Seasonal Interest/Low maintenance
The number one request from our customers is the hardest to achieve. Seasonal interest with low maintenance. What exactly do they want? First we need to ask them a few questions.
What do they consider low maintenance? What would they rather do, pull weeds or cut grass? Some people find it relaxing to hop on their mower and spend a couple of hours cutting the lawn. Other folks, love to get down on their knees and pull weeds as they work their way through the garden. Finally, we have a few that would rather drive up, walk through the yard, give everything a smiling glance and head inside. We have a maintenance division for you.
The secret to developing a landscape that is low maintenance with seasonal interest is by careful plant placement. I consider myself a symphony conductor and the musicians are the plants. There are plants that provide the backbone of the design and they set the tone for the type of concert that is envisioned. Large evergreens symmetrically placed with coarse leaves, medium textured smaller shrubs with spring blooms of vibrant pink give way to white flowers floating over borders of junipers which contrast with a sinuous movement of variegated liriope as it moves in and out of the landscape border. As spring gives way to summer the pastels of spring are replaced with vibrant purples, reds, oranges and clear whites. Perennials can be tucked in behind low growing shrubs so that they can have their turn and then fade out without the issue of maintenance. There are several ways to contrast foliage and flower throughout the growing season so that things are always blooming, the secret is to do the research and to know the plant material. The garden writer and horticulturist Louise Beebe Wilder and the garden design icon Gertrude Jekyll were famous for doing seasonal sketches of garden beds and recording their observations. They sketched out each season of the landscape to coordinate the overlap of colors and textures in the garden. They kept journals, vividly describing combinations of plant material that caught their eye. As a beginner or novice the best way to lay out the garden for seasonal interest is to use Jekyll and Wilder’s approach.
If you are new to the area or are just starting to sort out your ideas then you need to record plant bloom times for your area. Every week, note the plants that are in bloom or providing some sort of desirable attribute. Continue to do this for an entire year and make note of the plants that are reliably successful, have long bloom time or highlight combinations of plant materials that are particularly appealing. This will help you make plant choices for continual seasonal interest. The next hurdle is the understanding of microclimate for correct plant placement. North orientation, seasonal shade patterns, prevailing winds, water availability and soil conditions are just a few of the many things that also need to be considered with plant placement. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this will help to narrow down the list of what you can actually use in your garden. The prevalence of shade or sun also dictate the plant list. Deer, voles, rabbits and moles are close behind in measuring your choices. But alas, they may have made the list shorter and therefore easier on your purse.
Gather your lists together and use trace paper to do overlays for each season. Remember that flowers will perform solos but the foliage can set the tempo of the season and the contrast of foliage texture and color has a longer performance than the flowers of the plants. The brass section is the coarse leaved holly while the strings are the feathery grasses swinging in the wind.
If you find yourself struggling with these choices it is always wise to consult a horticulturist. A landscape designer with training in horticulture can be the conductor of your symphony. Contact our professional today.