I've long been a fan of Hort and Extension Professor Linda Chalker-Scott, whose jobs it is to teach horticulture to regular gardeners – a job she accomplishes by writing award-winning books and on her Garden Professors blog, in addition to her usual duties. But my fandom reached new heights last week after seeing her gorgeous and totally lawnless garden in Seattle, and picking her brain over dinner at Seattle's best vegetarian restaurant.
Now about Linda's garden. This is the front yard, y'all! Notice how the fence (the handiwork of Linda's husband Jim, shown above) provides privacy from the street and even screens the cars in the driveway. Theirs is a strange lot with almost no back yard, so it would be a waste to devote the front to the usual lawn-and-nothing-but.
Now for the plants. The blooming groundcover is Blue Star Creeper, which grows to just 1" and is hardy to Zone 5 but (sadly for me) only evergreen in Zone 8 or warmer. The other dominant plants here are a Weeping Larch shown above to the left of the Japanese maple, and in the foreground above, an Arctic Willow (Salix arctica), which is prostrate and surprisingly large. It does drop its leaves but Linda says its form is so interesting, you want to see it without leaves sometimes.
In this shot of the front of Linda's house, notice all the wood chips. They prove that she walks the talk of debunking the notion that wood chips shouldn't be used as mulch because they leach Nitrogen from the soil. She assures us that except for very shallow-rooted plants – annuals and some vegetables – they do no such thing. What's more, for many of us (and for her) they're free. Pile it on thick enough and voila – no weeds.
Finally, what the heck. Here's my photo of the inside of Cafe Flora, which is lovely and has enough plants inside to merit being shown on a garden blog. We sat on the right, to be close to the fountain.