Texas Treehugger | "No-Mow Alternatives to Lawns" | by Christy Ilfrey

Photo by David A. Ilfrey, Jr.

The height of landscape couture in the 17th and 18th centuries was Versailles Palace, the official royal residence of France's kings from 1682 to 1790. Its expanse of formal lawns and swaths of geometrically-shaped hedges inspired the early immigrants to the New World to create the standard for the American Lawn. With rising costs of maintaining this standard, however, alternatives to tightly clipped lawns have become more popular with homeowners.

Maintaining this antiquated standard is costly in a few ways. Water is already scarce, and during the hottest months of the year here in the Coastal Bend, its use for irrigating lawns and landscape is restricted. With more people moving to our area, expect water prices to increase while supply decreases. Fertilizing turfgrass typically includes a regimen of synthetic chemicals that negatively impact wildlife and contaminate our water supply. (Organic methods of fertilizing, e.g., applying a thin layer of compost at the end of winter, benefits the soil without presenting harmful effects to water or wildlife.) Polluting our waterways affects our birds and fish, two of the most popular draws for our tourism-based economy. 

Groundcovers that do not require mowing, fertilizing or excessive water are ideal for our area. Here are a few of our favorites:

Mimosa strigillosa; aka Powderpuff or Sunshine Mimosa. 
Full sun to part shade, Butterfly attractor (sulphurs.) Native. Puffy pink blooms stand approximately 4-6 inches above fern-like foliage. 

Photo by Christy Ilfrey

Calyptocarpus vialis; aka Horseherb. 
Full sun to shade. Butterfly attractor (sulphurs and skippers.) Native. Tiny yellow blooms brighten up shady spaces, especially under Live Oaks.

Photo by Christy Ilfrey

Stemodia tomentosa; aka Woolly Stemodia. 
Full sun to dappled sun/shade. Butterfly attractor (blues.) Endemic (native exclusively to Texas' Coastal Bend!) Light blue to lavender blooms on silvery foliage.

Christy Ilfrey and her husband David own and operate NativeDave.com. Their mission: "To make positive changes in our community by way of sustainable landscape design and consultation services, speaking engagements and writing projects. We strive to educate, entertain and empower audiences to conserve, preserve, restore and celebrate Nature."

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