There are continuous efforts to create the better lawn. Particularly in the more arid parts of the country, turf requiring less water while still looking lush and green would be welcome in creating the desired look. On the one hand, this is an admirable endeavor in preserving a precious resource such as water, but on the other, are we so conditioned to believe that landscapes must include expanses of grass in the first place?
Now I am not against beautiful lawns full of grass per se; they are an important component of many sports arenas certainly, and make for important grounds for gathering in public places such as parks. They are wonderful for running on when playing and exercising. They should be looked at as special. But in this country at least, they are looked upon by most as the primary building block of the typical landscape. I can imagine when our country was mostly wilderness, how an isolated landscape was seen as an escape where plants were chosen for the reminder they might provide of another place and time, the old country, for example. But now, with an ever growing population taking over more and more of the land, landscaping needs a new paradigm by putting emphasis on the natural environment.
My point may have its origins in extolling the virtues of the near-elimination of grass-centric landscapes, but my greater argument is for the use of native plants. Whether you live in the mid-West, in which case you should consider plants native to the mid-West, or the Southeast (consider using the plants of the Southeast!), the plants that have evolved in your region will grow naturally with those conditions, be it the unique conditions of the soil, the precipitation, the amount of sunlight, and significantly, in concert with the particular fauna of that region. By doing so, you would naturally use less supplemental water and maybe eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides altogether!
Back when our country was young and being settled, a single specimen of a particular tree or shrub with an exotic shape and colors may have stood out in an entire wilderness, but look at the typical suburb and these exotic plants are everywhere. In many cases, they multiply without check and crowd out the native flora. Native plants are the ones that our native fauna have evolved with for thousands of years! And back to the ubiquitous grass and lawns: how much harm is being done to the ecology by keeping them lush and ‘cared-for’ with chemicals that can be poison to our living soil, our watersheds, etc.? Their exorbitant use of precious water. Then add up the usage of all those gas and electric lawnmowers. And blowers. As for artificial lawns, they have their advantages, but outdoor carpeting doesn’t participate in the cycle of life.
Doing away with the lawn and planting more native plants isn’t so much adding yet another thing to worry about in our lives – those with home landscapes may well eventually end up with more time on their hands. Imagine recomposing your land such that you can spend that much less time tending to it and more time relaxing in it. Is the only time you walk on your lawn when you are mowing it? Replacing your lawn results in not having to take care of it anymore. Well chosen native plants and shrubs means less water and pruning. And more birds, bees, and butterflies!