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No-Mow Landscaping

August 11, 1996|Susan Heeger

Imagine life without mowing. walking through something wild on the way to the mailbox--something easy to grow and even easier to maintain.

The trick is to trade in your lawn the way Greg Mooser and Tania Avakian did when they renovated their Santa Monica house. Architects Kevin Daly and Chris Genik turned a '40s ranch into an angled contemporary, complete with a second-story lookout. When they finished and prepared to landscape, it seemed silly to put the lawn back. "We saw the house as a geometric form rising out of an ocean of growth, a saturated color field," Genik remembers. Their clients wanted something inexpensive, drought-tolerant and low-maintenance.

The solution was Salvia leucantha, Mexican bush sage, a purple-blooming perennial common in local mixed flower borders. Daly and Genik planted lawn and parkway with one-gallon plants that quickly grew to three feet in sunny and partly shady conditions. With prunings in August and January, Mooser and Avakian are rewarded with six to seven months of bloom. They also have a whispering field that makes waves when the wind blows.


Tired of Turf?

* For those who like shades subtler than the kelly green of most turf grass, the silver blue succulent Senecio mandraliscae is a drought-tolerant and virtually maintenance-free choice. Its fleshy leaves grow low to the ground.

* Anyone who clings to the lawn concept but doesn't mind a rough-and-tumble look will go for sun-loving buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides). Green in spring and summer, gold the rest of the year, its matted clumps can be walked on and need little mowing.

* Another option is common yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which has feathery leaves and flowers that range from white to red. Yarrow likes sun but isn't greedy with water, and it can be mown or not.

* Periwinkle (Vinca major), with striking blue flowers, is a tough green for a shady plot. It isn't thirsty but may invade nearby planting beds, so clip it periodically.

* Freeway drivers know the merits of lantana, which races along medians spewing purple or orange blooms. Rugged, dry and sun-loving, it likes a spring trim and thrives on slopes. Gazanias, or "freeway daisies," do well under the same conditions.

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