One of the most popular topics I discuss with new landscape clients is garden maintenance. Low maintenance gardens are popular for understandable reasons. Every year there seems to be more influences on our lives that affect our available time. If a landscape client is considering installing a new landscape or expanding on their current landscape, the discussion eventually needs to turn to the topic of maintenance. Landscapes are living, breathing environments. From the day a landscape is installed, it’s either moving forward or it’s moving backwards so who is maintaining a landscape and how much money is available to maintain a landscape on an ongoing basis is an important factor to figure out early in the landscape design process. Two important questions are:
1. What is the clients interest in gardening?
2. What resources does the client have in regards to time and/or money to put towards garden maintenance?
The answers to these questions should give the designer/installer an idea of who will be maintaining the garden and how much resources will be available to maintain a garden. To a certain extent, the answers to these questions will dictate how the garden will be designed.
When thinking about low maintenance gardens, most of the conversation revolves around the type of garden, the size of the garden and the plants that fill those gardens. These factors definitely influence the amount of time needed to maintain a garden.
Another factor that is hardly ever mentioned while discussing low maintenance gardens but is just as important, is the environmental/cultural influences as it relates to plant selection.
How much sun or shade an area gets, existing soil conditions, how exposed or sheltered a site is and hardiness zones are just a few of the environmental/cultural conditions that can play a big factor in how much maintenance a garden will or will not need. The right plant in the right place is the x factor in creating a low maintenance garden. A plant that is placed outside any of it’s environmental/cultural requirements has the potential to struggle through life. A plant that is placed outside any of it’s environmental/cultural requirements will also expend more energy than it typically would, struggling to survive. A weakened plant doesn’t do so well fending for itself. It’s been proven that a struggling plant can not fend off insects and diseases as well as a healthy plant. A plant planted outside its hardiness zone or is marginally hardy needs to be babied with winter protection and anti-desiccants. A plant that is sitting in a high water table that prefers hot and dry soils with need special attention. As you can see, human interaction, meaning labor and materials will be needed to maintain the situations above. I suppose every homeowner has a different definition of what it means to have a low maintenance garden but I think everyone would agree that a low maintenance garden should eliminate as much human intervention as possible. A low maintenance landscape needs to start long before the landscape installation with a thorough site analysis. Once you know the site conditions, it’s imperative to pick plants that have evolved in similar conditions. That’s a great first step towards a low maintenance landscape.
Blue Spruce prefer fun sun yet were planted in the shade.