Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Today in Key West: Lawn in the Tropics

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Pity gardeners in warm climates: When they grow lawn, they usually need to plant this coarse-leaved thug, St. Augustine grass. At best, it looks like crabgrass.

 

Perhaps this is rough justice, in that there are plenty of other aspects of subtropical and tropical horticulture that can only be echoed farther North: Succulents as trees, flowers year-round, palms a-plenty. Fine. A thick and velvety lawn is one of the triumphs of temperate- and cold-climate gardens, and can only be aped (so to speak) in the tropics, but never topped.

 

One of the side gardens at the Hemingway House in Key West is given over to St. Augustine grass and, in the overview, looks as good as any tropical lawn could.

 

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But upon closer view, the inevitable edging is revealed. The runners of Stenotaphrum secundatum will quickly infiltrate surrounding beds unless restrained. They root firmly and frequently, so are difficult to remove after the fact.

 

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Even if St. Augustine grass is edged prophylactically and mown regularly, its wide and stiff blades look and feel rough to the touch. Worst of all, its appearance is a dead-ringer to that of crab grass.

 

With its challenges of a coarse look and relentless runners, tropical lawn doesn't have the potential to be the easy and default groundcover that it does in gardens in temperate and cold climates. In my book, this is just as well. Excess and poorly-conceptualized lawn is one of the curses of northern gardens. Tropical gardeners have such a profusion of quick and appealing groundcovers that there's no excuse for "over-lawning." There's little temptation to over-use, anyway, in that St. Augustine grass is, if anything, even higher-maintenance than northern lawns. Besides the mowing and edging, it needs regular fertilizing, and is often susceptible to diseases.

 

Tropical climates are gentler than temperate, but neither life nor gardening here is as easy as it might seem upon casual experience during a visit in the midst of a northern Winter. In a few days, I'll be happy to return to New England, to shoveling the snow, burning the last two of the six cords of firewood needed to keep warm each season, and to sussing out the subtle and (to tropical eyes) laughably small details of swelling buds and tiny-but-fragrant flowers that are some of the joys of Winter back home.

 

I'm also glad not to have to worry about watering, fertilizing, weeding, or edging my lawn for a full six months of the year. In the tropics, gardens and lawns both need tending year-round; back home, I can leave them both behind—the lawn in particular—while I visit the tropics.

 

Here's how to grow the gorgeous striped form of St. Augustine grass. For information on growing St. Augustine grass as a lawn, contact your local office of the USDA Cooperative Extension Service.

 
 
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