Growing a Tapestry Lawn Will Transform Your Turf Into a Living Masterpiece—No Fertilizer, Aeration, or Water Needed
A tapestry lawn is just one term for this natural landscape trend: Sometimes called a matrix garden, meadow lawn, prairie lawn, or patchwork lawn, this turf technique involves removing traditional grass and replacing it with a mix of native plants and flowers of varying heights, sizes, and textures for both aesthetic and ecological benefits.
Tapestry Lawns, Explained
As its name implies, a tapestry lawn consists of a mix of colorful plants that create a living piece of art in your yard. "They are alternatives to traditional grass lawns and are more colorful, visually intriguing, eco-friendly, and low-maintenance," says Jeremy Yamaguchi, the CEO of Lawn Love. "These lawns are essentially an interlaced spread of low-lying plants and flowers."
While most homeowners opt for low landscapes, a tapestry lawn can vary in height; low-lying options clock in between 6 to 10 inches, but your site can be scaled to up to 48 inches depending on your turf and goals, says Benjamin Vogt, the owner of Monarch Gardens LLC. "In general, such a landscape will include plants that move about, fill gaps, and generally show a new arrangement season to season and year to year—just as they would in wilder nature," he says, adding that the main difference between your lawn and the wild is that the plants are purposefully selected to work on this site for aesthetic, practical, and environmental reasons.
The Best Plants for Tapestry Lawns
Tapestry lawns aren't one size (or zone) fits all. Ultimately, the plants you choose when working within this landscape trend should be native to your area, non-invasive, and low-water. "You also want your selection of plants to all have similar water, light, [and] humidity requirements," Yamaguchi says.
To successfully create a tapestry lawn, pick colorful ground cover plants, like the Japanese Spurge, the Moonshadow Euonymus, or the Angelina Stonecrop, says Stefan Bucur, the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. "Since a tapestry lawn doesn't really have any grasses, a collection of ground cover plants that are aesthetically pleasing and resistant [to foot-traffic] are a really good pick for this type of landscape," he adds.
How to Plant a Tapestry Lawn
Whichever types of plants you end up with, you'll need to remove your existing turf and then group your choices carefully for the best results, explains Vogt. "The strategy in these landscapes is to make sure to mass-plant species. Think three, five, or seven of a kind depending on the scale of the site (use larger masses for larger sites)," he says. "Then, plants self-organize over time, showing us where they want to be, which is exciting and highly instructive (and even humbling)."
How to Care for and Maintain a Tapestry Lawn
Generally, you won't need to perform much monthly maintenance if you choose the right native plants for your area. Instead, you'll do a small clean-up ahead of the growing season begins—and then focus your sights on trimming and mowing.
Trimming and Mowing
"You can mow your tapestry lawn down on the highest setting or use a string trimmer," Vogt says, adding that if you're dealing with a shady area, you'll want to leave your trimmings in place; for a sunnier spot, rake debris out.
"The idea here is to let the plants figure it out and guide management," he continues. "Minor tweaking may be needed—replacing plants or removing some that happen to be too aggressive—but in general, tapestry lawns require much less time in terms of weekly lawn mowing and very little resources once the plants are established (no fertilizing, no watering, and certainly no aerating)."
Tapestry Lawn Regions and Zones
All the experts we spoke to agree that the secret to creating a successful tapestry lawn is to always choose plants native to your region. "The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map has universal codes that will help you pick the right ground cover plants for your [region]," Bucur says, noting that native plants are easier to care for and have a low likelihood of wilting or dying.
The Pros and Cons of Tapestry Lawns
Pro: Environmental Impact
Tapestry lawns are far more eco-friendly than grass lawns, says Vogt. "Just the increase in flowers alone is a boon to adult pollinators, while the diversity of plant species provides more food for their young (think caterpillars that eat foliage and become butterflies and moths)," he says. "The increased density and diversity also is much better for healing soils, capturing and storing carbon, cleaning and cooling the air, reducing stormwater runoff, and generally providing habitat (and an aesthetic show) all year round—yes, even in winter."
Con: Foot Traffic
While there are certainly perks to this low-maintenance approach to lawn care, Yamaguchi notes that there's a pretty obvious con to surrendering turf for tapestry: "The only major downside to this lawn type is that it is not well built for much foot traffic," he says.