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Portugal Resident

Gardens Illustrated, Mar 2016

Mediterranean Gardening France


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Alternatives au gazon
Actes Sud, 2011

Planting Design for Dry gardens

Beautiful resilient groundcovers for terraces, paved areas, gravel and other alternatives to the lawn

Olivier Filippi

translation by Caroline Harbouri



11¾×9¼in • 30×23.5cm

240 pages

400 color photographs

index included

ISBNs: 0993389201 • 9780993389207

Filbert Press • 2016

Green lawns are restful to the eye, provide an excellent backdrop to plants and trees and keep the weeds down, but in low-rainfall regions they often end up looking scrappy and brown.  This book offers low-level planting designs that are ecofriendly and so beautiful they redefine the conventional distinction between lawn and plant borders.  Inspired by the wild plant communities of Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S., these rigorously trialed plant combinations can be used on terraces, paths, gravel beds and flower borders, as well as areas that are traditionally laid to lawn.  Plant choices include the tough new macrothermal grasses, carpeting groundcovers and stunning wild flower mixes that thrive among gravel and stone.  With a plant directory that lists over 200 tough but beautiful dry garden plants and Filippi's innovative maintenance techniques, this book will delight all dry garden owners.

Filbert Press

Probably the very first thing that strikes you about this book are the over 400 handsome photographs by the author.  And no wonder - the man behind the camera has been viewing and studying mediterranean climate natural landscapes for 25 years, while he and his wife Clara have been in pursuit of new plants well adapted to these unique regions.

This new English version of the original French Alternatives au Gazon (Alternatives to Grass) may seem to be merely about covering the ground, but as you read the text and follow Olivier through the chapters, you will no doubt realize that this is not just a list of groundcover plants.  It is an education in a whole concept of planting and designing gardens in the summer dry mediterranean climate.

The author discusses the history of today's concept of a lawn, which is a relatively recent idea.  He also helps the reader understand its incongruity with summer dry climates.  Alternate, more drought tolerant species are also touched upon.  But rather than the uniform expanse of green lawn that is the canvas on which many gardens are created, here we are tutored in how to create more naturalistic landscapes, where more than one well-chosen species grow and thrive (see chapter list below for examples).

While some of these concepts introduced are employed by gardeners in other climates, the author explains how these approaches go beyond mere artifice or "style", working closely with the mediterranean climate and enhance the natural growth of plants adapted to its rigors.  I admire that he considers the design, plantings, and care as a whole system, coming from his personal observation of such systems in the wild.  There is also a detailed encyclopedia of 200 plant species at the end of the book that are relevant to types of plantings and an index to help you find where in the text they are mentioned.

This work should be considered a sequel to Olivier's first book - The Dry Gardening Handbook, which introduces the reader to the definition of the mediterranean climate as well as a larger number of climate appropriate species.  Details of Olivier's unique and useful "drought resistance code" for each species are also described in detail on those pages.

Another inspiring book from this author, worth a read by both beginner and veteran gardeners, and especially by anyone working to create a garden in one of the world's mediterranean climate regions.

Seán A. O'Hara



Lawns and groundcover plants

The history of lawns and rise of alternatives

Groundcover plants in the wild

Less water and low maintenance: the groundcover garden

Groundcover gardens for dry climates

Lawns with warm-season groundcovers

Green carpets: plants you can walk on

Flowering carpets: a mixture of groundcover plants

Mixed grassland "lawns": the art of cultivating weeds

Flowering steppes

Gravel gardens

Terraces, path and steps: the greening of stone surfaces

Perennial and shrub groundcovers for large areas

Pioneer plants for slopes and wild gardens

Flowering meadows in dry climates

Planting and maintaining the groundcover garden

Soil preparation

Planting groundcovers

Economizing on water

Reducing maintenance

Garden escapees: the problem of invasive plants

A-Z of groundcover plants for dry gardens

A directory of 200 species and varieties

Useful addresses

Useful conversions


A protocol for categorizing invasive groundcover plants

Index of plant names

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