My 'no grass' front garden, many photos!

sis3August 27, 2009

Perhaps some of you might remember this disgusting photo I posted jokingly, but with a very red face, on a thread about coordinating your front yard with those of your neighbors? There were some humorous responses to my photo (LOL Irma!!:)) Back in June some of you kindly offered me tips on visiting my first plant sale (USF). No-one warned me not to go crazy! ......I did!

So I have spent the hottest and most humid months of this year planting my full sun front yard! When you all talked about sensibly staying inside your cooled homes I was too embarrassed to tell you what I was doing! My neighbors waved sadly at this madwoman as they drove by, probably stifling their laughter until they were out of sight! There was little need to water my plants, my sweat watered them as I planted!

Don't you love a happy ending? My front GARDEN, although still only a few weeks old, is a hive of activity every single day! The bees arrive first each morning and leave last in the evening, well apart from those that slumber overnight atop the Indian Blanket or Cone Flowers. Then wave after wave of butterflies arrive and the first Hummer ever to visit my yard! It is incredible how many numbers and species of butterflies are in my small garden at one time! I am so thrilled I am choked! I even find my DH standing at the sitting room window watching all the activity in the garden!

Here are some of the 'frequent fliers'!

Giant Swallowtail

Eastern Black Swallowtail




Palamedes Swallowtail

And the neighbors....well, many stop by to say how they love the garden, strangers drive by slowly, or even stop, to watch the butterflies, and my next door neighbor (vistas of red cypress mulch and 3 plant varieties only on her entire property) tells me daily how much she loves my garden!! A few days ago she came to tell me excitedly that she had just seen "the coolest ever butterfly, it looked just like a zebra!" She now wants a plant list!!

Zebra Longwing

Another neighbor (mostly lawn, paving, and high maintenance containers) brings her little daughter to see the butterflies and the dozens of caterpillars! She was thrilled that a butterfly had landed right on her arm! My neighbor was astounded when she asked about maintenance that, unlike her, I rarely have to water and use no pesticides!

Gulf Fritillary - one of the most frequent visitors!

Skipper, masses of these every day.

Zebra Swallowtail

White Peacock

Pipevine Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Sorry that this was long, I just wanted to share with you. I have learned so much from you all. (Special thanks to Marcia for posting a very useful plant list and for snake and frog id's.) This couldn't have been achieved without you all! Our little garden is giving me and many, many others so much joy! Thank you!!!!!!

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goldenpond((Vero.Beach FL 9b))

Very wonderful and most of us are drooling at the thought of no lawn.My dh refused,afraid that two and a half acres of beds would be too much work,and he ENJOYS mowing.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 1:40PM
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Well if this isn't the most inspirational post for making a no-grass garden then kiss my grass goodbye!
Just what I needed to see instead of viewing my grub-destroyed lawn and wondering where to go from here.
Could I beg for a picture of the overall front yard to provide some guidance for design? Do you have walkways or is it mulched completely?

Thanks for the bright spot. EVERYTHING is gorgeous.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 1:42PM
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Thanks for sharing!

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 2:17PM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

What a wonderfull garden! I also would like to see a full picture of your front yard. You get such a wide variety of butterflies in your garden. It would be great not to have to worry about a lawn anymore but with a 3/4 acre lot that has few large trees and none of them in the front I wouldn't be able to mantain that big of a garden.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 2:23PM
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Beautiful. You should get your yard certified by Monarch Watch (I think that's the name). Did you post this on the butterfly forum? Again, awesome job.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 2:58PM
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marcia_m(5 and 9)

I would love to know your plant list. We have just purchased a FL home and I'd like to get rid of most of the grass in the front yard, too!
Marcia in PA

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 5:47PM
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Congrats on all the hard work. It looks great and much more interesting than a boring lawn.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 6:25PM
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stuartwanda(N. Stuart)

BEAUTIFUL!! Don't know how you did it in this heat but it turned out great!
Thanks for the pictures.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2009 at 7:31PM
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kgardens(9a Riverview)

So beautiful! I don't know which is more impressive, the variety of butterflies or your ability to capture them in photos. Please keep posting lots of pics!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 8:44AM
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fighting8r(10 Fort Myers Florida)

Amazing, you can come do my house next!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 9:40AM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

Oh, MY! Sis3, you have done a MARVELOUS job!!! Thank goodness you didn't keel over from heatstroke, but now that fall is almost here, you'll really be able to enjoy all your hard work. The effort has paid off.

And just are now an inspiration to your neighbors. Some of them might actually be jarred enough to think "out of the LAWN box" for a bit. Or even if they just jazz up their beds and foundation plantings with more color and butterfly attractors, it will be a wonderful thing.

I'm so glad that ANYTHING I might have posted has helped you. And I know you have learned (as have I) from everyone on this forum. It's just the BEST place for Florida-specific info ANYWHERE.

I join the chorus for pictures of your overall plan. I'm always trying to think how I want to layout beds and stuff. Can you take a few of the entire garden from different angles, so we can see the shape of your beds and borders?

