I hope you’ve been enjoying the lovely weather in your garden during the weekend! Andy (hubby) and I have been working hard on part of ours, which I will be revealing in a future post, so watch this space. I absolutely love my garden, even though we’re still in the process of landscaping and designing it, and I’m by no means an expert gardener, but I do try, and am learning all the time. As our garden is quite large, we decided to make some of the areas as low maintenance as possible. So if you’re too busy for gardening, or prefer to spend time relaxing instead of weeding, read on for some tips on how to create a low maintenance, high impact, garden.
One of the low maintenance areas we’ve completed in our garden is behind the Koi pond (Andy’s pride and joy, and also completed). Remember that low maintenance doesn’t have to mean boring. When planning the design of this area, we wanted to make it interesting and create an impact.
So on with the tips…
1. Add Feature Plants With Structure
During a holiday in Cornwall a few years ago, we came across a gunnera (giant rhubarb plant) with leaves around two metres wide. I fell in love with it, and since then I’ve become obsessed with tropical plants. It’s year two now for our Gunnera manicata and it has flowered this year too. As they are moisture-loving plants,
we Andy created a bog by digging a circle around 3ft in diameter x 1ft deep, lined it with a pond liner to retain water, and then filled it with a mixture of soil and compost. Ours is still a baby as far as gunneras go, but I love it all the same. Gunneras are impressive feature plants that will give structure and impact to your garden. They are considered low maintenance plants, however, these giants do require a lot of watering in their first year (ours was extremely thirsty!), and need protecting in winter by covering with their dead leaves. They also need a fair amount of room (the warmer the climate, the bigger they’ll get), so if they’re not for you, you may want to consider an even lower maintenance option (see below*).
You can see the size of the leaves already in comparison to my hand.
We also decided to add a black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) against Andy’s pump house so as to disguise it. If you’re thinking of adding bamboo to your garden, make sure you buy the clumping and not the running variety, as the latter can be very invasive! I’m still unsure as to whether our bamboo is clumping or running (eeeek), as opinions seem to differ on this, so make sure you ask at the garden centre (as I should have done!). However, it seems ok so far, and I love the look of it, and the way it rustles in the wind. To prevent our bamboo from running wild, we planted it by Andy’s concrete based pump house, and to the side of the pond wall. We also buried a vertical thick layer of polythene in front of the Bamboo as another barrier.
The last plant we added was an Astelia ‘Silver Shadow”, which is a great low maintenance feature plant, and is also evergreen, so the structure remains through the winter too.
2. Paint Fences Black To Create Infinity
Another thing we did to create impact was paint the fences black. Paint the fences black!?, I hear you cry. But won’t this make the garden look dark and draw it in?? Well, even though this is most people’s thoughts and reactions, the black fence has actually had the opposite effect. Firstly, it’s hard to make a garden look dark by painting things black because it’s full of natural light. Secondly, the black fence has actually made our garden look bigger, as it creates infinity. It also detracts your eye away from the fence and to the plants (the important part, right?) and makes them pop. Don’t believe me? Well take a look at the before and after pics of the area and see for yourself.
The bent tree above was there when we moved in. We ummed and ahhed over whether to keep or get rid of it, but decided to keep it in the end as it had character, and I’m so glad we did. It looks like it belongs there now.
3. Use Aesthetic Hard Landscaping
Hard landscaping is a sure-fire way to reduce the maintenance of an outside space, but you don’t want to end up with a dull concrete jungle, so explore the wide variety of hard landscaping options available. We plumped for slate chippings. First, we weeded the whole area and laid a membrane over the soil, then covered it with a thick layer of 40mm plum slate to keep it weed free. In my experience, slate keeps the weeds at bay much better than stones or pebbles, as seeds find it more difficult to settle and grow in-between the flat slate than they do stone. We added the plum slate last spring and I have not had to remove one weed from the area since then. The slate also helps to retain moisture in the soil, so this means less watering, and in my opinion, it looks great too.
4. Decorate With Garden Ornaments
Adding ornaments to your garden is a great way to fill an area whilst keeping it low maintenance. They add visual interest and impact, but don’t need feeding, pruning or weeding!
5. Choose Low Maintenance Plants
*Choose plants that will grow anywhere and need little attention. Sedums will pretty much look after themselves and are a great addition to any garden with their succulent leaves and clusters of flowers.
Fatsia japonica is an exotic looking evergreen that is hardy in most parts of the UK, providing you put it in a sheltered, shady spot. It’s a great feature plant and is happy in most soil conditions.
Yuccas are great statement plants that are evergreen, need no looking after, and will grow almost anywhere. They also reward you with glorious tall white flowers when mature. Try not to plant in narrow walkways though as the end of the leaves are very spiky! This is a pic from our old garden. We took babies from this plant for our new garden, but they aren’t this big yet. You can also see a Fatsia japonica to the right of this pic.
Ask at your local garden centre for more low maintenance plants to reduce the amount of time spent working in the garden.
You could even go one step further and add artificial plants to your garden. It works inside, so why not outside? As long as you have a mixture of real and faux, and the artificial ones look realistic, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do this. The interior designer Abigail Ahern mixes faux plants from her own range with real in her outdoor space. Take a look at her cactus garden here. Why not make a statement yourself with large faux tropical plants.
6. Splurge On Feature Lighting
We often neglect lighting in our gardens, but it can add mood, drama, and wow factor, and requires little maintenance. If you don’t want to go the full hog with outside electrics, opt for some solar lights instead. So at your next BBQ, with the addition of lighting, you can carry on enjoying your garden after dusk, not to mention impressing your guests.