Types of Gardens -The Low-Maintenance Garden
There are many types of gardens and the low-maintenance garden is an ideal garden for the elderly, lazy or those who work long hours and need the place for relaxation and perhaps entertaining. Once established, it should require very little time and effort to keep it looking at its best. I hate to nag about this but, once again, it is the initial planning which will make all possible.
The traditional lawn is out, since even the smallest lawn takes more time and effort than any other part of the garden except, perhaps the rockery – but who would want one of those? If you must have something that looks like a lawn, in sunny places try Camomile ‘Treneague’, some of the creeping Thymes or Raoulia tenuicaulis, planting them in lightto which you have added some coarse sand or grit. You will have to weed between them until they have dug their toes in and begun to spread themselves about a bit, but after that it will be a brave weed that breaks their ranks. In a shady place, clipped Ivy or the tiny Helxine (Mind-your-own-business) are the answer, although the latter will not endure too much wear and tear. In a small courtyard or roof garden, you can go all out for artifice and have one of the imitation grasses. Be careful about the colour – some of them are rather too bright – but there is a very nice shade of silvery-olive which is most dignified and restrained. It does not mind sun or shade, can be hosed or hoovered and is exceptionally popular with sunbathers.
If you absolutely insist on grass, set narrow strips of it between rows of brickwork or. These can be mown or clipped quite quickly and there will be little or no edge clipping to be done.
Some form of paving is another solution, whether in a single material or, if the area is largish, in a mixture of several – stone, brick, cobbles and gravel – with plants growing up through the surface here and there. A pool or water garden, once made and planted, will need little attention. Well stocked with plants, water snails and, it will give a great deal of pleasure and will look after itself most of the time, if you keep it clear of fallen leaves.
All plants will need some care and attention in their first year or two, but some are more resilient than others. In any case, it is important to have an outside tap, at the very least, to make watering easier, if you cannot run to a fully automatic watering system.
In a small garden, it may be that you will only need one good specimen tree or large shrub. Choose one of the so-called ‘architectural’ plants: those which are handsome in form and foliage. They are most often evergreen and keep their good looks throughout the year. This is important if the garden is used in winter or is in constant view. Camellias, Fatsias, Mahonias and Yuccas are all good examples of this type of plant. Then, with one or two containers planted out with a succession of bulbs and annuals, placed near the house where they can be watered easily, you will have a garden of maximum impact achieved with the minimum of effort. Even the most ham-fisted can make and maintain this type of garden in a most economical fashion.
The ultimate in low maintenance is the painted garden. This is perfect for the young and itinerant. Walls or a portable back-drop are painted with murals – classical, tropical, surreal or of nursery-rhyme simplicity. Plants and ornaments are painted on to wooden cut-outs (marine ply would be best) and placed cunningly between large containers of real plants. Trellis and mirror can add to the illusion, imitation grass is a must (here you could use the bright green one) and the whole lot can be packed up and moved on to the next basement flat, re-erected, given a new lick of paint here and there, perhaps, and be back in business the same day. Made with old off-cuts of wood from skips, etc., and using any number of left-over bits of paint, it can be a long-lasting and incredibly cheap way to brighten up your life and living quarters.