Lawn (lon) noun. A usually closely mown plot or area planted with grass or similar plants. [variant of obsolete laund, from Middle English launde, lawnde, from Old French launde, heath]
Heath (heeth) noun. 1. Any of various usually low-growing shrubs of the genus Erica and related genera, native to the Old World, having small, evergreen leaves and small, urn-shaped pink or purplish flowers. 2. An extensive tract of open, uncultivated land covered with such shrubs or similar plants; a moor.
Moor (moor) noun. A broad tract of open land, often high but poorly drained, with patches of heath and peat bogs.
At what point of history did a lawn become defined solely as closely cropped green turf grass? Was it originally to walk on? Was it developed at the time we domesticated animals such as cows, horses, and sheep that fed on grasses? Was it for lawn bowling, golf, or cricket?
"True" grasses include not only what we now know as lawn grass, but also cereal grains, as well as those grains grown as ornamental garden grasses. Bamboo is also in this category. Over the years, the meaning of grass has expanded to include a wide range of plants with narrow to strap-like leaves. This group includes rushes, sedges, liriopes, flax (phormium) and cattails.
Today, we also have an even greater list of plants that can be used instead of a turf grass. We call them "lawn substitutes" when they are used in this fashion. All of these plants, as well as the grasses listed above, can be members of your gardens--functioning in a decorative way and complementing other plantings.
There are many reasons to consider alternative plants in place of a regularly mown lawn: too much shade, too little water, too much water, a preference for alternative ground covers, a preference for alternative grasses, and the need for regular mowing. There are many beautiful options available today. For example, a number of no-mow ornamental grasses can be used in hard-to-mow areas, or even in a large area, if you like a natural look.
There are many lawn substitutes to choose from, depending upon your needs and requirements. The choices increase if you have areas with very little foot traffic. Use substitutes in combination with each other by placing the most traffic-tolerant plants in the heaviest foot traffic areas. Add in some of the many ornamental grasses for a bit of height.
Many plants besides the usual lawn grasses will tolerate foot traffic. Some of these flower; others release a wonderful fragrance with each step. Some even do both.
Today, more and more people are bringing back a more natural look to their yards and gardens. Many areas of the country are working hard to maintain and reestablish the native plant habitats. You can join in this passionate evolution of gardens. Remember, until recent years, grass meant only a "lawn," green and mown. There are now many alternatives to that bowling lawn look. Enjoy seeking out and planting your new lawn substitutes.
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