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Gardening trends Part two: Our shrinking lawns and the new alternatives

According to retail figures across the developed world most gardeners continue to spend most of their gardening money on keeping their lawns green and healthy. However the trend is very much away from large lawns.

There is now more demand for functional spaces like courtyards or paved areas set in indigenous planting. If we want to reduce the water bill then we have to move toward smaller lawns.

These days landscapers are planning gardens with alternative lawns like ‘Creeping Thyme’ which is a flat growing, ground hugging carpet that is most rewarding. It can be used both formally and informally. It grows into a flat spongy mat which feels heavenly to walk or lie down on. It smells great and even flowers, pink or white depending on the variety. It is perfect in small and sunny townhouse gardens as it requires absolutely no mowing.

‘Creeping Thyme’ is not instant gratification and needs to be laid in plugs and tended to while it grows. It will knit together quickly within a summer season if planted correctly.

For larger gardens the trend is to create what are called meadow-margin areas. These are located on the outer reaches of the garden, between lawn stretches and planted beds. The lawn is removed and replaced with a mass planting normally comprised of species of plants that require no mowing and a lot less water.

The plant material used is typically an indigenous mounded grass, flat or low growing ground covers but unlike lawn a meadow cannot be played on.

In the Western Cape plants such as ‘Juncus capillaceous’ and ‘Falkia repens’ make for a simple and striking meadow margin.

Indigenous flowering bulbs can be added for seasonal excitement.

A modern alternative for the bolder gardener would be the compact, flat growing Helichrysum cymosum with its grey/silver leaves.

Creeping Thyme

The romantic gardener should consider other Thyme varieties. This little herb makes the perfect meadow. Upright bushy Thymes create an informal ‘old world’ feeling that can be paired with other low growing and flowering ground covers like the indigenous but difficult to find ‘Lasiospermum bipinnatum’ or indigenous chamomile which is beautiful once planted.

Also consider ‘Geranium incanum’ and the variegated and silvery ‘Thyme’ varieties that make a great show and require far less water than would a green lawn.

There is life after lawns.