The best lawn alternatives to grass

Gravel garden with potted plants and stones

For many people, their garden is their sanctuary. Whether you want to grow flowers, vegetables and herbs or simply have a calming space to enjoy a book in the sunshine, having a relaxing and attractive garden to unwind in is something many people look to possess.

But although having a grass lawn is certainly appealing, we often don't have the time or resource to dedicate to looking after it.

"There are many reasons why one might decide not to have a lawned area in a garden," David Keegan from DK Garden Design told us. "These can range from the space being too small for the maintenance required to being just too high maintenance to begin with. In many of my garden design projects, I tend to veer toward alternatives to lawns as often as the brief will allow.

"At the end of the day, lawns require routine, ongoing maintenance to look their best. So, ask yourself if that's a commitment you are prepared to make. If the answer is 'yes', that's great, but if not, the alternatives may be best explored instead."

With this in mind, we look at some of the best lawn alternatives to grass that are low maintenance but will still allow you to have an attractive outside space you'll love spending time in.

The best lawn alternatives to grass

Scottish pebbles

Scottish river pebbles

For David, his favourite alternative to lawns is "a dry riverbed-style using a mixture of Scottish river pebbles interspersed with feature boulders and lots of inter-planting".

For those not wanting a grass lawn but still wanting to keep an air of natural beauty, David says this type of approach "opens up to a range of complementary planting styles", with his preference being to use creeping and mound-forming plants.

"I also tend to use a lot of herbs, for both colour texture and usability. Things like creeping thyme, rosemary and sage lend themselves well to this planting palate when further mixed with mound-forming dwarf pines and creeping junipers."

Gravel

Gravel

Another favourite of David's, that's also suitable for dry soil gardens, is a gravel garden. "Again, this is suitable for a broad range of edible plants, as well as those with high drought tolerance."

Gravel is super easy to maintain and comes in a wide range of styles to suit your space. "There are a wide range of stone types to choose from such as crushed granite, stone pebbles, river rocks, decomposed granite, and pea gravel," says an article by Family Handyman.

"There are also many advantages for using these materials that include colour and texture variety, availability, price range from inexpensive to high-end and durability. Stone-based materials do not attract bugs, don't decompose due to the elements, and are long-lasting."

Artificial grass

Artificial grass

A popular choice for families, artificial grass gives your lawn that lush, green feel without having to mow it. "You can use all year round, whatever the weather, and it needs nothing more than occasional hosing," says an article by Real Homes.

"Artificial turf also saves on time and garden storage space – with no need to mow, there's no need to store a lawnmower. For a natural look, expect to pay £25 to £40 per square metre. Remember that blades of real grass aren't all the same size or colour, so consider this when looking at those on offer."

Bark

Bark

An attractive choice that pairs nicely with other garden features such as pebbles and plants, bark is highly cost-effective and very low maintenance.

According to an article by Install It Direct, "This affordable option is readily available, and can easily be used as a lawn alternative. You may also be able to find free or low-cost wood chips in your area by contacting local tree trimming and removal services or through local programs."

As well as being inexpensive, bark is great to use alongside plants and flowers and is often used in flower beds as 'mulch'. The rich colour of the chips makes it an attractive alternative to soil, while also inhibiting weed growth and requiring no water. The maintenance is next to nothing and simply needs raking and replenishing every so often.

Wildflowers

Wildflowers

For those who still want their outside space to be overflowing with flora and fauna but without the regular upkeep, wildflowers offer a beautiful, natural-feeling alternative to lawn grass if you're looking for a stunning yet eco-friendly landscaping idea.

"A wildflower meadow has a completely different look and feel to a formal grass lawn," says an article by Turf Online.

"Once the wildflowers are established, this informal style of gardening is incredibly low maintenance. There's something about long grasses and tall flowers that draws people out into the garden for a closer look. It feels so relaxing to sit amongst the wildflowers and read a book or watch the wildlife.

"Where a lawn is consistently green all year round and adds a firm structure to the garden, a wildflower meadow is in a constant state of change. The texture of the foliage is awesome and takes on a different look from month to month.

"There is a succession of flowers (with many of them making great cut flowers!) and a myriad of creatures will visit your garden bringing with them colour and movement. Butterflies, bees and even dragonflies are frequent visitors to my own garden meadow, as are birds, frogs and prettily marked snails."

The best lawn alternatives to grass:

  • Scottish pebbles
  • Gravel
  • Artificial grass
  • Bark
  • Wildflowers

These are just a handful of lawn alternatives out there, with so many other great garden and landscaping options to consider depending on the size of your garden and its intended use.

Have we inspired you to fix up your home and garden? No matter how you're planning to revamp your home, our professionals can help. From redecorating supplies to bathroom design in Exeter, we have the knowledge and expertise to help make your vision a reality.

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