Grass and lawn substitutes

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gertrude

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Grass and lawn substitutes
« on: August 06, 2011, 09:00:32 PM »
We are NOT 'lawn' people, but there are areas of the garden which lend itself to a swathe of grass and living in Italy, we see swathes of lush turf which is obviously not British.  Does anyone know the name of any grass which would be drought and heat resistant, and would survive cold winter months.  Normal summer temps for 2 months are usually 30 degs + .  
« Last Edit: November 07, 2011, 08:43:52 AM by Alisdair »
Pete and Jan. Retired 15 years ago and moved to Le Marche, Italy for the peace and quiet of the countryside and more sunshine, where gardening became a challenge.  We now have a lovely garden with an eclectic selection of plants including many wild flowers of which we are found of..

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Alisdair

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2011, 07:56:02 AM »
The heat-resistant tropical lawn grasses such as Zoysia matrella (syn. Z. tenuifolia), bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon and its relatives such as Cynodon 'Santa Ana'), and perhaps the finer-leaved cultivars of the coarse st augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum) do need less much water than our temperate lawn grasses, and stay green in hot conditions, but depending on how cold you are will be browned off in winter. Would that matter to you? If so, you could try the suggestion by Hugo Latymer (in his classic book The Mediterranean Gardener) of over-sowing a rye grass in autumn, which would come up quickly with the autumn rains and stay green through the winter, dying back as the warmer-growing grasses took over the following spring.
When we visited the nursery of Olivier Filippi, at the MGS meeting in Uzés (South of France) a few years ago, he showed us interesting plots of waterwise small-leaved lawn alternatives such as Achillea crithmifolia, the grey-leafed Thymus mastichina (syn. T. ciliatus), which does well for us unwatered in a hot garden in Greece, and Frankenia laevis – all quite different in appearance from lawns, but much more truly Mediterranean-looking. His nursery is on the draft list of plant suppliers you can find by clicking here.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2011, 08:44:23 AM by Alisdair »
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

Umbrian

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2011, 02:50:31 PM »
Dear "Gertrude", where do you see "swathes of lush turf" in Italy? Surely it must be watered?  Does it fit into the surrounding landscape OK? I find that in an urban situation it is OK to see bright green grass but in rural areas such "swathes" stick out like a sore thumb when the countryside around is mellowing to a straw yellow before the autumn rains come.
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

pamela

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2011, 06:48:20 PM »
We use Phyla nodiflora very successfully which we plant between bald patches of 'grass'. 
Ours is NOT a lawn per se but a green area in which we plant anything that will be green for part of the year.  Phyla nodiflora is very pretty with small white flowers which can be cut or mowed as you wish. It creeps along and adds roots.  We also have Frankenia laevis which has not been as successful for us. As well, Achillea crithmifolia which doesn't do well here. We initially planted several of these ground covers as 'plugs' with the inherited 'grass' and the P. nodiflora has been the best of all.
It does, however, take time in our climate.
Jávea, Costa Blanca, Spain
Min temp 5c max temp 38c  Rainfall 550 mm 

"Who passes by sees the leaves;
 Who asks, sees the roots."
     - Charcoal Seller, Madagascar

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gertrude

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2011, 09:48:01 PM »
Dear Umbrian - out and about in Marche we often see 'swathes' of lovely grass,  yes maybe they water it, which we wouldn't, (too much other stuff to worry about)   but it would be nice to have grass on certain areas of our garden instead of perennial and annual weeds.
Pete and Jan. Retired 15 years ago and moved to Le Marche, Italy for the peace and quiet of the countryside and more sunshine, where gardening became a challenge.  We now have a lovely garden with an eclectic selection of plants including many wild flowers of which we are found of..

Umbrian

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2011, 07:39:47 AM »
 :) Hi Janice, I was wondering who was hiding behind that name! I wonder if Phyla nodiflora can stand the kind of winter temperatures that you must have. I know that where Pamela gardens it does not drop as low as we experience here in Umbria. If you just want green areas rather than something that resembles grass, I have been very successful with prostrate Juniper, don't ask exactly which one because, as I am sure you know, plants are not labelled very well here. I planted about 5 small specimens spaced along the centre of our long pool border about 10 years ago. After the first year ,when they were watered to establish them ,they have been on their own and have each made huge plants, spreading in all directions and rooting as they go. In fact they have been too successful in one way as they are surrounding all the plants around them and I have had to curb their enthusiasm. Pieces cut off however have roots and have been transplanted into other areas where I need green ground cover. These need quite careful attention in the beginning as the roots are quite small,occuring along the length of the "branch" but I have been successful with some. The soil in the pool border is really just sub-soil from the pool excavation so this plant is a real survivor!  It keeps very low to the ground on the whole and the odd exuberant growth can be trimmed off with no ill effects. I am sure I have a photograph somewhere that I will look out if you are interested. Carole
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

Chantal

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2011, 09:25:08 AM »
Here in Montpellier, where we experienced low temperatures as -6°C, I have Phyla nodiflora and it is really a great groundcover. It loves beeing watered of course but stands very well drought. It will expanse more slowly, if not watered. It attracts lot of bees, so can be an inconvenient if you have children running about. During the winter, it is brown and not green.
On the other hand, I have a small patch around my olive tree planted with Matricaria tchihatchewii, no mowing as for Phyla, watered once a week in summer, flowering in spring, and standing a lot of cold, green all year long. I planted more than 500 small seedlings in december. At the time I received it from the nursery where I ordered them, it was in december and the small "plantules" were frozen. I thought it was a desperate planting day, but they survived and thrived.
Chantal Guiraud
Montpellier-France
MGS Seed Coordinator

"The flowers of spring are winter's dreams told in the morning at the table of the angels" (Khalil Gibran)

David Bracey

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2011, 10:59:37 AM »
I agree with Chantal.  P nodifolia is an excellent ground cover however it will brown off in the winter.  It is low maintenance except for clipping excess growth from time to time. It does attract bees in their scores.

