THE MODERN MINT BLOG
Here we are in May, the weather is warm, we have had some rain and the sap is rising – you look around your garden and all you will see is the maintenance issues, the jobs that are to be done. How do you cope with a garden that threatens to overtake you?
Well, here are some ideas for you, to reduce the work load and give yourself a low maintenance garden – all without reducing the amount of flowers you have!
Low Maintenance Garden Ideas
1) Plant Shrubs
The New Perennial Movement has turned people off planting shrubs in the garden, but we reckon they are due a comeback (and not just us – it has been muted as a garden design trend elsewhere…)
Shrubs probably won’t need clippng in the first three years after you buy them. Then, when they are big enough to cover the soil and form a large prescence in the flower beds they will only need a clip or prune after flowering (generally!) or if they are getting in the way of another plant.
When you do prune a shrub, check first what treatment it needs and whether you can cut into old wood (here is a list of shrubs you can be brutal with) and then, armed with your shears/saw/secateurs and the correct knowledge go for it – don’t be shy, give that shrub a haircut!
And one final tip – if you have a shrub in front of a window, or a doorway, and its branches are invading the space, don’t just cut it back to the edge of the frame. Cut it back another foot or so as then, when it regrows, it regrows to fill the space rather than come back out and cover the window/doorway again.
It seems simple common-sense, but we see it happen all the time…
Shrubs are there to reduce the maintenance work for you, while also providing flowers, berries and autumn leaf colour. They are a sharp weapon in a low maintenance gardener’s armoury, so make sure you use them!
2) Manage vegetation, don’t weed
They are one and the same, really – both require you to get a pair of gloves on, get out a bucket or kneeler, and get stuck into the flower beds. But we consider it here as low maintenance garden idea number 2 because it requires a change of attitude from you, rather than a change of tools.
‘Weeding’ suggests some plants are good, some plants are bad (that of course is true – no-one wants Japanese Knotweed) but the amount of ‘bad’ plants are not as high as you would first imagine. If you plant thickly in your borders, so that bare soil is at a minimum, then there will be less chance for annual weeds to get established. Because you have planted thickly, you will likely have a far more interesting composition of flowers and foliage to look at too.
If you then see a few weeds amongst the mass of plants you have added to the border, they will begin to add to the look rather than detract. It is a funny thing, because the eye stops seeing them as weeds and starts seeing them as part of the overall picture.
This works beautifully if you have crammed your borders with plants, and allows you to get away with doing less maintenance – and all it requires from you is a change of attitude, seeing the work you do in the garden as a ‘managing’ of all the plants, rather than a ‘battle’ to keep on top.
For perennial weeds you can do exactly the same thing – stop seeing them as plants that must be destroyed, and learn to love them. Ground elder is venerated as the nightmare weed of the borders, but it has good qualities too – it is edible, can be picked and used as a cut flower (similar to ammi majus and far cheaper to use) and is a member of the apiaceae family, a family of plants whose flowerheads are striking and easy to use amongst just about any other plant.
To reduce maintenance, manage your plants, don’t weed them.
3) Grow perennial fruit and vegetables
If you want low maintenance then this is the way to go – stop growing tomatoes (lots of work staking, feeding and watering) and instead grow gooseberries. You plant a twig into the ground in the autumn, pull any weeds away from it when you are passing in the summer, and within a little time you have a bush bursting with fruit to harvest and eat.
Of course, you might hate gooseberries and love tomatoes, and us even suggesting switching from one to the other leaves you feeling dirty and vulnerable. Sorry about that – we love tomatoes too, and lovely as gooseberries are we would not want to eat them with our pasta.
But we are giving you ideas for a low maintenance garden here, and if you truly do want to make it as little work as possible – perennial fruit and vegetables are the way to go.
Hope you are coping with your garden maintenance this spring!
Guanock House needs a trainee topiary artist! Some of you may know it as the first home and garden of designer Arne Maynard, but is now owned and maintained by Michael Coleman and his wife Michelle. They offer meditation workshops and retreats there and it is as beautiful a house and garden as you could wish to visit. They called me in last Autumn to help shape up some of the topiary as it was all getting out of hand, but what it really needs is someone with a steady hand and lots of patience to take over the clipping …
Here are some photos of work I have been doing at the garden of Charlotte Molesworth in Kent. Snow and ice brings out the depth of the different planes and angles carved into the boxwood. A garden has to look beautiful in winter – and topiary (green architecture) helps do that! For more topiary pictures, click here.
How To Use Topiary In The Garden is my new talk, which I first gave last year via Zoom for the European Boxwood And Topiary Society. Returning to Zoom again, there are two dates available to see and hear the talk: March 16th – Book your ticket here April 6th – Book your ticket here The talk is great fun, perfect for keen gardeners or people who want to know how to improve their garden with hedges and architectural plants. How To Use Topiary In The Garden looks at how to move away from the idea topiary is twee or old-fashioned, …