The Checkerboard Garden

Above is my checkerboard garden. It’s under a “horsey” swing – part of the jungle gym/swingset my daughter has well outgrown. When I first put it in, it was done with too-thin slate tiles that broke apart after a few years. The square pavers you see here are concrete – and thick.

At its best it was very full — in bright sun.

I had also originally spent LOTS of money on a line of plants called Stepables – I had different Stepables in each few squares – two thymes, silver kisses, baby tears, Irish moss and different sedums. For the full list with Latin names, see here. It took about three seasons for it to fill up.

But at the same time, the tree across from it and above it grew and put this area in deep shade. Then it was a race to see which Stepable would disappear first.

Before they were all gone, I planted them in other sunnier areas of the garden and are thriving fine. Most got planted into the hypertufa pots I made last year.

The area original was just grass under the “horsey” swing.
Full sun.

So now I was left with what to plant in deep shade that gets nice and thick – and doesn’t cost much. I was told vinca, mondo grass and other suggestions – but I decided on plain old everyday grass.

Yes, I’ve planted grass in my yard (of which my end goal is to eliminate all grass). But grass is a reliable grower, consistent in texture and color. I think it’ll look great here. Plus the fact that it’s under a play area grass can take much abuse. More than all those fancy Stepables.

Year one. Not to impressive.

I’ll have to mow it (probably just use a weed whacker) and still have to weed it. But I can weed it by hand as opposed to using chemical weed killers – it’s not that large a space.

Actually, grass has its place in a few spots in my garden. I’d be lying if I said I had a completely  grassless yard.

At the top of this post, you can see the squares with the new grass just peeking through. It’s a grass mix made for deep shade. I still have a few concrete blocks I need to cut in half. With my circular saw and a blade made for cutting concrete, I get one cut per blade (it’s getting expensive again). The goal is to have it done before the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens start next Thursday. At least it’ll look like a project in process, as opposed to a garden of bad decisions and bad luck.

Here’s how it fits into the grand scheme of the garden.
It is between the raised bed potager garden and the jungle gym, beside the driveway.
Some of the Stepables, though pretty, were impractically-moundy.
A few freeze-thaw seasons had the slate tiles disintegrating.
The Stepables are living on in the hypertufa planters I made last year. Back in the sun, they’re thriving.

I have a long-time garden blog, a popular garden on America's largest garden tour, and have co-written a book on garden design titled, "Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs" When I'm not doing all that, I am an advertising designer always out looking to design things to promote your business. Look me up at #jcharlier.

0 comments on “The Checkerboard Garden

  1. can you grow creeping jenny there? It's vigorous, loves shade, and stays super-low. While not evergreen, the winter color is a gorgeous blend of reds and oranges.


  2. Anonymous

    I like this garden and whatever goes in will look great. I agree, Stepables are expensive. I myself got sucked in to a bunch. Great marketing on them.


  3. I like it. The checkerboard is pretty unique and just the right scale.Ray


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