Greener “grass”

One perplexing aspect of home ownership at 2,350 feet is gardening. Only after about 10 years do I feel like I understand what grows at home at sea level in Berkeley (the answer: pretty much everything). But–and hold onto your seats, I’m going to get all super garden nerdy here–in an alpine-ish zone 2B (in the Sunset Western Garden Book) the planting cycles are shorter and winters gets (duh) much colder. Hopefully, the seasonality means fulfillment of our family cherry tree dreams, but it also makes for some complicated planting.

Add to the climactic difference the fact we won’t be there most of the time. We don’t want to have to water or mow when we’re gone, and we’d rather not pay someone much more than a few dollars a month to trim what needs to be trimmed.

Right now, most of the yard is lawn. By “lawn,” I mean dead grass that maybe got some water once upon a time, but was entirely brown when we visited in September and must certainly get tamped down by snow every winter anyway. So I’ve started surfing the Internet for lawn alternatives that take little water, can survive snow, and look nice, or at least nice-ish. No, not artificial turf.


This is the yarrow flower. The plant itself has lacy, low-lying leaves.

The best contender so far is yarrow. Yarrow grows in the wild in most western zones (and elsewhere), requires very little water, and–this is kind of weird, if you’re familiar with what the plant looks like–it can be mowed. Apparently, if you mow a field of yarrow once a month or so, you end up with a yard that looks like this–wild, but pretty.

Have any other high-altitude, low maintenance planting ideas? Please share. Our water bill and future neighbors appreciate it.

P.S.: In other news of the not-yet-real: we have photos! Our appraisal report came with some tiny, fuzzy photos in a PDF. I’ve not yet figured out how to extract them for your (dubious) pleasure–maybe screen capture?–but I promise a set of them soon, blurry or no.

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