Landscape architect Walt Ray creates the ultimate low-maintenance yard in Midtown Atlanta.
Here’s a yard we all aspire to: It’s pretty year-round and requires next to no work. Not your traditional landscape (there’s no lawn), this curbside eye-catcher has passersby hitting the brakes and strollers slowing their pace.
Homeowner Andy McKinnon couldn’t be happier. “I enjoy cocktails on the porch with neighbors, and people are always stopping to ask about the mondo grass.” Occasionally Andy pulls a weed or two, and that’s about it. To keep even that in check, each February and May the yard is treated with a pre-emergence herbicide.
Landscape architect Walt Ray, owner of Outdoor Studio in Atlanta, used dwarf mondo grass to create the look of a lawn but with minimal maintenance and no mowing. Five minutes with a leaf blower, a quick change of annual color, and work here is done. Want to shorten your to-do list? Follow Walt’s advice on the following slides.
Pack in mondo grass to avoid weeds.
Walt confesses to overplanting low-maintenance yards so they’ll fill in faster, leaving little room for weeds. For instance, the dwarf mondo grass in Andy’s yard was planted 6 inches apart (as opposed to 9 to 12 inches); the Heller Japanese hollies are 2½ feet apart (rather than 3½ feet). Consistent spacing is key―and be sure to mulch.
Microsize Your Garden
Microsize your garden to save time.
Focus your efforts near the front door if the area is large, and then mow the rest. Define your space with a fence, wall, or low hedge of shrubs that never need pruning, as Walt did with the Heller Japanese hollies near the street. Other good choices: dwarf yaupon holly or rosemary.
Choose no more than a dozen different plants.
They should be evergreen, require no pruning, and fit site conditions so they won’t need a lot of care. Save one spot for annual color. Fragrant plants like gardenias are a welcome bonus.
Decorative Garden Stones
Rock your world.
Break up a sea of green while adding texture, color, and contrast. Purely decorative, this swath of stone could also be functional, moving water away from the home. Here, it moves your eye across the garden.
Color the corner.
Forget the tried-and-true boxwood. Add an unexpected pop of color with a pot of ‘Mona Lavender’ plectranthus. It will brighten the shorter days of fall and add wow to your yard.
Walt got a new look by using very common plants. Best of all, they’re low-maintenance.
- ‘Tropicanna’ canna (pictured)
- Asparagus fern
- Dwarf gardenia
- Heller Japanese holly
- Dwarf mondo grass
- Autumn fern