Before and After: A typical kentucky bluegrass lawn is replaced with bright pink penstemon, salvia, groundcovers, and other xeric waterwise plantsBefore and After: A typical kentucky bluegrass lawn is replaced with bright pink penstemon, salvia, groundcovers, and other xeric waterwise plants

Customer Garden: Replacing A Bluegrass Lawn With Bold Color In Boise

When our customers Matthew and Pascale planted their first garden at their home in Boise, Idaho (zone 6b/7a), they went for big impact and major curb appeal! With the goals of saving water and supporting pollinators, Matthew and Pascale removed their entire front yard of traditional Kentucky Bluegrass turf. In its place, they planted bright and colorful flowers, groundcovers, and ornamental grasses, for a new front yard that is filled with personality and interesting details. The results are truly inspiring! Below, Matthew shares their process, three favorite perennials, and his full plant list with us. Read on for details.

Spring Garden | On the left: pink Coconino County Desert Penstemon, yellow Hymenoxys scaposa, low-growing Heteroteheca jonesii, light purple Penstemon linarioides, and magenta Delosperma. On the right: Penstemon, Salvia, Pasque flower, Creeping Thyme.Spring Garden | On the left: pink Coconino County Desert Penstemon, yellow Hymenoxys scaposa, low-growing Heteroteheca jonesii, light purple Penstemon linarioides, and magenta Delosperma. On the right: Penstemon, Salvia, Pasque flower, Creeping Thyme.
Spring Garden | On the left: pink Coconino County Desert Penstemon, yellow Hymenoxys scaposa, low-growing Heteroteheca jonesii, light purple Penstemon linarioides, and magenta Delosperma. On the right: Penstemon, Salvia, Pasque flower, Creeping Thyme.
Spring Garden | Left to right: Blue Oat Grass, purple Salvia dorii, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), red 'Ben Ledi' Rock Rose, shrubby Salvia pachyphyllia, Grand Mesa Penstemon, creeping Veronica in the front. Bright yellow Sulphur Buckwheat in the background.Spring Garden | Left to right: Blue Oat Grass, purple Salvia dorii, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), red 'Ben Ledi' Rock Rose, shrubby Salvia pachyphyllia, Grand Mesa Penstemon, creeping Veronica in the front. Bright yellow Sulphur Buckwheat in the background.
Spring Garden | Left to right: Blue Oat Grass, purple Salvia dorii, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), red 'Ben Ledi' Rock Rose, shrubby Salvia pachyphyllia, Grand Mesa Penstemon, creeping Veronica in the front. Bright yellow Sulphur Buckwheat in the background.

What inspired you to plant a waterwise lawn or garden?

M.W.: "When we first moved into our house the front yard was just weedy Kentucky bluegrass and a lone barberry. It's south-facing, sloped, and our irrigation system had failed, so the grass was nearly impossible to keep watered."

"Additionally, we had some work done on the house and the heavy machinery killed a large section of the grass, so it was a good time to make some changes. We wanted to reduce our water consumption, bring in more pollinators, and make better use of the space, since we didn't use the front lawn much at all."

Spring Garden | Light purple Penstemon linarioides,, bright yellow Hymenoxys, and hot pink Coconino County Penstemon, with a cameo from a California Poppy, easily grown from seed.Spring Garden | Light purple Penstemon linarioides,, bright yellow Hymenoxys, and hot pink Coconino County Penstemon, with a cameo from a California Poppy, easily grown from seed.
Spring Garden | Light purple Penstemon linarioides, bright yellow Hymenoxys, and hot pink Coconino County Penstemon, with a cameo from a California Poppy, easily grown from seed.
Fall Garden with late season blooms | Front to back: Creeping Goldenaster, Native blue Salvia, Hymenoxys, Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass, Agastache cana, and Agastache rupestris.Fall Garden with late season blooms | Front to back: Creeping Goldenaster, Native blue Salvia, Hymenoxys, Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass, Agastache cana, and Agastache rupestris.
Fall Garden | Late season blooms from front to back: Creeping Goldenaster, blue Salvia, Hymenoxys, Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass, Agastache cana, and Agastache rupestris.

