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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lawn Removal by Design

A glimpse of my latest undertaking was shared in a recent post with a teaser that more was to come. In today's entry I'll attempt to take you through the process of creating it from beginning to end in a helpful and informative manner. Maybe you'll be inspired to plunge into one of those projects you've had swirling around in your imagination for a while. Often it is one of my fellow-bloggers who puts a spark under me and gets me moving in the right direction.

It is always interesting to pinpoint the inspiration behind any particular gardening project. Sometimes it's a single plant that stirs an idea or causes me to put some imaginations together in my head. Sometimes it's the driving desire to create that spurs me onward. It could be a photo or another garden or a vision that just keeps coming to me. Sometimes it is a matter of discovering a solution to a problem. Truth is, in almost every case, it a combination of any one of these factors that contributes to the spark that motivates me to action.

In every instance I like to conquer the garden in pieces. Over time I gradually take on what I feel is reasonably manageable. I may not have the entire visual when I get started but I make sure I can finish what I start. I always have confidence the pieces will fit together once I get going.

Lawn REMOVAL. The above (Before)photo is the area as I started this latest spring project.

This is looking from North to South across the front gardens over the driveway.

It began in late January and planting it out was completed only a couple of weeks ago. This project got bigger as I went along. Once all the grass on the north side of the driveway (in the foreground)was removed it was decided to go ahead and take out the rest of the lawn on the other side. I never questioned whether I WANTED to take it all out. I questioned whether I SHOULD. More on that later.

The short-story version... the same view with the finished look standing on the north side looking all the way across to the south side just like the BEFORE photo.

The long-story version follows...

This area in my front garden slopes slightly downward toward the street. The conditions are mostly shady with high, shifting-light through the mature oak trees.
The first installment of the Front Lawn Renovation (current view shown above)has been well documented for long time readers. If you haven't followed that project you can read the back story here of how I took out the perimeter lawn on the south side of the driveway in summer 2009.

To continue removing more lawn was inevitable. I was mostly waiting for good timing.

So here we go...

The first step was to measure between the established plantings and the future plantings a 4 foot width, stake poles to mark the new pine straw pathways. Using several layers of newspaper and then pine straw eliminates the grass underneath (eventually~~~ and less digging). It's always kind of fun working in the front gardens because my neighbors get involved. They stop by along and along watching the progress and many of them got involved transferring their used newspapers to me.

Marking out and laying the pathways first gives me better perspective of the space that's left to be designed/planted. In a large area that is void of grass pathways are necessary for maintenance and I like the visual break between planting beds.

Once all the lawn was out on the south side large clumps of Giant Liriope were divided from other places of the garden. A double 'ribbon' of this extremely hardy grass was placed in an asymmetrical curving pattern as my starting point.

By planting 78 of them weaving through the rectangular-shaped bed it softens the harshness of the linear edges giving the eye the illusion of a gentler form. At the same time it creates smaller, curving spaces within the bed for varieties of plants to fit within either side of the 'ribbon'; this makes way for the addition of soft pockets of color or foliage that give way to a more natural appearance even though it is thoughtfully orchestrated.

Florida-Friendly plants along with Florida natives were chosen to fill the entire space. With the goal of each species surviving through every season as well as a low maintenance area(once established) in mind Coontie palms, Apostle's Iris, and 'Red Star' (cordyline) were grouped together on either side of sections of the liriope also in asymmetrical fashion.

Bamboo muhly grass (muhlenbergia dumosa) was one of the plants that inspired this addition. I just had-to-have these planted in more places after siting a few in the back gardens last year. Seven of them are clumped on the farthest side of my property line. They will get taller and serve as a screen between my yard and the neighbor's to the north.

Closer to the driveway crimson pentas were chosen for long-lasting color. Sometimes these can frost to the ground but they always return quickly with the warmth of spring. For the attraction they are to butterflies and the easy way they bloom all year long I take the frost-risk with them planting them all over the garden.

A Chinese fan palm was placed as a specimen to blend with the established saw palmettos in the background. Why not more saw palmettos? They are extremely SLOOOOWWW growing. And I prefer the lighter green of the fan palm for contrast, too.

