How to decorate a large sunny space with no grass.

sammy zone 7 TulsaJune 29, 2014

In our backyard I have many rose beds and a hillside. Between those two areas I have a large space with dirt. I do not want a work project in that area. I do not want grass or plants to water.

Would you post pictures of sunny areas that you have economically decorated without grass, trees, or plants that demand water?

I have purchased 4-5 crape myrtles that are dwarf. (In other parts of the yard I have many crape myrtles.) As we get older we need to put a stop to more flower beds or areas that require work. At this time all I can really think of is to put in landscape fabric, mulch, the crape myrtles and some cement benches.

I would love to see what the rest of you do to areas that you do not want to water and maintain.

We live in Tulsa, OK, and it is very hot here in the summer. The only grass we can grow is bermuda, and it is a real pain to maintain. (It is gone.) I do not want to bring it back.

I would love to see what you have done or can create.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I saw pretty solution like that. It was a few paths with a shallow pond between and step stones/ flat rocks as a crossing. There was a low wide falls at one end with a deeper area that expanded into the flat shallow pond. Low maintenance plants at the edge reflected in the water. You could put a little bench in to sit and cool your feet on summer days.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Kippy(SoCal zone 10. Sunset Zone 24)

Our yard is broken up in to zones. Around the house we have some grass, lots of roses and beds and a lot of patio space. 1/4ish

The lower 3/4s has a large veggie garden in the center but all around the edges are fruit trees and places to sit and enjoy. Mom is going to be 91 and needs to be able to go from seat to seat so we have a lot of options. But the ground cover is all wood chips from tree companies. It is far better and cleaner than walking on dirt, but not perfect. It is softer should mom fall. And it cools the soil below it, something your trees might like. I have stayed away from hard surfaces other than by the chicken house that is also down there.

They are work, they do track in, but they are not the dirt we used to have and they were free too....and improve the soil so I like wood chips.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The crepe myrtles can easily work. I second the suggestion for a deep, organic mulch. It requires very little maintenance, retains moisture, helps reduce weeds and provides a "finished" look to the area. It's what Nature does around "her" plantings. Kim

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:44AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dublinbay z6 (KS)

In that bare open spot, plant 4-5 crepe myrtles (they are the old-fashioned tall ones, I hope) in a semi-circle (blocking the western and south-western sun) and set a nice garden bench there--hopefully looking back at your rose beds. (I'm not sure what direction everything is in your yard.) A stone path leading to that sheltered bench would be inviting.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 12:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

crepe myrtles

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 6:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

Concrete. Just kidding, but that's what I have. I suppose it was meant as a large parking spot in front of the house, big enough so you can turn your car around on it, but we park our cars in front of the small house that sits at a lower level and hike up the long and steep driveway since even one car ruins the garden atmosphere. Along with the mostly bare hills and boulders it's the reason why my garden is so damnably hot.

I really like crape myrtles and just planted one of the smaller ones when I took out a rose where the soil is particularly bad. There are two taller ones shading a sunny house wall and another two elsewhere. The roots aren't invasive, they're not too messy, are deciduous and turn colors in the fall in addition to blooming, and don't demand megagallons of water. No wonder one sees them everywhere here.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 8:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Build a pretty garden shed there.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 8:24PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alameda/zone 8

I would suggest building a pretty shade structure - there are so many examples to be found in gardening magazines, and books on garden structures at Lowes or Home Depot can be found - possibilities are endless - you could do a swing underneath, a patio table and chairs or benches or whatever you like. I have had great luck putting down landscape fabric and covering it with pea gravel - lasts forever, you wont track dirt/debris and can add more if needed. If you want to get fancy.....have the structure covered, run electricity out to it and install an outdoor fan for a cool place to sit even in the miserable heat. Hang wind chimes too......

