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Xeriscaping (A Front Lawn Update)--UPDATED!

Posted Oct 21 2008 12:12am

So I'm driving around the beautiful historic section of Roswell, Georgia, yesterday while waiting for my mom to get her taxes done (for free at a senior center!) when I fell upon a little side street filled with charming homes, maybe eight of them in all. Three of these eight homes had eliminated their front lawns in favor of excellent examples of xeriscaping (a shockingly high percentage considering I hardly ever see xeriscaped landscapes here in Atlanta!). Of course, I pulled over, whipped out the camera and took photos for you to see. I then drove my mother back there so she could see as well and we oohed and aahed at all the other little details we discovered at the various homes.

Two of the front yards were intricate walking gardens, almost British-like, with meandering paths through diverse plant areas, punctuated by benches and trellises. Both of them had chimineas (those cute, freestanding outdoor fireplaces that have proliferated here lately). The third front yard (the one pictured above) was sparser with plants (although a red wheelbarrow and hoe leaning on the fence indicated it's still a work-in-progress, and I'm guessing once that tree in the middle fills out with leaves, it'll be much prettier) but had a comfortable seating area with a fire pit. This same house featured a large front porch with yet more inviting seating and a large quilt. There was no way to view these homes without picturing the neighbors gathering in each other's yards. I could hear the clink of glasses and peals of laughter in my mind as I drove away.

And so, back home to my neighborhood of perfect monoculture front lawns. In my imagination, I keep seeing my front lawn replaced by a 3-circuit classical labyrinth, its lines created out of herbs which I would then sell to restaurants. Part of Happy Chicken Farm?

In reality, I'm still waiting for an eco-lawn company to pull through for me (and for the lineup of other folks who have contacted me who are ready to use these services as well). The first Great Hope jumped ship, content to stick with his pesticide-hungry clients in a city that has more of that kind of business than most landscape companies can handle. The second Great Hope, whose website promised compost tea treatments and corn gluten, simply hasn't shown up.

My backyard, pesticide-free for three years now, has sprouted an impressive variety of edible weeds, none of which we can eat because the majority of my back lawn gets runoff from the pesticide-laden neighbors all the way up the hill from me. Considering that United States residents use ten times the amount of pesticides on their lawns as industrial agriculture uses on crops, I'm not putting those weeds anywhere near my dinner table!

Ya' know what? I'm going to go back to Roswell, put notes in the mailboxes of the homes with the xeriscaped front yards asking them to contact me to share how they got to that point of eco-savviness, and go from there.

It's all a journey, isn't it?

UPDATED: Several hours later

Great Hope #2 came! I found an envelope stuffed in my door with his estimate. This is The Guy with the Corn Gluten, plus a complete organic lawncare program, based on treatments for control of insects and diseases only when needed. I'll evaluate costs and let you know if I go with this company, at which point I'll provide a link to the company for anyone who is interested in joining me on this Suburban Atlanta experiment.
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