AMALIE ADLER ASCHER is a gardener and garden writer whose commentaries on floral arrangements and design have earned her a reputation nationwide and beyond. In fact, her book, ``The Complete Flower Arranger,'' written 14 years ago, still returns royalties. ``Her ideas stand the test of time,'' a friend once said.
So when Mrs. Ascher talks about designing with plants, people listen.
What she preaches about the outdoors - and practices in her own suburban Baltimore home - startles conventional thought. While some listeners are delighted, others look on her opinions as a form of heresy.
Simply put, Ascher doesn't believe in lawns!
``Green deserts!'' she says of them. Then in rapid-fire commentary: ``There's no point to a lawn. It's a lot of trouble. It's not pretty. And it has no character.''
To her, character in a ground cover involves varying shapes, textures, leaf forms, even flowers. The ivies, pachysandras, creeping and woolly thymes, Scotch and Irish moss, several stonecrops, some of the junipers - even fruits such as beach and alpine strawberries and the low, squat blueberry - all make attractive, durable, easy-to-maintain ground covers.
``There's just so much variety out there,'' she says, ``yet most homeowners can't think beyond mown grass.''
Ascher isn't totally against lawns. They have their place, ``though not in my home.
``If you want a play area - if you're into badminton, or the kids want a baseball diamond - then you need a lawn,'' she says.
Otherwise, as in her garden, the paths, patios, and decks meet every need for outdoor living or entertaining. ``Who wants to sunbathe on a damp lawn when you've got a dry deck?'' she asks.
It might take two or so years for some ground covers to fill in and carpet the ground. But once established, they are easy to maintain, requiring little or no trimming and almost no weeding.
``Because I have no lawn,'' Ascher says, ``I have no grubs (Japanese or otherwise), dollar spot, or any of the myriad other problems lawns suffer from.''
Nor does she have a lawn mower.