your life.

The cost is not only to your physical welfare, pushing the mower and inhaling the gas fumes. It's in the money spent for that weed-free lawn, chemicals used, water wasted and streams polluted by the runoff from the chemicals and the often-excessive mowing and clipping collection from those who do not use mulching mowers or leave the waste on their lawn.

Why bother with all that personal and environmental disruption?

Haggard said many homeowners would do well to ditch grass and move instead to a landscape of trees, shrubs and perennials. He will speak on the subject at "Breaking with Tradition: The Front Yard Garden Without Grass" at 2:30 p.m. March 18 as part of the Blue Grass Trust Antiques and Garden Show.

Haggard's lecture is complimentary with admission to the show.

Haggard's reasons for living with less grass have nothing to do with the turf-friendly Kentucky climate, which has of late been more than moist enough to support substantial growth. Areas in drier climates, such as the Southwest, have long substituted decorative stones and faux grass for their lawn fill-ins.

"We wanted more outdoor living space," Haggard said. "I got tired of mowing. I figured I would rather spend that allotted amount of money on having a beautiful rest of the place."

What advice can he offer those who want to get off the grass treadmill?

■ Start with trees and shrubs. They give a broad general outline of how the area should look, i.e., like a woodland area.

■ Add architectural elements, such as fences, walls or stone paths.

■ Consider perennials that will complement the look, such as hosta for shady areas. Other perennials to think about: daylilies, peonies and small spireas.

"You can take most perennials and use them in large quantities and be economically better off and turn the combustion engine off," Haggard said.

Not everyone will want to eliminate all their grass right away. For those who want to experiment with the grass-free lifestyle, Haggard suggests altering a small area close to the house.

"People are looking to live a greener life," Haggard said. "No one tells you that, once you start mowing, you enter a lifetime of drudgery."