Was this your first time creating a lawn or garden like this, or do you have experience?

M.W.: "Other than vegetables, this was our first time planting a garden. Our soil is heavy clay, and most of the plants we wanted require good drainage, so we brought in landscaping rock and a gritty soil mix and created a series of low berms on top of the clay. It's been a learning experience, finding out what will grow in the native clay and what does better on a berm."

What are your favorite plants?

M.W.: "Mohave Sage (Salvia pachyphylla) has showy flowers, a long blooming season, and the evergreen leaves take on a silvery-blue color in the winter. Creeping Goldenaster (Heterotheca jonesii) is very drought-tolerant, evergreen, blooms for months and months.  'Blonde Ambition' Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis) - it's drought-tolerant, clay-tolerant, and seedheads look good through the winter."

Underplanting perennials with spring-blooming bulbs, like these Crocus, is a great way to extend the season of color in your garden. Underplanting perennials with spring-blooming bulbs, like these Crocus, is a great way to extend the season of color in your garden.
Underplanting perennials with spring-blooming bulbs, like these Crocus, is a great way to extend the season of color in your garden.
A hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers of Agastache rupestris.A hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers of Agastache rupestris.
A hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers of Agastache rupestris, also called Licorice Mint Hyssop. This native plant is one of the most durable Agastaches, and highly attractive to pollinators.
Bright orange blooms of Asclepias tuberosa, or Butterfly Weed are nicely balanced by the airy white flowers of Gaura lindheimeri, also called Beeblossom or Appleblossom Grass.Bright orange blooms of Asclepias tuberosa, or Butterfly Weed are nicely balanced by the airy white flowers of Gaura lindheimeri, also called Beeblossom or Appleblossom Grass.
Bright orange blooms of Asclepias tuberosa, or Butterfly Weed are nicely balanced by the airy white flowers of Gaura lindheimeri, also called Beeblossom or Appleblossom Grass. Both are native plants highly attractive to pollinators.
A hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers of Agastache rupestris.A hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers of Agastache rupestris.
A hummingbird sips nectar from the tubular flowers of Agastache rupestris, also called Licorice Mint Hyssop. This native plant is one of the most durable Agastaches, and highly attractive to pollinators.
Summer Garden | Plants in bloom from left to right: Gaura lindheimeri, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), and Salvia pachyphyllia (Mojave Sage).Summer Garden | Plants in bloom from left to right: Gaura lindheimeri, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), and Salvia pachyphyllia (Mojave Sage).
Summer Garden | Plants in bloom from left to right: Gaura lindheimeri, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), and Salvia pachyphyllia (Mojave Sage).
Fall Garden | Bright red Salvia adds color and airy texture, with Agastache aurantiaca and Eriogonum (Sulphur Buckwheat) in the background.Fall Garden | Bright red Salvia adds color and airy texture, with Agastache aurantiaca and Eriogonum (Sulphur Buckwheat) in the background.
Fall Garden | Bright red Salvia adds color and airy texture, with Agastache aurantiaca and Eriogonum (Sulphur Buckwheat) in the background.

Do you have any tips for other waterwise gardeners?

M.W.:  "Plan for all seasons, not just summer. The first winter our garden was very bare-looking. Try to anchor your beds with evergreens like agave, yucca, manzanita, or native salvias, as well as ornamental grasses that have a strong winter presence, like little bluestem or blue grama grass. From there, you can fill in with summer-flowering perennials."

"Additionally, if you have perennials that are later to wake up, like agastache, gaura, and blanketflower, they can be underplanted with early spring-blooming bulbs like crocus, Iris reticulata, or species tulips, since their water needs are similar. For us, this has extended the blooming season from late February through November."

