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. Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beard Tongue, Penstemon strictus ‘WWG06’

    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar ...

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    Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Penstemon Blanca Peak™ Rocky Mountain Beardtongue Penstemon strictus 'WWG06'
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.99 Sale $10.44
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees. Plant this easy-to-grow beardtongue for a sturdy, long-lived late-spring bloomer in your xeriscape. This beauty thrives in most well-drained soil with full sun exposure. A 2021 Plant Select® Winner. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
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  2. SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Beard Tongue, Penstemon pinifolius ‘P019S', orange flowers

    A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attr...

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    SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Beardtongue Penstemon pinifolius 'P019S'
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $8.99 Sale $8.54
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attracts numerous pollinators and hummingbirds. Reminiscent of Colorado summer sunsets, its long-lasting blooms add a warm glow to dry area gardens. Finely textured evergreen foliage forms a compact mound for year-round interest.
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  3. Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox, Phlox subulata Purple Beauty growing in rock garden as groundcover

    An easy-to-grow groundcover, 'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are looking for a ...

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    Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Purple Beauty Creeping Phlox Phlox subulata Purple Beauty
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $10.49 Sale $9.97
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    An easy-to-grow groundcover, 'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are looking for a water-thrifty addition to flow through a rock garden, or a beautiful way to highlight a spring-blooming bulb collection, 'Purple Beauty' will add pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant spring beauty to your garden.
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  4. Arrowleaf Buckwheat, Eriogonum compositum, clusters of creamy white flowers

    Arrowleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) is a lovely Sulphur Buckwheat with large, showy clusters of creamy white or light yellow flowers and low-growing rosette of large heart-sha...

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    Arrowleaf Buckwheat Arrowleaf Buckwheat Eriogonum compositum
    Sale Price I Save 5%
    $12.99 Sale $12.34
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    Arrowleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) is a lovely Sulphur Buckwheat with large, showy clusters of creamy white or light yellow flowers and low-growing rosette of large heart-shaped leaves. Beautiful late spring blooms add playful texture to the garden. Native to the dry areas of the Pacific Northwest, this buckwheat is an essential habitat plant for butterflies, beneficial insects, and wildlife.
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Shop Drought-Resistant Plants

  1. Salvia sylvestris May Night, May Night Meadow Sage, Purple Salvia sylvestris May Night

    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and toleran...

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    May Night Salvia May Night Meadow Sage Salvia sylvestris May Night
    As low as $9.49 Sale $9.02
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Salvia sylvestris ‘May Night’ (May Night Sage) blooms prolifically with deep purple-blue flowers. It is an outstanding perennial with excellent cold hardiness, vigor, and tolerance of heavy clay soils. Blooming in late spring with a profusion of flower spikes, it reblooms later in the summer when deadheaded.
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  2. Vic Bruno's Albuquerque Thyme Lawn

    1" tall x 18" wide. Pink Chintz Thyme (Thymus Pink Chintz) is a tight, low growing creeping thyme with thick stems of woolly green foliage that blooms in mid-spring with a profusion ...

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    Pink Chintz Creeping Thyme Pink Chintz Creeping Thyme Thymus serpyllum Pink Chintz
    As low as $7.99 Sale $7.19
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    1" tall x 18" wide. Pink Chintz Thyme (Thymus Pink Chintz) is a tight, low growing creeping thyme with thick stems of woolly green foliage that blooms in mid-spring with a profusion of salmon-pink flowers.
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  3. Achillea Moonshine Yarrow Photo Courtesy of Walter's Gardens Inc.

    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-...

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    Moonshine Yarrow Moonshine Yarrow Achillea Moonshine
    As low as $9.99 Sale $9.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Moonshine Yarrow (Achillea Moonshine) is an outstanding perennial plant with silver-gray foliage and lemon-yellow flat-topped flowers that cover the plant all summer. This is a well-behaved variety, meaning it won't reseed and spread.
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  4. Silver Artemisia Powis Castle, Artemisia Powis Castle, Silver Sage close up by customer Mike D.

    Powis Castle is a superb foliage plant with finely textured silver-gray foliage and an attractive mounding habit. Use this plant to accentuate ornamental grasses and other perennials...

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    Powis Castle Artemisia Powis Castle Silver Sage Artemisia Powis Castle
    As low as $9.99 Sale $9.49
    Per Plant - 5" Deep Pot
    Powis Castle is a superb foliage plant with finely textured silver-gray foliage and an attractive mounding habit. Use this plant to accentuate ornamental grasses and other perennials with differently colored foliage. 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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