Labour Saving Gardens
It cannot be stressed enough that a well-planned garden is a garden that is easy to run.
It is not the slightest good planning an elaborate plantsman’s paradise that is totally beyond your capabilities, bearing in mind that you will perhaps be a Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning gardener because of work or family commitments. Otherwise your dream will soon become a nightmare!
It is possible to have a trouble-free, light-work garden of pleasing design. Most of the basic garden design principles that have already been mentioned will still be applicable. You will still want, no doubt, a patio, lawns, a selection of trees and shrubs; it becomes a question of substituting less troublesome features for those that require year-round maintenance.
Larger paved areas than would normally be the case can help, and choice of materials for paths and so on will also affect the amount of work required through the year. Gravel paths for example, require regular maintenance. Slabs, asphalt or concrete would be better.
Pools can be left to their own devices for long periods of the year and require only occasional tending; huge rockeries can be tedious, but again the amount of work they will entail is largely controlled by the type of plants you use. Lawns are trouble free for five months of the year, apart from regular raking of dead leaves; but for the remaining seven months they will require a good deal of time-consuming attention. So remember that if you are thinking of turning over huge areas to grass.
Perhaps the major part of the work in a pleasing design can be eliminated by careful selection of plants for borders and beds. Take the conventional plantings of geraniums, salvias, antirrhinums, petunias, lobelia and so on. There’s a good deal of work involved, growing them, planting out and general maintenance and anyway, the sheer routine of such schemes is itself a good reason for a change. Try this arrangement as a trouble-free substitute: plant out dwarf shrubs like lavenders, heathers, potentillas, cotoneasters, dwarf conifers, helianthemums and set them out two to three feet apart. In between them, plant a selection of winter, summer and autumn. In the centre of the bed, plant three or four clematis, choosing varieties to flower at different times of the year; but don’t give them any support. Just let them grow along the ground, spreading between the shrubs and pegging down where necessary. You will have a year-round colour spectacular that is hard to beat and, apart from one or two clean-up operations, it is entirely work-free.
There are many other ground cover shrubs that can be used for planting a less-work border, includingprocumbens, a mat of bright yellow in May; fortunei ‘Gracilis’, a spreading green foliage with silver-grey variegated leaves; dalmatica, a carpet of white yellow summer flowers; Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’, a low-growing conifer; Vinca major ‘Elegantissima’; Senecio laxifolius with its grey leaves.
Ground cover perennials which are suitable for in-filling between larger shrubs, thus creating labour-saving borders, include: ajuga, bergenia, hosta, polygonum, pulmonaria, Sedum spectabile, Stachys lanata and Tiarella cordifolia.
Consider all these when planning your garden borders.