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Consolidate your scattered trees and beds.
Connect the Dots to Shrink Your Lawn
June 25, 2001 by Evelyn J. Hadden

You can transform your garden from a crazy-quilt to a coherent landscape by fusing small, scattered planting beds into larger ones that have more visual impact. And you'll be shrinking your lawn at the same time.

How to Consolidate

Carve an interesting shape around several close plantings to make one larger bed. You may want to lay a rope or garden hose first to experiment with the shape and size. There's no need to dig up the sod that covers your intended planting bed; simply edge it and smother the lawn inside it.

Choose new plants that harmonize with the existing ones.

Design Ideas

  • If you've connected trees, consider creating a woodland. It might include several understory trees, a few shrubs to fill in the vertical gap between tree and ground, scattered lower growing decoratives, and colonies of groundcover.

  • If you've connected individual shrubs, why not plant a thicket? Plant more shrubs, and select ones that produce berries and flowers, for yourself and for wildlife. Many animals appreciate the combination of ready food and protective cover that a thicket provides, and you may appreciate the humming, fluttering island of activity that it becomes.

  • If you've connected perennial beds or beds with mixed shrubs and perennials, repeat several key plants throughout the new bed to make it feel cohesive. Another way to build continuity is to have a color scheme for the new bed, whether it be a single color (a white garden), a combination of colors (a yellow and purple garden), or a progression from one color to another (a rainbow garden).

  • Plant abundant colonies of groundcover plants to create serene, low-maintenance areas that preserve the open space above the lawn and won't interfere with distant views.

  • Groundcover Notes

    Choose groundcovers that you'll be able to keep in bounds. Here are three ways that groundcovers spread:

    1. Many groundcovers spread swiftly, but those that spread across the surface on runners (ground ivy or Creeping Charlie) can be pulled out or clipped at the edges of the bed. Don't leave clippings on the ground or they'll sprout into new plants. Also, running plants are hard to control in the interior of a bed and, for lowest maintenance, should be allowed to run free within it.

    2. Other groundcovers grow in clumps and may be therefore easier to contain, unless they self-sow prolifically, in which case clip the flowers before they set seed if you want to keep them in bounds.

    3. The hardest plants to control are those that spread from deep underground roots. One such root can produce a colony spread across a large area, and the entire deep root, and often all subsidiary roots, must be found and dug up to eradicate the plants. With this type it is "all or nothing"--you either decide you want them permanently in that location or you must rid the area of every scrap of them.

    Bonus Tip

    Connect distant beds to convert large tracts of lawn into a stroll garden, then design a path through the new area so you can enjoy it from within. As Joe Eck says in Elements of Garden Design, "...a garden one can wander through is always more thrilling than a garden one must simply stand before and stare at."

    "Connect the Dots" is part of a series on how to SHRINK your lawn. See others:

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