Why I Killed My Front Lawn - And Replaced It With Native, Drought Resistant Plants

Denver Lawn - Before And After Native Plant Transformation
Denver Lawn - Before And After Native Plant Transformation

What motivated you to create a wildscape garden?

I created this garden for several reasons. The space started out as about 300 square feet of Kentucky Blue Grass that was difficult to keep looking nice, and wasn’t very functional because it was in the front of the house. I wanted to reduce my water use and create a garden that was unique and would attract pollinators and wildlife.

Our home’s builder provided the original landscaping. Even though the original landscape included the bluegrass that I eventually replaced, the plants in the border between the house and the grass were a great start to my habitat garden and included snowberry bushes, a hawthorn tree, several ornamental grasses, junipers, and spirea. I wanted to create a cohesive space that blended the original plants with the new.

White Swan Coneflower stars in this pollinator garden.
White Swan Coneflower stars in this pollinator garden.
Moon Garden with Lamb's Ear
Moon Garden with Lamb's Ear

What native and drought resistant plants did you use?

Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden - After three months
Habitat Hero Birdwatcher Garden - After three months

What steps did you take to replace your lawn?

  • To kill the lawn, I spread of thin layer of manure and compost over the grass and then covered the area with black plastic.
  • After about a month the grass looked sufficiently dead. I rented a rototiller and tilled in the lawn, then removed the spray irrigation lines and extended a drip irrigation line into the new garden.
  • I had a load of wood mulch and a few small boulders delivered and placed in the garden. The boulders provide a little bit of interest in the spring when there isn’t much blooming, and they are also very popular stepping stones for the kids that walk by.
  • I’ve added to the garden each year but I still have gaps to fill in.
Swallowtail Butterfly on Milkweed (Asclepias)
Swallowtail Butterfly on Milkweed (Asclepias)
Honey Bee on White Swan Coneflower
Honey Bee on White Swan Coneflower

What pollinators and wildlife do you find in your garden?

  • My favorite pollinators that I’ve found in my garden are the bumblebees. I’ve observed Brown-belted, Yellow, and Hunt’s bumblebees. About a year ago I started photographing my bumblebees for the Xerces Society’s Bumble Bee Watch.
  • My kids and I also report observations of ladybugs to Cornell University’s Lost Ladybug Project.
  • I’ve also enjoyed watching the white-lined sphinx moths that visit in the evening.
  • Last year I planted a Furman’s Red Sage and Texas Red Yucca to provide for the hummingbirds that are around from late July into September.
  • I also have a spot reserved for a columnar juniper and some milkweed that I hope to get started this fall to support monarch butterflies.

Shop Native Plants

  1. Blue and Purple Salvia dorrii Desert Purple Sage, Salvia dorrii Desert Purple Sage, Desert Purple Sage

    Desert Purple Sage is a showy late spring blooming native shrublet with silver foliage and blue flowers pushing out from mid-purple bracts. Impervious to browsing deer and rabbits, ...

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    Desert Purple Salvia Desert Purple Sage Salvia dorrii Desert Purple Sage
    As low as $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Desert Purple Sage is a showy late spring blooming native shrublet with silver foliage and blue flowers pushing out from mid-purple bracts. Impervious to browsing deer and rabbits, it is a pollinator's delight attracting all types of bees. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  2. Purple Liatris, Liatris aspera, Gayfeather

    Liatris aspera (Rough Blazing Star, Button Blazing Star, Gayfeather) is a large growing, showy drought tolerant species from the Mid-West. The large pink flowers are highly attractiv...

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    Rough Blazing Star (Liatris) Rough Blazing Star Liatris aspera
    You save: 20%
    Regular Price $7.99 Sale $6.39
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Liatris aspera (Rough Blazing Star, Button Blazing Star, Gayfeather) is a large growing, showy drought tolerant species from the Mid-West. The large pink flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. Drought resistant/drought tolerant perennial plant (xeric).
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  3. Asclepias syriaca

    Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) is a gorgeous plant that produces purple/pink flower clusters that wildflower gardeners love and spreads quickly. This native perennial is a prima...