Spring Garden | The large nectar-rich flower spikes of Salvia sylvestris are highly attractive to bees.Spring Garden | The large nectar-rich flower spikes of Salvia sylvestris are highly attractive to bees.
Spring Garden | The large nectar-rich flower spikes of Salvia sylvestris are highly attractive to bees. We offer several cultivars.
Spring Garden | Left to right: Fescue grass, purple Nepeta, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), red Rock Rose, shrubby Salvia pachyphyllia, Grand Mesa Penstemon, creeping Thyme in the front. Bright yellow Sulphur Buckwheat in the background.Spring Garden | Left to right: Fescue grass, purple Nepeta, Hesperaloe (Texas Yucca), red Rock Rose, shrubby Salvia pachyphyllia, Grand Mesa Penstemon, creeping Thyme in the front. Bright yellow Sulphur Buckwheat in the background.
Spring Garden | Echinocereus (Hedgehog Cacuts) and Scarlet Monardella are two unique additions that add color and texture to Matthew's waterwise garden.

Get This Look In Your Garden | Waterwise Plants For Bold Color


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Matthew's Full Plant List:

(Click each link for product or plant species information. Not all of these plants are illustrated in the photos above, and some may be out of stock for the season.)

*North American Native plant or native cultivar

Agastache rupestris*

Agastache cana* (Texas Hummingbird Mint)

Agastache aurantiaca*

Agave parryi*

Armeria maritime*

Asclepias tuberosa*

Berlandiera lyrata* (Chocolate Flower)

Bouteloua gracilis* (Blue Grama Grass)

Calylophus hartwegii* (Sundrops)

Crocus sp.

Delosperma sp. (Ice Plant)

Digitalis obscure (Foxglove)

Echinacea purpurea* (Purple Coneflower, multiple cultivars available)

Echinocereus coccineus (Scarlet Hedgehog Cactus)

Eriogonum umbellatum* (Sulphur Buckwheat)

Festuca* sp. (Fescue Grass)

Gaillardia* sp. (Blanket Flower)

Gaura lindheimeri* (Wand Flower, Beeblossom, or Appleblossom Grass)

Helianthemum* sp. (Rock Rose)

Helictotrichon sempervirens (Blue Oat Grass)

Hesperaloe parviflora* (Texas Yucca, multiple cultivars available)

Heterotheca jonesii* (Creeping Goldenaster)

Hymenoxys acaulis*

Hymenoxys scaposa* (Thrift-Leaf Perky Sue) 

Iris reticulata (Specie Iris)

Lavandula sp. (Lavender)

Monardella macrantha* (Scarlet Monardella)

Nepeta sp.

Oenothera macrocarpa* (Evening Primrose)

Penstemon davidsonii*

Penstemon eatonii* (Eaton's Penstemon or Firecracker Penstemon)

Penstemon linarioides*

Penstemon mensarum* (Grand Mesa Penstemon)

Penstemon pinifolius* (Pineleaf Penstemon, multiple cultivars available)

Penstemon pseudospectabilis* (Desert Penstemon)

Penstemon superbus* (Superb Penstemon)

Penstemon venustus*

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque Flower)

Salvia darcyi

Salvia dorrii* (Desert Purple Sage)

Salvia greggii* (Salvia, native - several cultivars available)

Salvia pachyphylla* (Mojave Sage)

Salvia sylvestris (Salvia, European - several cultivars available)

Schizachyrium scoparum* (Little Bluestem Grass - several cultivars available)

Scrophularia macrantha* (Redbirds In A Tree)

Scutellaria resinosa*

Scutellaria suffretescens* (Cherry Skullcap)

Sedum sp.

Thymus sp.

Tulipa sp.

Veronica bombycina (Woolly Turkish Speedwell)

Veronica liwanensis (Turkish Speedwell)

Veronica oltensis (Thyme Leaf Speedwell)

Yucca harrimaniae

Yucca rostrata

Zauschneria garrettii (Creeping Hummingbird Mint)