Naturescape gem a ‘yard gone wild’

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling hasn’t pushed a lawn mower in more than 20 years — his front and back yards are both grass-free zones.

Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling hasn’t pushed a lawn mower in more than 20 years — his front and back yards are both grass-free zones.

Passersby often stop to admire Flewwelling’s front yard on 35th Street. It’s a lush green thicket of junipers and evergreens, set off by striking exclamation points of purple fireweed.

“We get a lot of compliments,” admitted the mayor, a long-time proponent of naturescaping, which appears to be catching on with local homeowners.

Whether folks are getting older and don’t want the labour-intensive hassle of maintaining a lawn, or are starting to balk at the accompanying pesticides and fertilizers and pollution from gas mowers, more Red Deer residents are letting their yards go wild.

And that’s a great thing, according to Flewwelling, who noted the City of Red Deer holds naturescaping contests every year to try to encourage more environmentally friendly outdoor options.

In dry years, grassy lawns need to soak up a lot of water from household sprinklers, defeating the concept of water conservation.

And Flewwelling noted running a gas lawn mower is more polluting than idling a car for the same period because the smaller engines are less efficient.

Naturescaping makes sense in many ways, added the mayor, who spends less than two hours a year on yard maintenance, mostly deadheading perennials and occasionally replacing the odd dead juniper.

He decided after his sons were grown that he didn’t want to be bothered maintaining a lawn that no one used anymore.

That first year, Flewwelling and his wife Hazel replaced the grass on half their front yard with 90 tiny juniper bushes they’d bought at an end-of-season clear-out sale.

They laid down some bark chips and naturally occurring spruce cones and interspersed the junipers with irises, fireweed, and other vertical perennials.

The Flewwellings loved the effect so much, they did the rest of the front yard the next year. “We gave our lawn mower away to a young couple who didn’t have one,” said the Mayor, who never had an issue with his neighbours. In fact, the guy next door asked him to continue planting junipers up to the front walkway of his property.

“There’s no fertilizing, no weeding, watering or lawn mowing required . . . and we enjoy the birds,’ said Flewwelling. His Mountview yard attracts orioles, black-capped boreal chickadees, and red and white breasted nuthatches.

Some city residents, such as Virginia Hays, prefer growing an interesting array of plants instead of a grass mono-culture.

Hays is an avid gardener, who gradually took out her lawn over the past 24 years. She spends from half an hour to one hour a day weeding and dead-heading the impressive collection of perennials, herbs and vegetables in her front yard on 45th Street in Parkvale.

Her reward is seeing something new sprouting almost every day.

“It’s never boring. It’s evolving all the time,” said Hayes, who plants whimsically, with wild garlic, roses, grapes, peonies, potatoes, rhubarb, lilies, cantaloupe, columbine and squash all growing, at some time or other, in her front yard.

“There’s no rhyme or reason. I can always find room for another plant.”

Gardening is therapeutic for Hays. Maintaining grass comes down to controlling it, she said, but having an ad-hoc “lasagna garden,” is about watching how things shape up.

While a former neighbour initially raised an eyebrow over her eclectic front yard plantings, Hays said many more area residents have loved her garden, which has been an instant conversation starter.

“People will ask me, ‘What is the name of this plant?’ or “Can you tell me what this is?’” She’s always happy to oblige.

Sometimes naturescaping becomes nearly a necessity. Sharon Edlund, who lives across from Red Deer’s water tower, was tired of looking at a scraggly lawn that struggled to grow in acidic soil under mature fir trees, so she ripped out the grass. She experimented with a lot of perennials over the years and found daisies, irises and bellflower didn’t mind the conditions. She also had some luck with forsythia and spirea bushes, cranesbill geraniums, columbines and crocuses.

“It’s trial and error . . . and every year I stick in some annuals for colour,” said Edlund. whose neighbours are supportive of her naturescaping. “People will stop at various times of year and have a look.”

Edlund, who spends about half an hour three times a week on her yard, likes that “something’s blooming most of the time.”

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

An internal investigation by AHS revealed 3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly by two clerical employees in the diagnostic imaging department at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Employees access 3K patients’ records in privacy breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

The Red Deer Boxing Club will be moving to a larger space, in North Red Deer. The programs need more room to grow, says founder Robert Carswell. (Photo by LANA MICHELIn/Advocate staff).
Red Deer Boxing Club is moving to north industrial site

The property was rezoned to accommodate recreational uses

An Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet arrives at Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Air Canada agrees to $5.9-billion aid package, giving Ottawa equity stake in airline

$1.4 billion earmarked to help reimburse thousands of customers

Innisfail RCMP say Brandon Pitts is missing. (Photo contributed)
Missing central Alberta man

Innisfail RCMP request public’s help

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Canadian actor/producer/director Jay Baruchel is photographed at the 5 Drive-In Theatre in Oakville, Ont., ahead of the premier of Baruchel’s movie Random Acts of Violence, Wednesday, July 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Jay Baruchel to host Amazon Prime Video’s ‘LOL: Last One Laughing Canada’

Final comedian left standing wins a grand prize for a charity of their choice

Letters
Letter: Leaders like MLA Jason Stephan should work towards greater good

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan talks about the devastating social and… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Women, hit hardest by pandemic, key to economic recovery

Events of the past year have laid bare the many disparities and… Continue reading

Most Read