O Filippi has published a leaflet entitled " Les alternatives to gazon " in which he lists Lippia, Zoysia Dichondra ( a favourite among Californians,  Frankenia, Stenotaphrum and various thymes, Matricaria tchihatchewii and Cynodon.  I think that the consensus for a mediterranean "lawn" is a mix of those species that you find suit your climate and needs. David
MGS member.

 I have gardened in sub-tropical Florida, maritime UK, continental Europe and the Mediterranean basin, France. Of the 4 I have found that the most difficult climate for gardening is the latter.

gggardener

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2011, 01:49:11 AM »
In Australia we often use a local plant Myoporum parvifolium for a 'lawn look'  - it looks especially good in an Australian native garden but works aesthetically in most situations. Known also as Creeping Boobialla, it won't stand a lot of foot traffic but doesn't mind extreme drought or very hot conditions. There are several forms including one with purple foliage which looks great with grey foliage plants but the lushest greenest is known simply as 'Broad Leaf Form'. All have lovely little white flowers in spring.   
Member of South Australian Branch of Mediterrranean Garden Society.

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Alisdair

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2011, 08:21:52 AM »
Thanks for that, Ginny - and a big welcome, to our first poster from Australia!
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

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MikeHardman

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2011, 05:23:09 PM »
Ah - Ginny an expert on an Australian native plant I am trying to grow!
Do you know the best time / method to take cuttings?
I have been taking them when friends prune theirs, with mixed success. I have lost only a few, but of the successful ones, many are very slow to get going.
I also wonder about sweeping up the berries later in the year and scattering them on the slope where I am trying to establish this plant. Might that work, or should I extract the seeds and sow them in pots to start with?
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England

gggardener

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2011, 02:16:46 AM »
I haven't tried propagating Myoporum but have had success with cutting and transplanting rooted pieces in winter. However my friend Margaret Lee is an expert on Australian plants and she has said the following:

I usually take cuttings any time from Spring to Autumn.  They strike very readily here, without bottom heat, in the warmer months.  I always use cuttings so I know they’ll come true to form.  That’s probably less of a worry where there’s only one form grown.  I’ve never grown them from seed and don’t know any other Australian Plants members who have.

Scattering seed may work, but there would probably be better germination if ripe berries were soaked and cleaned and the seed extracted.

I hope this is some help
.

A couple of years back when we were experiencing terrible drough conditions I saw in the hard compacted soil of a disused carpark, a patch of green - checked it out as weeds etc had all had given up but there was Myoporum, almost thriving.  I grow it along a small verge bordering my road facing north/west so it gets full summer sun, and radiated heat but always looks good - just needs pruning rather than mowing every so often.

Do you grow many Australian plants?
Member of South Australian Branch of Mediterrranean Garden Society.

julie

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2011, 12:57:38 PM »
I agree with gggardener, Myoporum parvifolium is a great plant, a very attractive shade of green, very drought tolerant and a very effective groundcover.  I also live in Australia and have found the Phyla canescens (known here as Lippia). extremely hardy, could be invasive if nurtured in any way, however is very drought tolerant, although I prefer the colour and shine on the leaf of Myoporum.  Phyla canescens was extensively used years ago in lawns, but can be a problem when in flower due to bees being extremely attracted to the flowers.
Another grass which is being used more here where a lawn is wanted is Microlaena stipoides (weeping grass) a native grass, very hardy and is quite successful particularly if used with some of the Danthonia sp (Kangaroo grass) also a native species.  Due to the drought conditions in some parts of Australia, the  traditional patch of "Lawn" in the front garden, has been replaced with species which are less desirous of water, or in some cases hard surfaces have been used.
Member MGS. Garden Designer, Plantaholic!! Live and Garden in the Adelaide Hills area and Adelaide area of South Australia.  Surprisingly different climatic conditions, therefore allowing the cultivation of a range of plants which is most enjoyable.

julie

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2011, 01:32:57 AM »
Apologies to anyone who has read my previous comment and may be confused - in my enthusiasm to contribute,I have had a moment of "brain fade". Danthonia sp is commonly known here in Australia as Wallaby Grass not  Kangaroo grass which is Themeda sp.   Apologies once again, I must stop trying to do more than one thing at a time!!
Member MGS. Garden Designer, Plantaholic!! Live and Garden in the Adelaide Hills area and Adelaide area of South Australia.  Surprisingly different climatic conditions, therefore allowing the cultivation of a range of plants which is most enjoyable.

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MikeHardman

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Re: Grass and lawn substitutes
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2011, 09:36:38 AM »
Thank you Ginny and Margaret, and Julie.
No I don't grow many Australian plants (just Callistemon and Myoporum), but have some in my spreadsheet of potentials.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2011, 08:22:19 AM by MikeHardman »
Mike
Geologist by Uni training, IT consultant, Referee for Viola for Botanical Society of the British Isles, commissioned author and photographer on Viola for RHS (Enc. of Perennials, The Garden, The Plantsman).
I garden near Polis, Cyprus, 100m alt., on marl, but have gardened mainly in S.England