The colder and darker days of winter are here again. I’ve found that pushing back against them is easier when I’m being creative. As I seem to come back around to it every year at this time, I suppose it bears repeating yet again: The holidays aren’t necessarily the most wonderful time of the year.

Contending with the regular seasonal stressors is complicated by the ongoing pandemic, so it becomes ever more important to check in with yourself. At this moment, I’m personally feeling an oppressive sense of defeat and jealousy as it pertains to the successes of dancers and choreographers I’ve known. That’s no good! If, like me, you need something interesting to redirect your thoughts toward, perhaps you might play a thought experiment with me?

In the coming year, I hope to buy a house for the first time (fingers crossed during these strange real estate markets). I’m imagining all the uses for each room, and I’m also keenly interested in the outside space.

I’ve felt for years that I absolutely don’t want any grass at all in my yard. Firstly, I hate mowing it, and secondly it seems like a colossal waste of resources. Grass is a food desert for the residents living all around us, and I want my home to be a welcoming habitat. I want my home, and particularly my yard, to be a gift to myself, my neighborhood, and my planet. Reduce your use of water, fertilizer, energy, and greenhouse gases by jettisoning your grass.

With this in mind, let’s consider the ways we can reimagine a typical outdoor space. I want to mention ideas about ground cover, flower gardens, kitchen gardens, borders, and features. I think we could make some truly impressive neighborhoods all across the region. It’s a delight even imagining it.

Ground Cover

I have in mind a variety of options to replace grass. Artfully sectioned portions of yard allocated to gravel, river rocks, low growing plants with lots of flowers (e.g. creeping thyme for a purple yard??), and ivy around the bases of trees perhaps? I’d like to leave two feet of pebbles around the perimeter of my house: I want the habitat to be the center and periphery of the property, not the foundation of my house. Give the bunny-fluffles, creepy things, and various other beasties safe cover away from my safe cover. Anything to replace grass. Literally anything. A yard including strategically shaped sections of meadow flowers might be a nice contained touch of wildness.

Flower Gardens

I plan to have a wide variety of flowers that bloom throughout the seasons, so that my itty bitty neighbors have a nice variety of food. I’m thinking I’d prefer potted plants. They use less soil, need less water, and it practically eliminates the need for weeding or pesticides. Plus they can be rearranged on a whim, or easily switched out as the plants move through their cycles.

Edible Yards

As I’ve mentioned before in this column, I strongly suggest square foot gardening for your vegetables and herbs. It eliminates nearly all waste of any kind, including space itself. I’m going to have fruit trees and berry bushes at the edge of the yard. Again, keep the banqueting guests away from the house. There’s also the possibility of nut trees, which I enjoyed growing up.

Borders and Features

Boulders with sphagnum moss would be beautiful in shaded areas. You can encourage the soft, incandescently green stuff to grow by putting a little of it in a blender with yogurt, mixing it together, then painting it onto surfaces where you want it to appear.

There are so many forms of creative yard art that require no maintenance: Interesting stone, wood, glass, or metal features. Perhaps a shallow water feature trickling in the shade to give your pollinators a reliable source of hydration? I want a chess board and a meditation labyrinth.

If you prefer living borders, many plants are easily shaped. I’ve seen gorgeous ideas using bricks, lavender, rosemary, pavers, and stones. Borders themselves can be a fantastic expression of creativity unto themselves.

Now I really cannot wait for spring! I have something to look forward to, something to direct my creativity toward. Do you have any encouraging strategies like this you want to share? Mention them in the comments below, and let’s all feel happier despite any wintery moods.