Lawn Love Letters

– Posted in: Garden Photography

Cover photo location, garden of Susan Harris

With the release of Evelyn Hadden’s new book from Timber Press, “beautiful no-mow yards”, a bunch of bloggers and fellow Lawn Reform Coalition folks decided (with Evelyn’s gentle encouragement) to talk about our love/hate relationships with lawns.  Valentine love letters.

Since yours truly has 60 photos in the book I have a few things to say, or rather show you, what I love about no-mow yards.  The book is not simply about lawn substitutes but all the ways we can re-think our yards and the space too many folks leave for lawn.  How about patios ?  Veggie gardens ?  Ponds ?

And how about meadows ?  Oh boy, can I write love letters to meadow lawns !  I can’t exactly say I wrote the book on meadow gardens, but with nurseryman/designer John Greenlee along as the writer, we co-authored “The American Meadow Garden” in 2009. autographed 

Rather than a negative diatribe of why lawns can be so inappropriate and useless in so many yards, I think I will simply show a bunch of photos, each a love letter itself .

I must begin with THE classic no-mow lawn where the term was invented for all I know: at Neil Diboll’s home.  Neil owns Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin and has been selling no-mow seed mixes since 1995. Beyond Neil’s yard is his field of Andropogon for seed:

A tiny meadow in Matt Moynihan’s St. Louis front yard:

Front yard entry garden in Pasadena:

Suburban backyard meadow near Chicago:

Albuquerque garden design by Judith Philips where Meadow Gardens cover was shot:

Long Beach Carex (sedge) lawn substitute design by John Greenlee:

Front yard curbside meadow Calabasas, California:

Carex meadow under trees Los Gatos, California:

Those were just a few favorites.  I love ’em all.

More on a gallery of Lawn Alternatives on my PhotoBotanic Archive which will begin with this game of leapfrog in a meadow lawn:

We all know kids need lawns for play…

See what other bloggers have written this week at Evelyn’s lesslawn site – some valentines, some anti-valentines to lawn.  Video trailer for beautiful no-mow yards.

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

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Fiona Gilsenan February 17, 2012, 1:59 pm

Saxon has the finest portfolio of meadows and lawn alternatives that I know. Thanks for sharing some of them with us!e

Well Fiona, praise from you is indeed special. Thanks for dropping by. – Saxon

Margaret (Peggy) Herrman February 17, 2012, 5:34 pm

thanks for inspiration. been an organic gardener as long as I can remember & our “lawn” less than 50 x 50′. it is the bane of our existence. Sun, slope, was compacted, now tilled & loving the weeds. resources for a southern, no cool nights in the summer & hovering close to 100’s sometimes?

your pics are penn or cal. would not work here.

Actually the pics in this post include Missouri, Ilinois, Maryland, and New Mexico. Find your local narice grasses ans substitute. I am sure there are Carex that will do well. Or just keep lovin’ the weeds. They are not weeds if you love them. 🙂 – Saxon

Lois J. de Vries February 18, 2012, 10:27 am

Our front yard sports a lavender garden on one side of the centrally-located porch and low shrubs and groundcover on the other. The back yard, however has about 8,000 sq. ft. of grass and assorted other green things that I call “the lawn.” How much lawn is needed depends on how you intend to use it. Here’s my story:

Lois – Thanks for adding your link. Lawns are great where they are intentional and well used as in your case, especially outside the arid West where lawns are not that hard to do. My point is to be conscious of the space that is too often left to lawn for no other reason than a lack of imagination and initiative. – Saxon

Evelyn Hadden February 18, 2012, 11:56 pm

Saxon, love your inspirational photos. Thanks so much for lavishing them on us (in response to my “gentle encouragement”)!

Also really enjoyed Lois’ article – Lois, what a nice way you have of explaining your thought processes and decisions regarding your landscape. “A combination of heavy shade and planned neglect”: perfect description of working with nature, heh heh.

Lois J. de Vries February 22, 2012, 9:54 am

Thanks Saxon and Evelyn.

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