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    Common Milkweed Common Milkweed Asclepias syriaca
    You save: 10%
    Regular Price $11.99 Sale $10.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) is a gorgeous plant that produces purple/pink flower clusters that wildflower gardeners love and spreads quickly. This native perennial is a primary food source for the Monarch butterfly providing large leaves for caterpillars and big pink globe-like flowers that provide nectar for the adult butterflies. Planting it will help to support Monarch populations. Perennial.
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  4. Cardinal Penstemon Close Up of Red Tubular Blooms

    Cardinal Penstemon (Penstemon cardinalis) is a rare, cold hardy wildflower from the southern mountains of New Mexico. Tall, impressive spikes of dark red flowers bloom in mid-summer,...

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    Cardinal Penstemon Cardinal Beardtongue Penstemon cardinalis
    You save: 10%
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Cardinal Penstemon (Penstemon cardinalis) is a rare, cold hardy wildflower from the southern mountains of New Mexico. Tall, impressive spikes of dark red flowers bloom in mid-summer, making this favorite source of natural nectar for hummingbirds. A must-have for your pollinator garden. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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Shop Drought-Resistant Plants

  1. Blue and Purple Salvia dorrii Desert Purple Sage, Salvia dorrii Desert Purple Sage, Desert Purple Sage

    Desert Purple Sage is a showy late spring blooming native shrublet with silver foliage and blue flowers pushing out from mid-purple bracts. Impervious to browsing deer and rabbits, ...

    Learn More
    Desert Purple Salvia Desert Purple Sage Salvia dorrii Desert Purple Sage
    As low as $10.99 Sale $9.89
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Desert Purple Sage is a showy late spring blooming native shrublet with silver foliage and blue flowers pushing out from mid-purple bracts. Impervious to browsing deer and rabbits, it is a pollinator's delight attracting all types of bees. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  2. White Paronychia kepela ssp. serpyllifolia, Paronychia kepela ssp. serpyllifolia, Silver Nailwort

    1" tall x 18" wide. Silver Nailwort is a tough-as-nails groundcover with tiny green thyme-like leaves and silver seed heads that look like white flowers. Recommended as an improved ...

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    Paronychia (Silver Nailwort) Silver Nailwort Paronychia kapela ssp. serpyllifolia
    As low as $7.99 Sale $6.39
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    1" tall x 18" wide. Silver Nailwort is a tough-as-nails groundcover with tiny green thyme-like leaves and silver seed heads that look like white flowers. Recommended as an improved substitute for white thyme because it's more durable and drought tolerant. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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  3. Hesperaloe parviflora Straight Up Red PPAF

    Straight Up Red Texas Yucca PPAF is an everblooming yucca that produces a summer-long display of red-pink flowers held on strongly upright growing flower spikes. 2017 Plant of The Ye...

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    Straight Up Red Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe) Straight Up Red Texas Yucca Hesperaloe parviflora Straight Up Red
    As low as $12.99 Sale $10.39
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Straight Up Red Texas Yucca PPAF is an everblooming yucca that produces a summer-long display of red-pink flowers held on strongly upright growing flower spikes. 2017 Plant of The Year.
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  4. Pristine™ Pink Penstemon, Photo Courtesy of Plant Select

    An improved form of Penstemon, Pristine™ Pink (Penstemon barbatus) blooms for a long time in mid-summer, with glossy foliage that offers lasting texture. Medium-tall spikes of brig...

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    Pristine™ Pink Penstemon Pristine™ Pink Beardtongue Penstemon barbatus Pristine™ Pink
    You save: 20%
    Regular Price $10.99 Sale $8.79
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    An improved form of Penstemon, Pristine™ Pink (Penstemon barbatus) blooms for a long time in mid-summer, with glossy foliage that offers lasting texture. Medium-tall spikes of bright pink tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and bees. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
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Interview Conducted and Edited by Wendy Hatoum, Marketing Brand Manager, High Country Gardens

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