Gardens Without Grass – What’s The Alternative To A Lawn?

 In Garden Design, Landscaping, Uncategorised

Here are some examples of gardens without grass to prove that you don’t need a lawn to have a beautiful outdoor space.

The traditional English lawn has many charms but it doesn’t necessarily suit every garden. Lawns are great for absorbing rainwater, cooling the garden and creating a restful ambience. However, they do need regular care and maintenance if they are to look good all year round.

As a garden designer and landscaper, I’m often asked to build gardens without lawns. I love the challenge of finding alternative materials that will be easy for my clients to care for and still create a beautiful garden. Often that will mean paving or decking. However I’m always keen to balance hard landscaping with planting. It’s important for wildlife and the environment, but I also feel that planting evokes a sense of luxury.

Take a look at some of the gardens without grass that I’ve built during my career. What do you think of them?

Newbuild Garden In North Pemberton

new build gardens without grass. Paved area with circular raised bed and pretty blue summerhouse

This is one of my most recent gardens without grass. It’s for a newbuild property in North Pemberton whose owner really doesn’t have enough time for lawn care. We’ve chosen limestone paving with a slight blue tint that tones beautifully with the outdoor room. Rather than pave the entire area, a central raised bed is surrounded by aggregate for optimum drainage and a softer, prettier effect. Climbing plants disguise the garden wall and a central tree offers shade as well as being a focal point.

Have you spotted the lavender plants in that central planter? On warm summer days, the leaves and flowers will fill this courtyard with the most delightful fragrance.

Sunken Garden With Built In Seating

small back garden with an area of decking adjoining a sunken garden which is surrounded by floating benches and raised beds


It’s a shame I don’t have any pictures of this garden showing the full glory of the planting. This terrace, as you can see, is part of a sloping garden. There’s quite a big change in levels between the house and the far end of the garden. The garden design embraces that level change to create a sunken garden with built in seating all around. There’s room for a firepit in the middle and once sitting down, with the plants at head-height garden users will feel immersed in nature.

I can imagine this being a popular place to entertain friends, to enjoy a podcast or to gaze at the stars. Gardens without grass needn’t be barren places.

Low Maintenance Garden Without Grass

artificial grass in low maintenance garden

This garden in Templecombe started life as a patch of worn out turf, a small shed and an inaccessible slope. Our clients liked the idea of a lawn, but really didn’t feel up to regular mowing. And so we compromised, with a small area of artificial turf. Wide steps, more akin to platforms than to stairs, lead visitors on a journey through exotic planting to the bottom of the garden. As you can see in the photo, irrigation pipes, which were later covered with mulch, ensure that the planting beds are largely self sufficient. Those steps are made using self-binding gravel – a cost effective alternative to paving.

Small Gardens Without Grass

idea for small front gardens without grass suing paving and aggregates

Grass lawns are simply not always practical for small gardens. In this case, the slope and the steps made manouvring a mower very difficult indeed. We used a mix of sandstone paving and aggregates to create a pretty garden with lots of visual interest. Curves make the area feel larger than it is and create a soft, welcoming ambience. A single specimen tree and some carefully placed rocks are a nod to the japanese style of gardening where every element in the garden refers to the majesty of nature.

A raised bed surrounds the garden on two sides and can be filled with plants for seasonal interest.


Covered Patio

back garden idea with pergola, built in seating and beautiful planting

This garden makeover was all about creating a relaxing space where historically, it had been difficult to grow a lawn. You can read the full case study here.

A mix of contemporary and traditional landscaping features, combined with exotic planting creates an almost magical atmosphere. Particularly at night when soft lighting evokes the sense of being on holiday in some far off land.

Zen Gardens Without Grass

night time shot of a garden paved with limestone setts and beautifully planted with aromatic plants

Finally, a night time view of a paved garden. The path has been created using setts for texture. It splits to circumnavigate a small pond. To the left, the path leads to a floating deck with relaxing beanbags. To the right, the path winds through lush planting towards a softly lit timber pergola. Easy to grow plants tumble over the side of the path to soften the lines and make a connection to nature.

Have You Been Inspired?

I hope you’ve been inspired by some of our gardens without grass. If you need help designing and building your own garden, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Dan Richards from SilverBirch Gardens. It will be an honour to work with you.

For more garden ideas, please visit our portfolio page.

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