I know lots of Master Gardeners, but I am not one. My wife loves working in the garden, but I don’t. Landscaping seems to be time consuming, expensive, and never ending. When it comes to yard work, I am generally just labor, not management.

Mother Nature grows forests and fields with no supplemental watering, no chemical fertilizing or weed control, but we humans pay dearly trying to keep the plants in our yards

green and trimmed, day after day, week after week, dollar after dollar.

If you have a nice green lawn, about once a week you need to fire up the gas-belching lawn mower and walk or ride over every blade of grass in the yard. Next it is the string trimmer and after that the blower. In-between mowing we spread pre-emergent, weed killer, fertilizer, and lime. 

Many folks don’t do any of that, they just pay someone a couple of thousand dollars a year to do it for them. Mother Nature is chuckling, but I am not laughing.

Flowers! Flowers are just weeds that humans have, through selection, trained to grow bigger and brighter. 

First, we buy them at some garden center, then we spray chemicals to kill the insects and the mildew, and to keep the deer and rabbits away, and then fertilize, and finally clip the dead blooms to encourage more. 

It never ends. In the meantime, Mother Nature continues to shake her head and chuckle.

I keep searching for answers. We have a steep hillside behind our house, and for the first 10 years we spent a lot of time and money mulching it every year, and digging and spraying weeds in the mulch. 

Finally, we spent a bunch of money having most of the hillside covered in rocks. It was a one-time expense, not what you would call beautiful, but at least no more continual upkeep.

The next step was to start eliminating all of the high-maintenance flowers in the large backyard garden. 

We gave many plants to friends and neighbors, including the hosta, day lilies and roses that were pretty, but major deer magnets. 

We dug up and gave away iris, flocks, mums, yarrow, daisies and many more.

We replaced those flowers with a “butterfly garden.” And although not native to Tennessee, we added butterfly weed, butterfly bush, lantana, verbena and milkweed. If I was smarter, we might have used only native plants, and still might, but at least now our garden attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds instead of just deer and rabbits. 

Oh, the deer still walk through the yard, and the rabbits nibble clover, but they aren’t here for the day lilies anymore. 

Then a year ago, I noticed the fields along the entrance road at nearby Meadow Park Lake. I told a friend, that is not just a field, that is a meadow. 

The scattering of wild flowers was beautiful. So, I ordered wildflower seeds online from a company called “American Meadows.”

Over the winter, following directions, I covered the half of our backyard hillside that was not covered in rocks with black plastic to kill the grass and weeds. This spring, when I removed the black plastic, there was nothing but bare dirt, and I planted the American Meadows’ wildflower seeds recommended for Southern gardens.

Now, it is July and my backyard hillside is beautifully covered in many colors of wildflowers. 

It is a mixture of tall, short, red, yellow, blue, orange and white wildflowers. 

The directions say to mow my wildflower meadow down in the fall and then next spring it should start all over again. It promises to be lower maintenance and more beautiful than rocks or mulch. 

With the backyard seemingly now under control, I Googled, “Front yard with no grass” and whoa — you will be surprised at the hundreds of photos and links that showed up. There are some beautiful possibilities in those photos. 

I know a couple of neighbors who already have figured out how to have a nice front yard without having to mow, but make sure you always check with your homeowners association before making any changes. 

And by the way, swimming pools, trampolines, RVs, boats, and jeeps, aren’t approved most places as substitutes for grass in your front yard.

Our backyard butterfly garden and wildflower meadow make me smile every time I look at them, which is often. 

There was one additional expense. We had to buy two new butterfly identification books to keep up with our new visitors. 

It is still a work in progress, but it is more progress and less work, and best of all, I think Mother Nature is smiling a little more and shaking her head and chuckling a little less.

• • •

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com.

Trending Video