Thanks so much for posting this. It did my heart good! And the number of butterflies you have is astounding. (Must be some pawpaws in the neighboring woods for you to have zebra swallowtails. They are fast disappearing!)



    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 10:20AM
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Absolutely beautiful!!! What a transformation! You must be thrilled to see the front yard paradise that you created for you and the birds and butterflies!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 10:35AM
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Wonderful! This is just the kind of effort and the type of post that keeps us energized and soldering on (even in the heat).

This is what the GW FL Forum is all about. Inspiration!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 12:22PM
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Oh wow!!! Thank you all so much for your kind words! I was feeling quite pleased with my efforts but now I am feeling humbled! So many of you have beautiful gardens, some of them huge, and amazing plants. My garden is so small and so new, and I am just a newbie (I began gardening in Florida just over a year ago, with a tropical courtyard!).

Tomorrow I will post more photos of the layout of the garden, some responses to your specific questions and comments, and a plant list. I do hope you are not disappointed, as my front garden is only 25' x 32'!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 6:03PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

It's not the size that counts, you's what you DO with it! (wicked grin) A small, colorful and flower-filled garden trumps big, empty spaces, any day. Can't wait to see more photos!


    Bookmark   August 28, 2009 at 6:08PM
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Beautiful! And if you love it now, just wait until the plants reach full size! It will be stunning. Very nice work. It looks like it was worth being out there in the summer. I have had that same thought about watering my plants with the sweat of my brow many times.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 9:04AM
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To answer some specific comments, it is going to be a pleasure to maintain this small garden but I can see that karalynn's 3/4 of an acre would be a much more daunting proposition, and as for goldenpond's 2 1/2 acres....well, I perspire at the thought of all that work!!! However I do wish there was more land here to garden, this is a waterfront lot, only 50' wide.

Shellfreak I will check out 'Monarch Watch'. I have never visited the butterfly forum, so I will lurk on there to see whether I can contribute. Thank you.
marciapa my plant list is below, I hope it helps you as Marcia's (manature) list helped me. I can heartily recommend a grassless front yard. It will be interesting to follow your progress if you decide to undertake it.
Thank you for your encouragement thonotorose. It is sometimes daunting for a newbie like me to post when there is such knowledge and experience here. I usually assume I am going to bore, rather than inspire, but now you have inspired me to continue to post.

Here is my original plan. Sorry, I couldn't rotate it. The beds are colored green and the blue areas are mulched access paths.

The plan for the front yard was very simple. We built a curving flagstone path to the front entry and flanked it with a narrow bed raised by a dry stack stone wall. This continues around the flagstone terrace directly in front of the sitting room window. At the lower level there are mulched beds bordered by a mulched access path. There has to be access to the underground propane tank and the water meter. There is a circular area of mulch around the gas tank lid where there will be a something attractive to disguise the tank lid, and a few more containers.

This photo was taken from the second floor window. The terrace and a flower bed are out of sight below.

Hopefully the plants will eventually fill out to cover most of the mulch and will spill out on to the access paths. At the moment there is rather a lot of mulch showing (but not nearly as much as there was when the garden was first planted! :)

Towards the street from the entry

To the street from the terrace

To the street from the side yard

To the entry from the garden

From the drive

Here is the plant list:

Lantana, Bush Daisy, Diamond Frost, Coneflower, Indian Blanket, Brazilian Red Hots, Shrimp Plant, Blue Daze, Buddleia, Milkweed, Cassia, Mexican Heather, Mexican Petunia (Purple Showers - sterile) Penta, Maple Leaf Hibiscus, Globe Amaranthus, Purple Top Verbena, Firebush, Plumbago, Firespike, Firecracker, Kaffir Lime, Meyer Lemon, Black Eyed Susan, Dwarf Powder Puff, Tea Olive, Coral Honeysuckle, Dill, White Almond Bush, Purslane, Dutchman's Pipevine, Gardenia, Thryallis, Porterweed (red and blue), Fountain Grass, Crape Myrtle, Jatropha, Flax Lily, Duranta, Vinca.

It's a long list for such a small garden but it may explain the wonderful variety of creatures that visit daily!

Marcia, I have been reading about the wild Paw Paw (what a great plant!) and I wonder if there may be some in the conservation area directly across the street from my garden (visible in some of the photos). It looks like a rain forest in there, I have been dying to explore it for years, now I am definitely going to do so, if only to seek the Paw Paws. From the street I can see many butterflies floating around in there, mostly Swallowtails and Sulphurs!

When I went to take these photos this morning there were 4 Swallowtails, a Gulf Frit, several Sulphurs, a Zebra Longwing, and many Skippers and bees already at work! In my tiny garden! My heart sang!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 2:53PM
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Thanks for the extra photos, they really help with ideas for my yard.
I really like the different levels which create distinct areas and the dry laid stone wall is gorgeous.

