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Build a pond, patio, or island bed in the center of your lawn to reduce chores and add interest.
Erase the Center of Your Lawn
July 9, 2001 by Evelyn J. Hadden

If your lawn stretches away from your house, a flat expanse of green (or, more often, brown), with nothing to break the monotony, and you're sick of mowing it every week and watering it and worrying about it for so little reward, imagine something different...

Imagine an enticing mirage floating in that grassy desert.

If you're feeling lazy, imagine a patio—cozy or extensive, shaded by tall trees or open to the sun, outfitted with chairs and table for outdoor dining. Hear yourself phoning your friends: "Come on over, we're having drinks on the patio this evening." Try on the smugness of someone who's making the most of summer. (Want to make a patio yourself?)

If you want something with a little more movement, something entertaining, imagine a pond out there. Lush water plants rustling, dragonflies darting, the water rippling in the breeze. There you are dozing in a lounge chair. You open one eye to note the graceful heron as it alights in the shallows.

Perhaps you're itching for more planting space. You've a list of plants you crave, but no place to put them. Voila! Your mirage becomes an island garden. Maybe it's a formal square with two paths crossing in the center, planting with sun-loving herbs. Or it's a wooded oasis swathed in cool dark groundcovers. Perhaps it's a prairie or meadow, curving in a horseshoe around a secluded sitting area.

Can't decide? How about a combination? Here are just a few enticing possibilities:

  • For a tiny pond with huge impact, leave a paver or two out of your patio and construct a mini-pond in the gap.

  • Make a pond with an island in the center for planting, and create a wildlife sanctuary inaccessible to mainland predators.

  • Design a patio that "floats" in a pond (really a moat), and get there by crossing a bridge or boardwalk.

  • Wrap an island of plants around a hidden patio.

  • When you've designed your new patio, island, or pond destination, consider creating a path to link it with your house and/or the rest of your garden.

    You can create an island bed by smothering your lawn. If you've opted for a more complex feature, you may need to hire a contractor or rent machinery to make your mirage real.

    Just remember that, though patios and ponds have higher up-front costs than most other lawn-shrinking options, their long-term maintenance costs (in time and money) can be much lower, and if you've chosen to install a feature you love, it can transform your free time into a string of magical moments.

    For More Information:

    • The Patio Garden presents a range of creative ideas accompanied by color photos and explanatory text, including a pond within a patio, a patio surrounded by a moat, and multi-level decks and patios.

    • For guidance in building ponds lined with concrete or flexible liners or installing rigid preformed ponds, consult Water in the Garden, a colorful book with many diagrams and helpful tips.

    • Garden Paths evaluates different path materials and the moods they evoke, explains how to lay paths of each material, and provides a useful list of plants that grow well between pavers in various environments. Most of the information about paths will apply to patios.

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

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