“Less Lawn, More Life” Garden Tour this Sunday


Olsen 1-D Woodland Way overview of garden

I’ve noted earlier that organizing a local garden tour is a great way to meet your neighbors, and as I’m making final preparations for the tour this Sunday, it does feel like I have a new posse of local gardening pals who have my back in this venture and are offering to help.  Though just prepping their gardens and welcoming tour-goers is help enough.

Also mentioned in that earlier post, having the “Less Lawn, More Life” theme gives the tour a purpose beyond the obvious oohs, aahs and neighborliness.  I get to tout Less Lawn as a big, important trend and send people to the resources on the Lawn Reform Coalition’s website.  And we get to brag that this is the first lawn-reduction-themed tour that we know of in the U.S. outside of California.

Then there’s the advantage of having a tour in early fall rather than the more typical spring timing, when gardens in Maryland are ablaze with blooming azaleas, tulips, and more-more-more.  That’s all so distracting!  Far better to show gardens after they’ve calmed down from their springtime orgies, so visitors might actually notice the less flashy but arguably more important plants – evergreens and groundcovers – and also the overall design.  Not to mention that fall tours demonstrate to tour-goers that gardens can look terrific now and even later, and not just by potting up some mums (though I confess to having bought a few to get my garden ready for showtime).

Speaking of getting my own garden ready, all summer I’ve done nothing but water and weed and suddenly bam!  Time to rearrange ground covers, add those mums, and mulch like crazy!  Which mulch I actually bought, after discovering that the free local mulch had decomposed completely and now looks like dirt.  But prettying up the garden for visitors is fun, and I’d forgotten that.

Fifteen gardens in historic Greenbelt, Maryland will be open Sunday, September 15 from 1 to 5 p.m.  Thirteen of them are small townhouse gardens in the original New Deal-created town, now a co-op, and two are large gardens overlooking the town’s lake.  More photos, plus descriptions and some plant IDs are all here (addresses will be added on the day of the tour).  Tour-goers can also pick up a printed brochure at the Greenbelt Museum.  The tour is FREE and all are welcome.




  1. Beautiful. Both of the photos. And both of them look like a hell of a lot of hand weeding. So the how can this “less time more life” apply? I spend waaaay more time on the non lawn portion of my city lot than on the lawn part.

    • Ah, but the title says “more life” not “less time” because you’re right – many lawn replacement ideas actually take more time to maintain, despite some of the anti-lawn rhetoric. (Especially compared to imperfect, good-enough, weed-filled lawns.) But a yard filled with seating, paths, ponds, trees, shrubs, butterfly gardens, etc etc I’d assert has more life in it than one that’s nothing but turf.

    • I don’t get it. Unless the garden just outside of the scope of the picture is a tangle of thistles, poison ivy and snow on the mountain, how much weeding is really needed? As a lifelong gardener, I look at these pictures and think it will require possibly 20-30 minutes of weeding a couple of times a week. Possibly with a glass of wine in my left hand. In other words, a very fun amount of gardening without any onerous burden.

  2. These are enchanting gardens, so full of life and beauty! Congatulations on organizing the tour and hope you have fun celebrating this creative event.

  3. I attended a local garden tour this spring and the first garden I visited had almost no front lawn, just lots and lots of rocks, shrubs, a beautiful small tree, ground covers and a few flowers. It was so beautiful, calm and inspiring.

  4. We know you are a fully hooked gardener when you utter the sentence “Prettying up the garden for visitors is fun……” While I’m surely in that camp, I can feel the eye-rolling of those still seeing the garden maintenance as a necessary evil. But gussying up the place for visitors, like when you throw a party in your home, gives you incentive to really look at everything with a fresh eye. You get to see where bare spots have opened and move a portable pot of annuals or houseplants into a new location. You see discolored foliage that needs to be edited along with healthy leaves that are blocking the view of the neighboring plants or designed lines in the garden. Once you’ve done it, you wonder: “why did it take the impending arrival of guests to make my own garden look this beautiful?” In my experience, garden tours always make the hosts feel delighted to have participated!

  5. Thoroughly enjoyed the tour! I put up an album of pics from it at https://www.facebook.com/WashingtonGardenerMagazine. I think the only way I could see it “improved” would be to also let visitors have access to one of the legendary Greenbelt community gardens as one of the stops on the tour. Several gardeners on the tour mentioned having plots in addition to their townhouse yards and would have been fun to see what they were growing in them.

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