Holly ferns, blanket flower, bulbine, flax lily, yarrow, and blue-eyed grass finished off the list of plant choices in this planting. Many of them taken from other parts of the garden and transferred by divisions. Caladium bulbs will be added in the next week or so for lush summer foliage.

At least 30 more Agapanthus (lily of the nile)were included in this planting and also on the other side of the driveway. And just in time for them to send up their tall scapes of buds and blooms with their striking blue flowers that remain a favorite of mine.

Every one of these plant choices will remain at medium height with the exception of the fan palm...fortunately it is a slow grower.

Here is the opposite view looking northward from the south side of the driveway. Natural stones line the edge of the street and up to the pathways on both sides of the drive to hold in the soil/mulch.

Moving over to the south side of the driveway the scenario calls for all low-lying varieties. The native groundcover Mimosa Strigillosa was the "must-have plant" in this situation. There are lots of opinions on this one in the gardening world. Me? I just adore that puffy pink bloom.

AND the delicate, "sensitive" foliage that folds up at the touch of human contact. Thus its nickname ... 'sensitive' plant. It will take a bit of time and a good dose of patience for it to fill in and become the thick layer I'm looking for. 39 of them are randomly placed in the center of the center.

This entire area is the ground over our septic drain field. All along planting over the drain field was the factor that caused me hesitation. That's why in the end I chose plants with shallow roots. I decided to take my chances with them while avoiding planting any shrubs or trees in this new section. I think using only low-lying groundcover works here because I want the eye to flow through to the perimeter plants without hindrance.

The very slow spreading and ground-hugging mondo grass was used in a double curving pattern to border the mimosa groundcover. It has a nice deep green contrasting tufted foliage to the lighter green airy mimosa. This provides a boundary for the pathway AND the groundcover.

At the curve that allows the most sunshine for the longest length about mid-afternoon more crimson pentas and a change up of groundcover. Utilizing Florida-Friendly Sedum 'Gold' with the hope it will blend on that edge with the mimosa for a striking contrast. The short gate-barrier was used from the border of 'Super Blue' liriope to the border of the 9 additional purple muhly grasses (Muhlenbergia capillaris)as a boundary of sorts. While everything is filling-in it lends some definition to the border and keeps foot traffic from walking into the new plants.

At the corners of both sides of the driveway larger rocks were placed to anchor everything. Native blue-eyed grass pieces coming up in between play on the idea they've been there longer than they actually have.

In the driest, hottest section next to the street I'm trying out beach sunflower. It will likely be really happy there.

And if you are still hanging around through all of this jibber-jabber an offering of the extended version . Click to watch a couple of short videos I filmed to share a more virtual view of the new plantings.

Part One

Part Two


  1. Really enjoyed this one, thank you!

  2. Brilliant job, as usual, Meems.

    What kind of mulch is that you have along the pathway in the videos? Are the small dark green clumps shown (toward the front of the bed) in video 2 mondo grass? Will that spread?

  3. I bet you find your neighbors sitting in those chairs from time to time enjoying your beautiful garden. You have been ambitious this spring. It looks great.

  4. I love it! Seeing the overview and then reading the details is really helpful to me in making my own plans. The straw pathways work so well within the overall beds and having a destination (the chairs) gives a great focal point. Using all the natives and Florida friendlies are going to make this area practically self sustaining. I'm interested in finding out how your mimosa does this winter. Yours looks taller than what I have in a small area near the roses. The one I have lies more prostrate and totally disappears in winter then amazingly appears again in spring. Do you know if there are different cultivars?

  5. If anything can inspire me it is these photos...only I have weeds to remove, not lawn!!

  6. You amaze me! My sensitive plant is everywhere more than anywhere else...

  7. Meems, this post inspires me tremendously. My new space at times seems too big to take on and you put it into perspective..a piece at a time. It'll be many years before it looks the way I envision, but that's ok since I'd go crazy with a "finished" garden. I like the way you've planned each space and taken divisions from other areas in your garden. I also like your pine needle path. This is an idea I can use immediately. I have no shortage of pine needles. Great post!!!

  8. Oh my have been busy this spring. I remember your front yard well, so it was easy for me to follow along. I especially love the contrast between the sedum gold and the pentas...very pretty.

    It looks great and I'm sure you're very pleased with it, and that you won't miss the grass one tiny bit. Keep us posted as it fills in over the summer.

