Who doesn’t want a perfectly looking garden where one can enjoy after a hard day at work or simply relax with family and friends during the weekends? But let’s face it – those gardens you see in the magazines, perfectly designed and pruned, ask for a lot of time spent maintaining them. With the busy lifestyle of today, we can hardly find enough time for spending it working in the garden. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t have your dream garden, it just means you have to plan it very carefully in order to make it low-maintenance. This is possible by using some smart tips for low-maintenance landscaping and our team is here to help – as always. Let’s see how to plan a garden in which you can spend more time enjoying than working…
As we said – start with carefully planing your garden space. Study your garden and it’s features – determine the problem areas, sun and shade patterns for all areas, locate patios, shade trees and arbors. If you have already existing plants you’ll want to evaluate their maintenance need and future growth so you can see if they fit in your future plan. You will also need to check the soil drainage as wet areas are plants worst enemy – if there are any in your garden it means you will have to improve the drainage. You can either install drain tiles or plant water-tolerant plants.
When planning, have in mind that simplicity is the very important if you want a low-maintenance garden. It means using simple design, few plant species – this will make your garden attractive and yet east to manage. As for hardscaping, stick to patios and walks as they requite the least care. Consider planting in beds as they are easier to care and to access.
Plan different areas of your garden according to your needs. If you have kids you might consider playing areas. Consider planning a separate area for your dog as pets can damage your plants. Determine how much time exactly can you spend in maintaining your garden on daily basis.
Watering and Mowing
If you ask yourself which are the two things that a garden can’t do without you will probably think watering and mowing. Yes, they are the essential chores one garden owner must do regularly in order to have a healthy, green garden. So challenge no.1 is reducing the watering needs and of course the amount of grass you have to mow. Choosing drought-resistant plants can truly reduce the watering needs. This is called Xeriscaping and we have talked about the way it works and it’s importance previously (read Xeriscaping – Drought-Resistant Plant Choices for details). There is a wide selection of plants to choose from, like Wild Columbine, Butterfly Weed, New Jersey Tea, Purple Coneflower etc. These are all well-adapted species and will make your garden beautiful while watering less.
Another way to avoid spending time watering your garden is by implementing an automated irrigation system. As much as we like to encourage readers to DIY in the garden, we recommend hiring a professional for this task. It is something you set up once and needs very little adjustments afterwards.
As grass is your worst enemy if you are not up to spending hours mowing your lawn, you might consider avoiding it completely. Now you might think that a garden can’t do without a lawn but there are so many alternatives that work perfectly. Using gravel and boulders instead of grass is very challenging but also very rewarding as the effect can be fascinating. Take Japanese Zen gardens for example – they are looking perfect even without lawns! Clover is another alternative to grass and it is drought tolerant, cost saving, insect resistant – have we said enough? You can also try Moss in shady spots where grass refuses to grow. Moss are very low-maintenance.
Using ground covers can reduce mowing and watering in general so try organic mulch for example, or if you have problems with deer resistant ground covers like Blue Rug Juniper and Blue Star Juniper.
There are many plants that can work well for a low-maintenance garden, including various perennials and annuals. Have in mind that all plants need more care in the first year or two! You must consider many facts about the plants you are about to choose, mostly their growth size, growing conditions, shape etc. Some of the best plants for low-maintenance landscaping are:
- Velvet Cloak Smoke Tree (Cotinus Coggygria “Velvet Cloak” with it’s beautiful purple leaves
- Peonies – especially variety Jules Verne Peony (Paeonia lactiflora “Jules Verne”) – every garden needs flowers! You can also try Black-Eyed Susans, Russian Sage or Chelone.
- Winter King Hawthorn (Crataegus viridis “Winter King”)
- Ribbon Grass (Pharlaris arundinacea “Strawberries and Cream”) – have in mind that this plant is banned in areas it is not native to so check with your native plant society first.
- Japanese Barberry (Berberis Thunbergii “Bailtwo”)
- Blue Fescue, like variety “Elijah Blue”, an ornamental grass with blue-gray foliage
- Thornless Common Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis ‘Suncole’) that is great for sunny areas
- Grey Owl Juniper (Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’)
- Rose Glow Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’)
- Avalanche Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Avalanche’) etc
Rock gardens are also very low-maintenance so if they are your choice you might like to check our Tips for an Attractive Rock Garden Design.
We are sure that after reading this you will agree that maintenance is not the most important thing for having a perfect garden, but careful planning surely is essential!