For crepe myrtles, I would strongly suggest the white Natchez. It has the best shape, provides the best shade. I have quite a few of them planted around - they have arching branches that are graceful, beautiful and provide shade.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2014 at 11:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
muscovyduckling(Melbourne, Australia)

I would put in a mulberry tree, smack bang in the middle. They're very drought tolerant once established, provide lovely shade and delicious fruit. Then I would mulch the rest with woodchips, as others have suggested, and put a bench seat under the tree.

I really like mulberries....

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 7:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Mulch and/or some gravel with creeping or wooly thyme as a lawn substitute? Or chamomile, if you prefer... I love the look of thyme lawns, but if that's too much, it looks very nice growing amongst path paving materials as well. And you get fragrance, too! Thyme needs sun, good drainage and not too much foot traffic to look good.

Whether you're a Pinterest member or not, you can go to Pinterest and search for photos using the search box. Just type (for example) thyme lawn or lawn alternative or garden gravel, and you'll get some photos to look at, with some of the photos leading to 'How-to' articles...

I'm not fond of grass either, and am slowly trying to reduce the amount of centipede we have in the front and back yards... I do like that native grass look with some stands of ornamental grasses, so am trying to figure out how to incorporate that look as the centipede eventually recedes.

To quote from Red Green: "We're all in this together"...

Good luck,

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 8:59AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

You could plant the trees on a grid to look very formal, or in groups if you want something casual. Skip the landscape fabric, because you end up with weeds on top of the fabric anyway. You don't need it and it is extra work. Just mulch and renew the mulch, keeping it from the immediate base of the trees. You could put some large pavers to make a path through the area, or flagstones if you want some additional geometry. All kinds of fun things to experiment with. It is as fun as roses when you get into it.

try google image using "Dan Kiley". He was a landscape architect who did these wonderful spaces with just a group of identical trees. Look through and get some ideas and see how beautiful it can be.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 10:31AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
desertgarden561- Las Vegas Z9a


I too think crape/crepe myrtles are a great choice.
Texas Sage is a good low water use plant but I believe it is rated zone 8? I don't know if the use of mulch would allow for a little zone pushing. I would also suggest a google search of xeriscape or low water use gardens. They can be very colorful and some are quite lovely. I usually check websites of various water authorities in places that have restricted water use. Sometimes they have landscape plants, a listing of low water use plants, videos and other resources are available. There could be a landscaping website focusing upon low water use/ low maintenance plants for gardeners in Oklahoma.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2014 at 11:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
sammy zone 7 Tulsa

What wonderful suggestions you have given me!
I neglected to say that we cannot build anything in that area. The back of our house faces west. From this area you can walk down the hillside to the creek bank. From the creek bank you can walk to the creek, up the opposite hillside to the neighbors' backyards that are opposite to ours.

The building codes are rather strict, and no permanent structures, sheds, cars, junk are allowed.

In my garden I already use many crape myrtles, and the new ones will be great. I will put them together with a bench to enjoy the view.

I will make use of scattered stones or pavers. You are correct about the landscape fabric. We have a such a problem with ants, and they seem to enjoy hiding in the material. We will be better off without using it.

Thank you so much for the links and ideas. Some of the ideas can be used on the sides of the house, or in the area that is fenced.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2014 at 6:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dublinbay z6 (KS)

Sammy, do give us some pictures of your new crepe myrtle-bench-view garden as it develops. I think it sounds very enticing!


    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Since you can't build anything, can you dig? Dig a pond, and put a fountain in there? If you can't dig, then buy a summer car-a two seater or a Vespa, special parking for toy(s)! :-)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:33PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Any ID ideas on this old Sonoma Mission rose?
This rose is a low bush (to 80 cm) growing under a...
close cousins of Belinda's Dream?
BD looks like a great landcaping/cutting rose, but...
Adam Harbeck
Duchesse de Brabant: Evaluation and Photos
Accidentally put this on the "Roses Forum"...
Sow_what? Southern California Inland
Aphids have found my roses...
I guess you never find just one aphid... I just spent...
The Joys of Pre-Spring
Sorry that I can't address this to you unfortunates...
ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™