Thanks for visiting LessLawn! I'm Evelyn Hadden, a national speaker and author of several gardening books, most recently Beautiful No-Mow Yards (Timber Press, 2012).
This website began as an outlet for all the thoughts stirred up by building my first garden in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Over a five-year period, I gradually replaced all but a tiny strip of lawn on that 50 by 140 foot urban lot. You can read about how building that garden enlivened my landscape and my thinking in my first book, Apprentice to a Garden.
In 2002, I moved to a 5-acre lot here at the outskirts of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area. It has given me a front-and-center view of the effects of development on our farms and open spaces. I am trying to fill in the missing pieces (from the displaced animals' point of view and mine) in our hill-and-wetland landscape, which is dominated by a few ultra-competetive species including Reed Canary grass. So far I've established hundreds of (mostly native and/or edible) tree and shrub saplings and set up the bare bones of a Useful Plants garden, a Cherry Garden with firepit, a Red Pine grove, a willow swamp, and a small orchard. I've also built a couple of nice-sized hills covered with a mix of woody species and seeded grassland. Then there are a couple of rock patios in the works, an experimental groundcovers area, several hedges of different decorative shrubs, and a wild hedgerow.
Of course it seems overwhelming at times, especially when pondering the list of garden features and plants that I still want to include (the courtyard, the many arbors for all the vines I want to grow, the ponds and bridges and boardwalks...)
Fellow gardeners may be chuckling in recognition at this point.
People are drawn to gardening for various reasons, and every gardener has a somewhat unique approach. I garden for the same reason that I explore wild places: to learn how nature works. That is, to understand how natural places are organized and how they function, to learn to see the beauty in them, and to try to establish an ecologically functional community in my landscape.
My style is perhaps best termed naturalistic landscaping. It is:
- naturalistic: I like a tangle of plants and prefer
long-lived, structural trees, shrubs, and wildflowers rather than
large-flowered hybrids and long-blooming annual bedding plants.
- low-maintenance: I'd rather spend my energy on creating
and improving than on frequent, regular maintenance chores.
- do-it-yourself: I enjoy doing the work myself, even
though I rarely get it "right" the first time.
- chemical-free: Good smells and tastes are even more
important to me than neat looks. I take pleasure in a certain amount
of time spent digging out weeds, and I also count many "weedlike" plants as friends.
These personal inclinations drive my research and writing, but it's not my intent to scorn preferences or values that differ from mine. I hope to offer useful information for gardeners with a variety of styles in a variety of regions, with a shared interest in living closer to plants and animals.
You don't have to believe as I do to be drawn to naturalistic landscaping—it's a modern style for people who prefer to spend daily time in a natural setting, and it works well for busy folks who want a garden but don't have the time or money for a more traditional one.
If you're a neat and tidy gardener, you may need to adjust your aesthetics to engage in this type of gardening. You'll have to judge for yourself if the rewards are worth the change.
Thanks for visiting this site, and happy gardening!
—Evelyn J. Hadden, Editor