I find what I enjoy to be contrary to what most people enjoy... a flat green grass lawn. However, I am uncertain what to do as a do-it-your-self, low-maintenance, native alternative. so I'm currently researching things like fountain grass borders, clover for a lawn alternative, things that do not need to be mowed. Are perennial and flowering would be great. and drought resistant in order to save water. I don't know where to start. but recently read an article that suggested one start with ones local county extension. I'm actually in Marion county. Can you recommend some books, or websites or plants that might do well in my yard?
There are many resources on gardening with native plants. If you want something that involves grass but is not a lawn, you might consider a meadow garden. John Greenlee's “The American Meadow Garden” is a great place to start learning about that option.
Also, this presentation from the Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District about converting your lawn out of grass.
If you just generally want to landscape with native plants, here are some Extension publications you may find helpful:
- Gardening with Oregon Native Plants West of the Cascades
- Selecting Native Plant Materials for Restoration Projects
- Ecological Design of Urban Landscapes: Economic, Social and Ecological Benefits
The main key to having a low maintenance, drought tolerant landscape is to group plants according to their watering needs and cultural requirements, and emphasize those whose needs are minimal. Native plants can be a great place to start, but be aware that in urban environments, sometimes the conditions are so different than what the former natives are adapted to, that they won’t thrive. You may need to look for plants from conditions more similar to your neighborhood.
I hope this is helpful. Have fun making your non-grass yard!