Giving Up On That Grass

proven winners creeping thyme for grass replacement - by rochelle greayer

We’ve had two straight weeks of rain and constant drizzle and I still can’t get that grass to take root.

Stick a fork in it – I’m done.

That grass isn’t the nice easy stuff that grows just about anywhere else in my garden – all I need to do is spread a little seed. That grass (pronounced through the gritted teeth of frustration) is the culmination of a few years of trying every gimmick, variety, and installation method the turf grass industry offers, and still, I look out upon a couple of weedy tufts and dust.

proven winners ajuga reptans burgundy glow - replacing grass with rochelle greayer


I’m not sure why that grass  won’t grow – certainly a variety of factors are at play (soil, slope, moisture, exposure, etc) but I’ve finally decided to quit.  As I become the ever-more seasoned gardener, I’ve learned that not only can you not win in a battle with mother nature, but often, the best way forward is to find a mutually agreeable third-party solution.  I think of it as garden diplomacy.  I want lush ground cover (grass) – she (mother nature) doesn’t – so we must find an alternative.

proven winners lamium - replacing grass with rochelle greayer

I have decided to take a cue from what I see working. I’m hoping that these are options that thrive in a way that grass does not.

  1. Elfin Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum) – A few years back, I visited a B&B way up north in Vermont and it was only when I went out for a walk that I noticed the huge expanse of what appeared to be a turf ‘lawn’ wasn’t actually lawn at all… it was thyme! It was green and lush and it smelled heavenly.
  2. Burgundy Glow Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) — Else where in my garden a patch of ajuga has infiltrated the grass and along with the dandelions it creates a thick lovely cover that is beautiful with grass-height purple flowers when un-mowed.  The bees love it, and it is equally nice when mowed – to my mind is every bit as lovely as grass.   Burgundy glow has a lovely variegation in the leaves and I think it will be beautiful with the Thyme and Dead Nettle.
  3. Ghost Spotted Dead Nettle (Lamium maculatum) – I have some glorious clumps of taller Lamium that are thriving in an even more inhospitable area of my garden.  They are real performers and great addition to a collection of spring bloomers.  This is a bit of an experiment (I admit) but I read that Lamium responds well to mowing — and I am thinking that I can enjoy its blooms early and then mow and enjoy it is silvery green leaves for the rest of the season.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m curious if anyone else has opted to replace turf with a different ground cover.  What did you use and how did it work for you? I’d love a more few ideas! 


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Proven Winners. I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own.

Images courtesy of Proven Winners.


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About Rochelle Greayer

Hi, I'm Rochelle and for 18 years I have worked as a landscape designer, author/writer, and design teacher. I've designed residential and hospitality (for hotels, restaurants, and spas) gardens across the USA and in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. After many years of teaching garden design topics in person, I launched the PITH + VIGOR Boot Camp series in early 2018. Through my blog, social media, and online courses (Garden Design Bootcamp and Planting Design Boot Camp) I aim to help homeowners learn how to confidently design and create home gardens that reflect their own personal and unique style.


  1. Rachelle on May 13, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Under a shady pine tree I went with hostas and a pagoda dogwood.

  2. Marcio on May 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Olá, parabéns pelo Blog!
    Sou da empresa Gramas Paraiso, conte conosco para informações sobre mudas de grama e serviços em geral:

    Um grande abraço!

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