Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of the lawns of Lakewood homes are quietly disappearing. In their place are an interesting mixture of groundcovers, prairie flowers, trees, shrubs, and evergreens. I admire these passionate gardeners with enough guts to go grassless and was excited to meet one Lakewood family who has permanently put their lawnmower to rest.
Upon entering Sean and Hope McGuan’s landscape, the first thing I realized, besides the obvious fact that there was not a blade of grass in sight, was the sense of tranquility and comfort amid the flora and fauna.
Although the yard includes a compost bin, rain barrel and other sustainable features, the benefit of having less lawn and an anchor of native plants is the focus of this visit.
When questioned about why he chose to eliminate his lawn about seven years ago, Sean McGuan points out the environmental benefits, such as requiring much less water and fertilizer, being very low maintenance, and being attractive to wildlife. While Sean is not a native plant purist, he pointed out that he has not included any invasive species.
Sean possesses a wealth of knowledge about prairie plants and plant history and folklore, much of it gained at Holden Arboretum's library while he was a teacher-in-residence there. His passion while showing me his favorite plants and touting their many virtues made it clear that this is a true labor of love.
Running Serviceberry, which I learned has edible berries that taste much like blueberries, is used as a foundation plant. A Sugar Maple tree and an asymmetrically shaped Jack Pine were planted in the front yard and help block the view of Lakewood Hospital across the street. Bar Harbor Juniper, Virginia Sweetspire, Wild Senna, Native Rhododendrons, Blue Star, and native grasses including Little Blue Stem, are just a few of the plants garnering his enthusiasm.
An enormous ancient oak tree sits on the back property line and is attractive to an array of wildlife. An inviting hammock is stationed under its shade, surrounded by naturalized plantings. Wildlife, including an owl, hawks, Goldfinches, winter Wrens, and Chickadees, have discovered this little paradise. Meanwhile, Sean is hoping to attract Cedar Waxwings with Eastern Redcedar, a type of Juniper.
The southern side of the house has become Hope McGuan’s vegetable garden. It includes big Brussels sprouts and huge, healthy, heavy-bearing Roma tomatoes that Hope uses to make spaghetti sauce, which she freezes.
Like many gardeners, Sean’s plans for his garden are always evolving. In the future, he envisions a rooftop garden of succulents on top of his garage.
Sean ended our tour by saying that he would like to see more people moving their landscape border more than five feet from their home’s foundation and choosing beneficial plants.
I left with a gift of homemade spaghetti sauce and a "Must Have" list of native plants, wishing I had more time to discuss the merits of each and every plant in this ecologically aware landscape.