A low maintenance garden doesn’t have to look utilitarian or uninspired. Here is a thoughtfully written and nicely organized book to help you create a varied garden that you will love and love to work in—The New Low-Maintenance Garden by Valerie Easton and photographs by Jacqueline M. Koch, is filled with photos and ideas that will have you impatient for the planting season.
Here are some examples straight from the book:
Strategies for easy-care ground covers:
Ground covers can be labor saving; when selected wisely for existing conditions and planted in well-prepared soil, ground covers take far less fertilizer and water than lawn grass, and don’t need mowing, edging, or raking. Ground cover plantings are permeable, allowing water to percolate through the soil slowly rather than run off as storm water, which is especially problematic in our cities and suburbs.
• Avoid plants that need deadheading, fertilizing, or dividing.
• Choose plants of similar timidity or vigor so that they’ll coexist harmoniously, without one type or another dominating and crowding the others out.
• Plant ground covers more closely together than you might expect: for instance, small plugs of moss and thyme should be planted no more than your hand’s width apart (which makes for easy measuring when planting). Avoid planting in even rows; staggered rows or a diamond pattern or even random patterning, looks most natural as the plants grow in.
• Consider installing drip irrigation or soaker hoses to keep ground covers well watered, especially in the first few years, which will encourage them to cover the ground much more quickly.
• Mulch between freshly planted ground covers and pull weeds regularly until the plants are large enough and cover the ground enough to out-compete the weeds.
• When planting ground covers on a slope, choose strong, tough varieties that can withstand drought. Then carve out temporary little terraces, or angled trenches with a lip on the downhill side, to keep water from running off or eroding the soil away from the baby plants’ roots.
• Any sharp, clean edge makes maintenance easier. Defining the edges of ground cover beds helps keep them tidy and the dirt from spilling over onto pathways, patios, or lawn.
• When planted in masses, ground covers can substitute for lawn, especially the “stepable” types like Irish moss, blue star creeper, and wooly thyme.
• Get the most visual impact from ground covers by combining them with hardscape. The textures and colors of the plants are shown off when lapping up against the edges of decks, patios, and terraces or growing around pavers. Planted in cracks and crevices, ground covers soften the edges of the hardscape as well as keep weeds out of difficult places.
• Ground covers and ground huggers aren’t synonymous, so don’t limit your thinking to low growers. Ferns, epimediums, hostas, ornamental grasses, lavender, and shorter bamboos work massed or interplanted to keep down weeds and cover the ground.
, by Valerie Easton (Timber Press, $19.95) Low-Maintenance Garden
Look for it and get a jump on Spring.