  9. i've been waiting for this post - i can never grasp your vision, but i always marvel at the results! not all of us have the creative juices that seem to naturally flow from your imagination, so your step-by-step work in progress helps. you have certainly produced the 'outdoor living space' that has become popular. and your lawn maintenance should take little to no time at all! you are a gardening wonder - congrats!

  10. I just love your use of the giant Liriope..! I decided I will have to steal that idea and claim it as my own!!:)

  11. Annie,
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Why, thank you. Pine straw is used in all the pathways. For the planting beds I shredded oak leaves which is good for holding moisture in but also for allowing moisture to get to the roots.

    Yes, mondo grass is what I used in a double layer to border the mimosa. It is a very slow spreader but it does spread.

    More like we all *talk* about sitting down and chatting... typically it is them stopping by while I'm working... very nice to see them and hear their comments. Most of them surprised I was removing the rest of my lawn in front. "You're taking out ALL of your lawn?" :-)

    I hope that is the case... "practically self-sustaining". I bought my mimosa the first week in January (FL Native Nursery) and it was not dormant. I'm not counting on it going dormant. yikes... that would not be good. And, sorry, I'm not familiar with cultivars. But now you have me wondering.hmmmm....

  12. Cindy,
    Perfect! Weeds are the best candidate for removing and planning great planted beds. :-)

    Does that mean you LIKE your sensitive plant?

    I wish I didn't have to lay out $$$ for pine needles. You can really get ahead with all your own resources. Definitely take it a piece at a time. It will urge you onward as you see good results. Plants grow so rapidly here it is not unrealistic for you to see some full spaces quickly. The most important thing to do is LOVE it as you go along... breathe it in and let it feed your gardening soul!

  13. Susan,
    It has been a busy spring in so many ways... which is why it took me longer than I planned to finish this project. It's amazing how fast it is growing already... I like the sedum in that corner, too.

    Thanks, Mom,
    the lawn maintenance has been cut in half... no mowing or edging whatsoever in the front. Pretty sweet.

    They say imitation is the best form of flattery.

  14. Oh that looks wonderful - I just love the meandering path leading to the chairs. Funny you plant sensitive plant there - we pull it out and remove it as it gets very invasive here in Australia. I also like to mull over certain areas and then do something about them - my garden is always evolving.

  15. I read every word and watched the videos. I've seen sensitive plant at woods' edge, never thought to bring it into the garden; love the little pink poms. I have to start utilizing more of what I have at hand.

    Right now we're watering again so I'm not inclined to plant much now.

  16. So inspiring...hope your Mother's Day was grand and plant inspiring.

  17. Meems-what a great idea!You know how I feel about grass!And mowing!It's going to be gorgeous when it all fills in.

  18. Meems: Another great job finished! I love how your show the project in progress and all the thinking around the plants choices. Very inspiring for a not-experienced gardener like me! My sensitive plants are in a container. The friend who gave me that plant warned me to think twice before putting into the ground since it could be hard to remove. But I think your case is different since you do want them to spread and cover the ground. For my tiny garden, I could not allow it to take over my precious gardeb space :)

  19. Oh, Meems! I adore the Mimosa Strigillosa. I never thought of using it but have seen it all over the neighborhood wild in other yards. May have to ask if I can adopt some from the neighbors!

    Always love everything you do!

    -Carol from FNFCG

  20. Africanaussie,
    I do hope my sensitive plant doesn't become a bother like you describe. I'll just be happy if it fills in quickly. Meandering paths do lend to a peaceful feel.

    Oh, Nell Jean, so much to read and you hung in there with me! I'm applauding you and hugging you. :-) It is our dry season here, too.

    And I hope your Mother's Day was also wonderful. Thank you.

    Yes, I know. Although I actually like grass AND mowing. But monocultures are trouble in so many ways. Glad to be rid of it in the front.

    I remember your friend giving you sensitive plant and you put it in a container. Would love to see the follow-up to it. So happy to know all my rambling migh help someone. :-)

    Hi Carol,
    I've never seen sensitive plant wild but you're the second to mention it. I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for it. Mimosa is a delicate looking yet sturdy specimen!


Have a blessed day,

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