Grassless landscape designs are an option to a traditional Florida landscape. Although some people prefer to have a lush green lawn over a grassless landscape design, after considering the cost of maintenance and constant replacement of turf over time, most see the value in this option. Going grassless is not a popular option for the thousands of lawn service companies (who’s job it is to cut your lawn, and replace it when it is dead), but for you, the homeowner, If you like saving money… a Grassless yard may be just what you are looking for!
Sheila in weeki Wachee was looking for something different. She wanted to turn her riverfront home into a paradise garden she could enjoy without very much maintenance. She had already attended workshops hosted by the local county extension office, and knew about the Florida friendly landscaping program. Actually, she was looking for a landscape designer that was familiar with this style of design. Sheila was happy to know that I specialized in grassless landscape designs!
At our first meeting, we talked about features that she would like to incorporate into the design. These were going to be areas of focus and the landscape was going to flow around these areas and tie everything together. A covered gazebo was first on the list, but it had to be secured to the ground so a wind wouldn’t blow it away. Also, a fire pit came into the conversation, but not just a hole in the ground, she wanted a stone pit that would be a focal point on its own.
She had an antique bathtub that she wanted to use in the landscape design somewhere, and an old bell on a stand that was rotting beneath it. The stand had to be replaced and toward the end of the project the bell was moved to a location where it could be seen from all angles and points of access to the property!
There was a slight slope on the back side of the property that made it hard to walk on. This was an area that needed immediate attention. To create usable space, we had to level this area with a short wall. She decided to go with Florida field stone because it held a Florida look and the stone actually had sea shells embedded into it (that would tie into the shell that would be used throughout the rest of the yard.
This also created an opening to slip in a set of stairs that gave access to the lower portion of the yard which was to be a 4 foot wide path from the seawall covered with small crushed sea shell. The stairs were slabs of granite stone, very heavy and very sturdy. These stone stairs actually became a focal point in the backyard landscape design.
A path ran from the driveway in the front yard, down the side of the home and across the upper level of the back yard to the gazebo area on the other side of the home. A widening of the path became a seating area around what became the stone fire pit.
The fire pit was an in-ground concrete over fire brick design with a pumice stone cap. The walls were solid, but the floor remained dirt (so water could drain after a rain). The pit was designed to burn clean fire logs only, as the homeowner didn’t want to store wood near or around the home (to attract ants or termites). Many areas of detail were placed in this grassless landscape to keep it interesting and functioning to reduce run off into the river.
Grassless Landscape Keeping the River Clean
One of the concerns going into this project was to eliminate the risk of chemicals running off into the river from her yard. Grass was not even an option, as turf requires so much care including chemicals and fertilizers that could be blown into the river along with the grass clippings after each mowing. The use of rocks and shells would provide good drainage and also dry out the soil quickly after a rain storm.
There were planting areas all throughout the yard for her to plant native plants she had wanted to plant. We did plant some plants in the front and back to get her started, but she had decided to focus her budget on things that required intensive labor and cost.
The plan worked very well. Plants can always be plugged into a well developed landscape design. On a project like this (where everything must go) the main focal points have to be placed in first, and then the pathways and planting areas will become visible. From there, finding the right plant to fit each space becomes a no-brainer!
In the end, we hit all of our objectives. There were a few hiccups that occurred after a couple of hard rains, but this is the test of nature. You really never know how it will perform under a real life event until one happens (sometimes we get lucky and experience one during the construction process). Most of the time what we install will hold up the nastiest weather conditions, but sometimes there will be an area that can get overlooked. When this occurs, we are quick to get out and remedy the problem while the damage is still fresh. Since then, no other problems have been reported.