Less Is More
The buzz these days in the garden world seems to be all about ‘low maintenance’. It is a concept I fully embrace in many aspects of my life, including my garden. It was my governing mantra as I reworked my front yard last year.
It started with a wet basement and ended with the drain tiles being replaced and a revamping of my front yard next to the house. When all the plants were removed and the lawn was buried in cardboard and soil, I was determined to put things back differently. Because I was also creating beds where there once was lawn I had to be particularly diligent with my ‘less work’ theme. I enjoy my garden, but middle age has made me realize that I don’t want to spend all of my free time maintaining it.
This was especially important in my front yard where little time is spent. I needed to limit my plant palette to easy care, trouble-free shrubs with much less focus on perennials. And of course living in Victoria also means the plants needed to be deer resistant. I did not want to spend time spraying, stringing or dangling product in the dance of the deer. To me low maintenance meant a simpler multiple planting, less variety of plants, more subtle colour in foliage over flower, more shades of green and grey, more focus on texture, and overriding considerations of mature size and drought capabilities. It was a very deliberate and trying exercise in restraint. My final composition included a few carefully chosen small trees, a limited assortment of small to medium-sized shrubs, with perennial accents of ornamental grasses, herbs and ferns. Instead of gravel pathways I chose easy care concrete stepping stones with amenable ground cover.
The ‘less work’ mantra also meant that I completed the front yard planting with a 2 inch layer of mulch to ease up on the weeding, watering and fertilizing. It has also come to mean choosing my battles in the plant world. I am learning to embrace the violet which was never planted but is proving impossible to eradicate. I am also getting used to the somewhat disheveled, less tidy look of my garden. I am reaching for that cup of tea despite the dandelions.
The ‘low maintenance’ mantra will mean different things to different gardeners. I am still figuring out where I will draw the line in terms of my garden work. Two books with plenty of good ideas for minimizing our time spent toiling away are Tracy Disabato-Aust’s 50 High-Impact, Low Care Garden Plants and Valerie Easton’s The New Low-Maintenance Garden.