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I’m not the owner of this house, nor am I the designer of the pictured front yard, but I do admire  the knowledge,  commitment and creativity of whoever made this garden.

I came across this house on a random trip around town while driving down a street that I may not ever have seen before.  Finding it is a testament to a friend’s practice of purposely driving unusual routes from point A to point B on occasions when you’re not in a hurry. I was with the aforementioned friend and we took a detour for him to show me a small hidden park in Manhattan.  This house was a WBC (wow!-brake!-camera!) event—defined by a moment when you are stunned by a garden while driving, suddenly slam on the brakes, and take a photo out the window to document the vision of the gardener.

Here is everything we’ve been talking about in natural landscape: a smaller, minimal-carbon-footprint house, a front yard of ornamental grass that needs mowing only once a year (composed primarily of what I think is Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’), and a few native perennials to brighten up the edges (notice the Rudbeckia remnants at lower right).  It seems to be right out of the recommendations of such influential texts as Sara Stein’s Noah’s Garden. I didn’t go creeping around the house, but there is likely only a very small back yard surrounded by some woody areas. I took this photo knowing I’d blog about it, all the while hoping that the owner wasn’t calling the police about the stalkers taking pictures from the road.  (The house number was eliminated from the picture.)  They’ll get a visit soon enough, however, from the Garden Tour group with an eye towards being a future tour site.

I love this landscaping and this house (particularly since our empty-nest home seems suddenly too large), but I also know that I can’t do this on the Flint Hills prairie that I live on. This property is relatively safe, surrounded as it is by miles of paved crossing roads, but imagine this yard and house out on the Kansas prairie (or in Southern California) with a grass fire moving towards it.  Yikes!

Posted by

James Roush
on October 6, 2014 at 7:48 am, in the category Guest Rants, Lawn Reform, Real Gardens.


  1. Sorry, I’d have to at least give whoever did this a penalty for unimaginative overuse of ornamental grass. Whoever landscaped the Corning Museum of Glass did basically this same thing, and now the grasses have escaped and reseeded all over the adjacent areas. It’s unimaginative landscaping, and it has the potential to be both invasive and dangerous (in case of drought and/or fire). Points off!

  2. Eliz – If you look across the road and down the street, you’ll see that phragmites (or whatever the hell it is) everywhere. At least, it was that way when I was there last year. Perhaps (and hopefully) it’s been cleared out since. But it certainly looked to me like it was spreading out of control!

  3. I do think that landscapers are responsible for a lot of invasiveness. When you put 20 or 30 of the same plant in one commercial installation as Corning did, there’s bound to be a lot of escapees. No, it’s not the homeowner with one or two plants in the yard. But when it’s a monoculture, which appears to be what this particular home has going, yes – I think that grass is going to get around. And in the interest of full disclosure, as they say, I pretty much detest ornamental grasses in any quantity beyond one plant. To my eye it’s simply boring.

  4. Hahaha! Once again, you can’t win on Garden rant!
    Lots of comments criticizing typical landscapes and now that we’ve got something a little different – BAM! Its just not good enough.
    I like that planting. It works in its context.
    I can’t grow that Calamagrostis very well in the heat, but I don’t have a good native grass that is as uniform and useful for this kind of massing either. I wish I did.
    Oh, and, its kind of important to recognize that different genus, species and selections of grasses act differently – just like all plants. Making a blanket statement about “grasses” being “invasive” is silly. You would say that about trees? Don’t plant trees because mimosa is invasive?

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