Lawns of Herbs
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Sherry Woodley
Posted on: November 18, 1998

I will be landscaping a new yard in spring 1999. Will be challenged by some steep sunny slopes too on two sides of the lot and rocky, clay soil. We will probably pine straw the slopes and plant some plants to keep down erosion. On the flat areas of the yard around the house, my husband and I do not want to have the typical lawn because we feel it isn’t that great for the environment (lawn mower fumes and so on) so we are looking for alternatives. I have heard a little bit about herbal lawns and was wondering what herbs would do well in a sunny environment in zone 7 (Raleigh, NC). Are there perennial herbs that would stay green year round? Would I plant seeds or plants?

Since you have rocky soil, mowing a lawn is not really an option, unless you are willing to sift the top soil and later remove any rocks brought to the surface by the freezing and thawing of the winter.

However, on the slope you might like to try Arp rosemary for an evergreen look. Trimming the plants once a year would keep them at the desired height limit.

Another evergreen choice would be a thyme. Creeping thyme would eventually form a nice tight, but low mat while some of the upright varieties would be taller but would have to be planted more densely, because they will not spread as much.

You could also grow crown vetch or rupturewort on the slope, but they would not be evergreen.

For your herb lawn on the flat part you have a wonderful choice of herbs especially since your climate is just mild enough to make many lovely herbs winter hardy in your area. The thymes mentioned above would work very well, Roman chamomile would be lovely and many plants could be interplanted in the mats to produce a flowering meadow effect. You could use all of the varieties of garden sage with golden, purple and tricolor providing the lawn with colour even when they are not in bloom. For a tall accent Russian sage would be very dainty yet dramatic. The hardy lavenders would be just georgeous! Santolina would be quite pretty! Other choices are winter savory, sea lavender, wormwoods and other artemesias, yarrows, chives, Faasens catnip, catsfoot, English and ox-eye daisy, echinacea, bergamot, blue flax,feverfew, horehounds, hyssop, jacobs ladder, lady’s mantle, leopard lily, musk mallow, golden marguerite, common marjoram, golden and greek oregano, Kent Beauty oregano, sweet pink,painted daisy pyrethrum, silver sagebrush all would help to contribute to a colourful herb meadow in zone 7.

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