High style, low maintenance

PUBLISHED: 11:18 15 June 2009 | UPDATED: 08:56 21 February 2013

Achieve a beautiful garden

Achieve a beautiful garden

Jenna Jack has some useful tips for keeping your garden beautiful without all the hard work.

Jenna Jack has some useful tips for keeping your garden beautiful without all the hard work.

There are two types of gardener - one who has the time and inclination to spend hours in the garden and one who doesn't. Many of us fall humbly into the second category.

A garden however, doesn't always have to be time consuming, especially if you go for the low maintenance approach. The words 'low maintenance' set off alarm bells for many, suggesting poor quality or dull, but done correctly this type of garden can become the most attractive one in the street.

The key to a low maintenance garden is, as with all gardens, in the planning. This will be the most time-consuming stage, but it is an essential component to getting it right. Give yourself a brief, what do you want your garden to achieve? Are you starting from scratch or are you developing what is already there?

Before you start on the design, make a scaled drawing and give the garden a structure. Make a scaled drawing and give the garden a structure. A focal point complimented with other points of interest and plenty of hard landscaping is a good basis to a structure. One idea may be to come up with a theme for your garden, Oriental, Modernist or Minimal gardens are notoriously low maintenance and a theme will help to give your garden a personality.

For any garden to become low maintenance there are five simple rules to follow:

Work with nature and get to know your garden. Choose plants and shrubs that grow naturally well in your garden. If you have acidic soil, choose plants that like acidic soil, if you have a south facing garden, choose plants that enjoy direct sunlight. Take out any plants that don't work in your garden, if they have been struggling for years or never flower for long, it is best to remove them altogether. A good idea would be to have a look at what grows well in your neighbours' gardens. By making your own compost heap you can stay environmentally friendly and put back into the garden some of what you take out. Encourage nature to do some of the work and improve on pest control by choosing a variety of plants and habitats. Bark mulches make excellent homes for spiders and beetles, whilst feeding stations and bird baths encourage birds and in turn reduce pests.

Choosing the correct shape and texture. Flowing, curvaceous gardens with curved corners are easier to maintain than angular designs. Hard landscaping is key for a low maintenance approach and should be one of the first things to plan. It is important to mix textures and surfaces, so try and include a mixture of paving, groundcover, gravel and a small lawn.

Wide borders mean more plants which could mean more work, so try to keep them narrow. Choose plants which hang over edges to soften up lines and in turn this will cut out the need for edging altogether.

Reduce the lawn. Lawns are one of the most time consuming things to maintain in a garden and are very labour intensive, so keep them to a minimum. Aim for a lawn with flowing lines and if you edge it with bricks it will be easier to mow and reduce the need for trimming edges. The 'bowling green' lawn will not be achieved with a low maintenance approach, but a lush, leafy utility look will come naturally. Remember that your lawn shouldn't become an obstacle course for the mower. Avoid putting anything on the lawn such as a bench or birdbath, as you will only have to mow round it.

Choosing the plants. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of creating your low maintenance garden! It is important that the plants you choose do not require much looking after and look good throughout the year. Avoid plants that often need pruning or dead-heading or have a short life span.

Shrubs and climbers will be the backbone to any low maintenance garden. They should be arranged at varying heights and depths to create an interesting background. They are particularly important features in the smaller garden and must be chosen on their suitability to your garden and your original plan. Heather, Ivy, Azalea, Lavender, Fatsia japonica, Viburnum tinus, Yuccas and Camellia are particularly good choices. Try to avoid buying plants on a whim while on a trip to the garden centre and keep to your plan!

Roses and perennials are usually intense plants to maintain and are best avoided. However they are attractive and popular plants and many gardeners feel their garden would be incomplete without a rose. If this is the case, choose shrub roses that do not require as much tender loving care. 'Ballerina Rose' is an excellent choice as it's fragrant white and pink flowers have a long life span.

Herbaceous and mixed borders are also fairly intense, but Bergania cordifolia, Erigeron, Hostas and Hemerocallis have a relatively easy care pattern. It is best to edge borders with foliage plants such as carnations, which have pretty flowers and fragrance as well as long lasting foliage. Herbaceous plants that don't require staking, Red Hot Pokers for example, can be used in other parts of the garden and require no work. A top tip is to put about 5cm of mulch on the beds every autumn and spring, this will help retain the moisture and suppress any weeds.

Evergreens are the best thing to have in a low maintenance garden and come in many colours, shapes and sizes. Dwarf varieties are available, which are small and slow growing. Their colours include blues, greys, gold and greens. An idea would be to group together evergreens that have contrasting shape, colour and texture. Take care not to plant too many, instead choose an area of paving or gravel and dot them attractively in between.

Bulbs are an excellent investment and those that flower from spring into summer are the best choice. They can be planted under trees and shrubs, as well as in lawns. By leaving them to naturalise they will multiply over the years. Annual bulbs include; Crocus', Daffodil, Bluebell and Jersey Lilies.

The finishing touches. It is important that any ground left uncovered by planting should be carpeted by weed-suppressing plants. Hostas and evergreens can give good all year cover.

Containers and tubs are popular with the majority of gardeners and create an interesting focal point to many gardens by bringing in colour, particularly in smaller gardens. Tubs usually need replanting with the seasons, but permanent planting can be achieved whilst avoiding the 'shrubs in tubs' look, with Camellia being a good choice. Window boxes can also be planted and herbs are a colourful and functional alternative to shrubs. Choose perennials such as thyme, chives and marjoram. Alternatively a raised bed can be landscaped, full of herbs that will compliment any kitchen. To avoid the regular watering that many herbs require, plant them in a self watering hanging basket. Containers need regular watering and this cannot be avoided, so if this will create a problem it would be best not the include them.

Garden ornaments or furniture can create a strong focal point and need no care, other than locating them correctly in the first instance. A seating area or water feature is a nice addition.

Lastly remember before you start, to make sure you have all the tools you will need and lots of easy care aids, to make your job just that little bit easier! Kneeling pads, a gardeners pouch, some one handed tools and a large plastic tip bag will set you off on the right foot. In gardening, there is often a fine line between problem and pleasure. By cutting out some of the problematic and time consuming areas, the moments you do spend in your garden can only be pleasurable ones.


2- Raised bed

4- Herbs

7- General low maintenance, hard landscaping

8/9- Lillies

10- soft edging

11- garden ornaments

All of the above are elements of low maintenance gardening.

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