This is really one of the nicest "natural" non-grass front yards I've seen.

There is a community near me, in Osprey, south of Sarasota, that has been landscaped with minimum grass and someday I'll have an extra 10 minutes to drive through but from the photos I've seen of theirs your yard is head and shoulders above.



    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 3:43PM
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Just stunning. And what luck to have a conservation area across the street. I bet it has some of the important host plants for your wildlife that you wouldn't necessarily want in your yard. I know that some of my "weeds" feed critters. It's my excuse for not remulching until the weeds are pretty awful. But it sure would be nice for a conservation area to plant itself across the street for the weeds the critters want.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 3:44PM
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annafl(z9b/10a Sarasota)

Sis, what a beautiful and interesting oasis you've created! I also love the hardscape and the change in elevation. Great job! Thanks for sharing all the great photos. Now you can relax and enjoy...


    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 8:55PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

Me too! Me TOOOO!! *waving hand in the air, jumping up and down and yelling enthusiastically!*

Sis, you have done a FIRST RATE job there! I, too, love the changes in elevation with the addition of the stone wall. And your hardscaping in general looks great! Love the flagstone path.

But most of all, I love the HUGE variety of plants you have managed to include in your garden. At maturity, your yard is going to be a veritable wonder!! And you will be enjoying all the critters it attracts for a long time to come.

Thank you so much for sharing the photos so we can really see just how you've done it. Even those with larger yards can adapt your ideas to their own spaces. Or can create a smaller garden "room" within the larger whole. really ARE inspiring us! Nice work...give yourself a big pat on the back!!


    Bookmark   August 29, 2009 at 9:06PM
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Wow...just wow. You did an amazing job. Wish you were my neighbor so I could steal cuttings from you lol!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 9:30AM
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marcia_m(5 and 9)

Sis, thank you for taking the time to list your plants and the extra photos. I'll keep your list handy when I'm looking at plants to use.
Marcia in PA

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 11:26AM
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sharbear50(6a Bella Vista)

Wow! I wish my front yard didn't have grass...the weeds have taken over. Did you have to dig up the grass or was it a new yard? I too would love to see a picture of the whole yard.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 12:48PM
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I tore out my grass 4 years ago and don't miss it a bit. I dug it up with a shovel and a rake. It was a lot of work and I would not recommend doing that.

The best suggestion I have read on numerous sites is to mow the grass to the lowest setting. Then cover the grass with newspapers (multiple layers), then cover that with mulch (please consider something besides Cypress).

The papers and mulch will starve the grass of light. The newspaper and grass will rot over time. When you want to plant, you move the mulch aside and dig straight through the paper.

And you don't have to do it all at once. Take out 10 feet of grass a year. Then you can experiment and figure out what you can grow and what you like.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2009 at 10:43PM
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Sorry Sis, you can no longer call yourself a newbie, not with the wonderful garden you created and now people asking you advice. Beautiful job. Apparently your garden is salt tolerant. Working in the heat of this summer you did indeed water it with your sweat. Thanks so much for sharing. You are an inspiration to all of us who look out the window and don't like what we see. Aren't you glad you did those 'before' pictures now?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 8:16AM
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KaraLynn(z9 FL, Inverness, Citrus)

Thank you for posting all the extra pictures! Your garden is amazing. You must have a hard time not stopping to admire it every time you go in and out your front door or walk past the windows. All of your hard work certainatly paid off.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 9:06AM
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carmiewest(Eastern South Florida)

Wow!! You have done such an amazing job! You should be very proud of yourself. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful garden.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 9:36AM
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Thank you for sharing! I love it. You are an inspiration.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 10:09AM
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imagardener the Osprey community sounds very interesting, it would be great if you just happened to have your camera with you when you drive through. Do you think the residents would mind?

sharbear we did not have a lot of grass to remove, but a concrete drive and parking area and a lot of neglected and overgrown shrubs with horrible roots, and weeds. Here is a photo of the front entry before we began remodeling/rebuilding the house and garden.

The worst problem was that after I had bought loads of plants from the USF sale we discovered that there was a layer of hard pan from the old drive about 12 to 15 inches below the dirt covering the entire garden area. In addition the dirt was almost pure sand and very infertile. So in the middle of June we had to remove all the dirt, then the layer of concrete, then replace and amend it. This had to be done very quickly as the new plants were in their little pots waiting to be planted. There is no shade, it was so hot we could work only from about 7am to 11am at best each day and even then it was exhausting!!

This is a similar view now.

Just a quick critter update. It has been a few days now since we last saw our little hummer. I hope it hasn't left for the season.
Yesterday as DH was watching his first Zebra Swallowtail a Polydamas Swallowtail swooped in! The photo is a bit blurry, they flutter so! I think that makes 14 species of large butterflies visiting a garden the size of our family room! Amazing!

Thank you all so much! It is such a thrill to think that my little garden may have inspired some of you, you all have certainly ENCOURAGED me! There's no stopping me now!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 1:41PM
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