Beautiful custom home with a large, lush green lawn out front.

As with many relationships that hit a rough spot, the signs of discord are often there, long before a break-up is imminent. Even with a history of affection dating back to 17th century England, in the homes of wealthy landowners, the closely trimmed, green grass lawns are losing favor with modern homeowners. 

One of the reasons for this decline in popularity was evident even centuries ago. Maintaining a lush, green lawn was expensive and could be accomplished only by landowners who had a small army of gardeners. While the expenses of equipment, water and fuel was, and is, a challenge of lawn care, current times have brought new considerations as well. These issues are spurring new strategies for residential landscaping.

Creating a bio-diverse, but still charming yard, requires a different mindset about landscaping. This can include native plants in flower beds and clay pavers that allow residents and visitors to enjoy calm “meandering” throughout the outside area. Click here for some great ideas from Acme Brick.


The Rise of the Anti-Lawn

For a variety of reasons, we are witnessing the rise in the “anti-lawn,” according to Julia Rubin, a writer and photographer for Associated Press. “For generations, the lawn — that neat, green, weed-less carpet of grass — has dominated American yards. It still does. But a surge of gardeners, landscapers and homeowners worried about the environment now see it as an anachronism, even a threat.

“Now, drought, crashing insect populations, and other environmental problems are highlighting -– in different ways, in different places –- the need for more kinds of plants in spaces large and small.”

beautiful clay pavers installed in yard

This is also one of the reasons that many newly enlightened landscapers are using clay pavers, such as those available from Acme Brick, to build paths through bio-diverse outside spaces. As with other brick on the side of a house, these pavers are manufactured from natural clay and hard fired to last for centuries. They also require almost no maintenance. There are very few (if any) landscaping products more sustainable than clay pavers and their contribution to this evolution of the backyard is subtle but stunning.
“Some people are experimenting with more “eco-friendly” lawns, seed mixes you can buy with native grasses that aren’t as thirsty or finicky,” Rubin notes. “Others are mowing less and tolerating old foes like dandelions and clover. Still others are trying to replace lawns, entirely or bit by bit, with garden beds including pollinator-friendly and edible plants.

“It all leads to a more relaxed, wilder-looking yard.”

Rubin highlighted two other factors that are driving this trend toward “wild things.” There is simply not enough water, at affordable rates, to support millions of acres of lawns. In states with water shortages, “many homeowners long ago swapped out turf grass for less-thirsty options, including succulents and gravel.
Plus, the COVID pandemic played a part. In the process of working, playing, and studying from home, gardening became a popular hobby. “Many non-gardeners spent more time at home, paying more attention to the natural world around them,” she concluded.

Even in the city center of the “asphalt jungle” of large cities, reducing the heat and water use has become a priority. In Baltimore, Axios reports “A comprehensive strategy will (ideally) blitz the city with reflective roofs and highways, solar panels, trees, porous pavements, and ‘urban meadows’ — areas of median where mown grass is replaced with unmanicured native grasses.”

An Emotional Component

Since history has been recorded, far Eastern cultures have appreciated, even relished, the emotional benefits of immersion in nature. It is not surprising that in dealing with the stress of the pandemic, contemporary society also learned about the calming effect of being surrounded by a visually diverse natural environment. If this space happened to be found in the backyard, all the better!  

Even the usually laconic Wall Street Journal waxed poetic about the emotional benefits of Eastern-influenced landscaping. “Whispering grasses, the splashing of a fountain, the hypnotizing crunch of gravel underfoot—Japanese priests have nurtured contemplative plots for centuries. Now housebound Americans seeking distraction and escape are establishing home gardens that evoke some of that Eastern horticulture wisdom.”

The publication even offered tips on creating this space. Here’s how to build what it calls a “botanical chill pill.”

  • Turn down the colors. “Reds, oranges and yellows are hot colors that stir passion,” said New York landscape architect Edmund Hollander, who recommends mining the other end of the spectrum for tranquility. “The gradation of blues into greens is almost the colors of a stream, with whites and creams representing movement.”
  • Avoid wide open spaces. Designer John Sharp, of Los Angeles, favors trails that wind through the landscape. He introduces “structure” with plants like spiring Italian cypress trees or voluminous Mexican bush sage, and he softens hard edges—fencing, walls, sheds, staircases—with greenery. Mr. Hollander stresses the concept of journey. “You can’t come out of the house and be in that space. You have to go somewhere, even if it’s only three steps.”
  • Feed on grasses. “The kinetic quality of grasses can create a diaphanous haze that is lovely to behold,” said Juli Risner, co-owner of Grounded, a retail store and landscape architecture firm in Encinitas, California.
  • Add a fountain. “Nothing creates a greater sense of peace than the sound of water,” said Mr. Hollander. For his part, Mr. Sharp looks for fountains that echo a home’s aesthetic. This might involve adorning this water feature with ceramic or porcelain tile, or Acme thinBRIK. Click here to get some ideas.
  • Opt for organic furniture. Reject cold metals and synthetic materials. Rattan, wood, and cane let you underline the earthy theme of the quiet garden. 
  • Hear every step. “I love the textural quality that gravel brings,” said Ms. Benner, who lays it down on walkways and patios. “It is a softer way to hardscape.” Loose, organic edges let the green weave in and out. The quiet crunch underfoot adds to the meditative effect” These gravel walkways, juxtaposed with clay pavers can be nicely enhanced.

Over the years, several products (including Coca-Cola) have claimed they could help consumers stay “calm, cool and collected.” Perhaps, these frazzled folks just needed a little landscaping Zen.

Are you thinking about redesigning your yard? There are many great products that can add a calming influence. Click here to talk to the experts at Acme Brick.