Your guide to low maintenance garden pride

Step into Spring with an easy breezy breakdown on how to maintain your garden and still have time to enjoy it!

Often when we move to our new home the priority is to concentrate on the interior and very often the outdoor space is ignored. Fear not, as here are some helpful hints to get even the most lackluster gardener into the spirit of easy and effortless garden maintenance.

As we’re heading towards better weather and longer evenings, start planning your low maintenance garden now! There is an array of plants to choose from and something to suit everyone’s style in a variety of colour, form and texture. Remember preparation is key, but once that’s achieved you will be rewarded with long-term planting, that virtually looks after itself.

Our main constraint is the time we have spare to spend in the garden, if only we could go outside and just relax in it; there is so much to do! Well have no fear there is a sensible solution, and with just a small amount of planning and a few hours of preparation, you could soon be reclining on the sun lounger with a gin and tonic, while your beautiful garden grows gently around you.

One of the first things to do is establish where in the garden the sun and shade falls, and what sort of soil you are dealing with. Frequently in a brand new home the soil will be compacted from the contractors vehicles or contain a fair amount of ‘hidden extras’ below the surface and generally lacking in nutrients. The next sensible thing would be to prepare the ground according to the soil.

If the soil is wet, sticky and heavy, incorporate a good amount of grit to improve the drainage. A dry, sand-like soil will need plenty of conditioning and bulk, therefore dig in a few bags of soil improver or multi-purpose compost. If you need new fencing or want to add some decking to your garden for maximum impact and minimum effort, then it’s worth checking out Glebe Fencing who are specialist in this area and work in Kent and surrounding areas. Remember good preparation is the key for long-term low maintenance gardening.

If the garden is in sun most of the day it’s worth considering a gravel garden, where sun loving plants and shrubs can establish and grow quite happily, free of weeds and constant watering. Simply lay a weed membrane on the prepared area and cut a hole just large enough for the rootball to go into. When all the plants are in place, cover the membrane with a layer of pea shingle, or larger gravel if you so desire. The membrane will prevent weed from settling in the soil, and the gravel will help keep the moisture in, thus reducing precious time spent on maintenance. You could actually dispense with the lawn altogether and give the whole garden over to gravel with strategic planting.

If the garden is on the shady side, rather than gravel, a mulch of bark would be more suitable. Apply after planting as this will again keep moisture in and reduce weed germination.

Believe it or not there is a fantastic choice when it comes to choosing plants that require very little, if any maintenance once they are established. Evergreen plants are the ultimate in low maintenance, and for a good balance, select a mix of trees, palms, shrubs, grasses, bamboos and even climbers.

Most new homes come with pocket size gardens these days, so a good choice of tree for a sunny spot in small garden would be the olive tree Olea europaea, either planted in the ground or in a pot (ground is less maintenance). On a free draining soil it requires virtually no maintenance other than watering regularly when first planted. The olive tree is evergreen, hardy and comes in all shapes and sizes suitable for all budgets.

The slim and elegant Cupressus sempervirens, the Cypress tree, reminiscent of Italian landscapes will give height without taking over space, and once established it can be left to its own devices.

For a more tropical feel; palms such as Chamaerops humilis European Palm or Trachycarpus fortuneii the Chusan Palm will add drama and year round interest. Either palm will tolerate some shade as well as full sun, both are hardy, especially the Trachycarpus. Shrubs such as the slow growing Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’ are fantastic where lower height is a requirement or for raised beds. They are evergreen, have beautifully shaped foliage and highly scented flowers in late spring.

For the sunny wall the definitive plant must be Trachelospermum jasminoides. It has attractive glossy leaves which are a deep green in the growing season, turning a deep red in the colder months, revert to green in the spring, with small, deliciously scented jasmine-like flowers in the summer. Trachelospermum is slow growing and very well behaved, so no cutting back every year. All that’s required is something for it to grow through for support. Plant a couple of these near your seating area for major perfume impact!

Ornamental grasses provide a wonderful soft texture that contrasts superbly with other plants, and if you go for the evergreen varieties such as Nasselle tenuissima or Anemanthele lessoniana, there will be no cutting down in spring. There are also some superb bamboo varieties available, which look wonderful either planted in the ground or in a pot, just remember that containers need extra maintenance. We use Fargesia Juizhaigou, which is simply one of the most stunning and graceful bamboos from China, with red glowing stems and tiny leaves evocative of Chinese ink paintings. A bamboo like this is slow growing, clump forming and not remotely invasive, and looks amazing throughout the year.

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