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Design A Time Saving Garden

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For many, changes in their garden design are often made to accommodate the lack of time available to actually tend their garden. This can mean losing areas of lawn which are high maintenance and fiddly to mow, replacing perennial borders with evergreens to add interest all year round, and introducing large all-year plants to containers rather than annuals which have to be changed from season to season.

There are some who fear that a low-maintenance garden will become dull and colourless or simply a haven to paving slabs and concrete, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Cottage gardens are probably out for the time-strapped gardener as they are generally teeming with plants which need some care, including annuals, perennials and roses and although they may look natural, they need an awful lot of cutting back and dead-heading. Likewise, traditional formal gardens with the neatest of flower borders, bowling green lawns and carefully-clipped hedges require a lot of maintenance and time.

You can, however, create a visually pleasing space which won’t take huge amounts of time to tend if you plan carefully.

Small, enclosed spaces are perfect for paving, which could be surrounded by raised beds, narrow borders and pots, so you can still experiment with planting but won’t be weeding and digging for hours on end.

You might include different textures to your hard landscaping to create interest, such as ceramics or cobbles. Raised beds can also offer casual seating and changes in level to an otherwise featureless space.

Low-maintenance larger gardens can be separated into compartments which can be screened from each other to provide surprises and changes in mood. Many ornamental grasses, including Stipa tenuissima and sedges (Carex), can be dotted at ground level in gravel or slate to provide texture to otherwise boring areas.

Large single specimen plants of architectural interest, such as Japanese maples or phormiums, stand out if placed against uncluttered backdrops and can provide a far more pleasing picture than a series of smaller pots containing a variety of different plants.

To reduce maintenance, use fences with climbing plants rather than hedges which need trimming, paths of gravel or bricks instead of grass ones and self-watering hanging baskets instead of free-draining ones.

Don’t make your flower borders too deep as you’ll end up becoming a slave to weeding and watering. Use reliable ground cover plants such as cranesbill geranium to take up any visible soil space and mulch your borders and areas of bare ground to suppress weeds.

Paved or decked areas, which are easy to keep tidy and weed-free, provide the hard landscaping for you to tend your surrounding plants, which ideally should include a selection of low maintenance flowering shrubs and evergreens.

Remember, though, that while some gardens can be low maintenance, no garden is ‘no maintenance’. Work out how much time you are going to have to look after your garden and then plan accordingly. Take time now to make design changes and you’ll save a heap of time later in the season.

Best of the bunch - Fatsia japonica

This shade-loving evergreen is as tough as old boots provided you don’t place it in full sun. It provides a tropical touch with its glossy hand-shaped leaves and branched creamy white flowerheads in autumn. Also known as the false castor oil plant, it has a strong architectural presence with its all-year large glossy leaves and can take up a large space, reaching 3m x 3m (10ft x 10ft) when fully grown. For white-edged leaves, go for Variegata. It will thrive in dry, shady places where others quickly wilt. It does, however, need shade or at least partial shade. No pruning is necessary, just snip out any dead leaves caught by the frost to give it a spring clean.