Green. Organic. Sustainable. Low impact.
No matter what you call it, gardening in tune with nature is the ultimate in low maintenance garden smarts. Unnatural approaches to gardening is turning homeowners into slaves and producing chemical-dependent plants. We regularly hear from frustrated homeowners who have wasted time, money, water, fertilizer and plants in poorly thought out designs that conflict with mother nature. And frankly, it’s hard to kick back on a deck chair when the yard is a mess.
We are here to tell you that stylish, lush, functional and plant filled gardens can still be low maintenance. And low impact too.
Well designed low maintenance gardens have certain characteristics in common.
Simplicity: A well planned and executed design reduces maintenance more than any other factor. Whether you seek professional design expertise or do it yourself, the underlying design of the garden should be strong, simple and suitably scaled. The more thought put into your design, the better your garden will look year round and the less maintenance it will require.
Structure: The first thing we look at when we do an initial site visit is the structure of the garden. This includes hardscapes such as paths, patios, arbors, fire pits, raised beds and decks; the design and the architectural elements determine how easy a garden is to care for. We also consider larger trees, hedges and evergreens; plants that offer year round vertical and horizontal interest. They provide structure, set boundaries and can add privacy, enclosure and intimacy in the same way that fences can. Invest in materials that will last and use less of everything; if quality materials seem expensive, realize that cheap ones are more so in terms of both time and cost.
Repetition: Too much variety in plants or materials can create a maintenance nightmare. Well designed gardens use favorite plants massed or repeated again and again in garden beds or borders. Repetition creates rhythm in the garden, provides visual resting points and makes gardens easier to care for.
Thoughtful choices: Repeat after us: right plant, right place. Seriously folks, plant based on the mature size of the plant. And buy the biggest plant size you can afford; none of us will live long enough to see a tree in a 4 inch pot reach maturity. Buy your plants, soil and mulch from a nursery if quality matters to you. Read the label on the “black earth” at the grocery store..it is almost always peat moss not nutritious top soil that is organic-rich food for plant growth. Finally, believe in the maintenance reducing power of mulch…it will limit weeds and water consumption while adding valuable soil nutrients and polish to your garden.
Artful editing: Paring down the garden to that which is functional and beautiful, brings consistency and finds the balance between less is more and almost empty. Luxury landscapes aren’t overcrowded; they are properly spare so that each carefully chosen plant or favorite element can stand out and be enjoyed. Take a page from Tiffany’s and BMW’s playbook and apply it to your garden. A garden with less to care for is more satisfying than one that is jam-packed.
Earth friendly: Healthy gardens start with compost rich soil, smart plant choices, locally purchased materials and native plants that easily grow with less maintenance from the gardener. Plant non-invasive blooming plants that support pollinators.
Re-think the lawn: To be honest, we don’t understand the obsession with lawns. The largest agricultural commodity is lawns: they are thirsty, greedy consumers of fuel, water, fertilizers, pesticides and your weekend time. Hiring a lawn care company will save you time but the toxic emissions and environmental impacts will be the same. Reducing the size of your lawn can save you time, energy and money. Consider alternatives to your lawn and regain downtime on the weekends.
Good garden design is about long term goals and daily needs. Regardless of their size, location, cost or style, well-designed gardens can be low maintenance and low impact too.
Get back to basics and what a garden is really all about….dozing in the sun, listening to the kids play, watching bees, butterflies and birds, burgers on the barbeque and reflecting on how good life is in the back yard.