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Creating A Low Maintenance Garden

Aug 17, 2007
If you thought that filling your garden with plants and flowers would create lots of extra work and attention think again. You can create a stunning low maintenance garden simply by following a few simple rules.

Beds And Borders
Attractive, well-filled beds and borders bring a garden to life, but they are potentially time consuming. You can reduce the amount of work involved simply by choosing low-maintenance plants and keeping them weed-free by mulching, perhaps with a decorative chipped bark, or with chemical controls. Whatever planting style you choose avoid using plants that grow rampantly, need constant cutting back or frequent pruning, and any with lots of seeds that germinate readily where you don't want them to.

Foliage
Interesting foliage often acts as a backdrop to flowers, but it can also be used on its own. The enormous range of greens as well as purples, bronzes, silvers and striking variegations makes it entirely possible to create unusual effects using foliage alone.

Evergreens are especially useful because they don't shed leaves like deciduous shrubs do or die down leaving dead matter to be cleared away as do perennials. However, deciduous shrubs produce some stunning autumn effects, which are particularly useful when the number of flowers is declining in your border.

Incorporating Flowers
However attractive foliage may be, for most people a garden would not be complete without flowers. Happily, many will perform well with little attention, and there are a number of different types of flowering plants to choose from. Traditional seasonal borders are replanted twice a year with bedding plants to take full advantage of spring and summer flower colour. They are packed with colour but require most work and are best avoided if you have limited time. Using more permanent plants instead will involve less time.

Annuals are less work for the gardener as many can be sown in-situ. They are invaluable for filling gaps with bright summer colour. You sow them in late spring and they flower in summer, and many will self-seed for years. Pot marigolds, nasturtiums, love-in-a-mist, and different types of poppy, including Californian and common field poppies, are all good self-seeders. Any seedlings that appear in the wrong place can simply be pulled up. When the plants have finished flowering they can be removed.

With many different growth habits, sizes and flower shapes and colours, herbaceous perennials bring an extra dimension into the garden. Choose those that you can plant and forget, at least for a few years. They will flower year after year.

Shrubs are among the best plants for borders. Most will grow for years without any attention, but those that grow too vigorously (such as buddlejas and many roses) or that are tall and difficult to manage (such as lilacs) are best avoided. Fortunately, there are so many well-behaved shrubs, that a low maintenance border is easy to achieve. Potentillas flower for months, as do hardy fuchsias, though these may be partly cut down in cold winter. Mahonia and hebe are also reliable.
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