As an experienced landscaper knows, there’s real value in knowing which plants look good without too much attention, and which can handle all kinds of weather and soil conditions. This is easier with shrubs and hardy plants, but what about low maintenance flowering plants? Easy-care plants for the garden can still give you attractive beds and borders, it’s just a case of finding the right ones. Perennials are often chosen for this as they live longer than two years, with many blooming throughout the spring and summer. A selection of hardy perennials you’ll find in the UK include:
Lily of the valley – with bell-shaped, pale flowers that bloom in summer, lily of the valley makes a very pleasing perennial with an attractive scent. It’s an easy-care plant that grows in shaded or semi-shaded spots. It can spread, so it will need some room to grow. Lily of the valley thrives when the soil is covered with mulch and bark chippings.
Echinacea – because it can handle quite harsh winters, Echinacea is often a popular choice in the UK, and is particularly good at surviving frosts. The flowers tend to bloom in their second year after planting, with best conditions being under shade, boasting attractive purple flowers.
Achillea – also known as yarrow, achillea can grow well in direct sunlight or shade. It’s a good plant for most weathers, but it’s important to keep the soil well drained as flooding can cause damage to the plants. You can find varieties of achillea in colours from white and golden yellow, to reds and purples.
There are shrubs that can stay healthy-looking throughout the year, that don’t lose their leaves and can also flower. These easy-care plants are a great choice for low maintenance borders and beds, and you can choose from evergreen or deciduous shrubs for variety. This offers several options based on personal taste, giving the choice of a mixture of all-year-round greenery or bursts of blooms.
Evergreen Shrubs – The beauty of evergreen shrubs is that they will remain fairly consistent in how they look from year to year. This is especially true of dwarf evergreen shrubs, which tend not to grow more than six to twelve inches a year. This means you can use them for wide paths, along the sides of driveways and borders without sprawling out too far.
Deciduous Shrubs – Deciduous shrubs tend to have seasonal growth and foliage, with varieties that also flower in warmer months. What makes deciduous shrubs such a good choice in the garden is the way they change throughout the year, with green leaves that can turn orange and red as the plants become dormant in autumn.
Flowers that work well in raised beds are herbaceous perennials. For example, camelias, Pieris japonica and magnolia grow well in acidic soil, while alkaline soil is good for lily of the valley, lavender and lilac. As long as the soil is kept fairly moist through warmer months, and you follow any tending instructions, you can get flowers years after year. One of the benefits of a raised bed is that you can add a soil of your choice, such as some with a specific acidity level, so you can choose exactly what you want to plant.
If you’ve considered raised beds, they can be constructed from any material, as long as it’s sturdy, including metal frames, timber or railway sleepers. So why are raised garden beds good? They’re easier to manage for those who struggle to work at ground level, and also give excellent draining. Raised beds also allow for water to soak through the soil and out through the bottom of the bed with little obstruction.
If you’re looking to grow your own and make use of your garden for practical reasons, growing fruit and vegetables is a good idea. Not only can this help with your grocery costs, but it’s also a great way to make your home a little more environmentally friendly, reducing waste packaging. While some vegetables can take a lot of time to set up, propagate and nurture, there are others that you can almost just throw in soil and wait (within reason)!
Potatoes – perhaps one of the easiest vegetables to grow, seed potatoes can be planted in bins or pots. They can be simply left to grow by just adding layers of compost as leaves appear. When the leaves flower, that’s when you harvest them, which means just emptying the container and sorting out the spuds.
Courgettes – you don’t need too many courgette plants to create a good crop, and they can take up a fair bit of space in your beds. You can grow them from seedlings indoors around April/May, then plant in the ground from around May/June for harvesting in October. Aside from planting and harvesting, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them though – courgettes can get too big and grow into marrows!
Radishes – if you want to see quick results, radishes are great fast growing, easy-care vegetables. You can sow a few seeds across summer months, giving you a series of batches until autumn. This is especially great for getting kids into growing as they can see the fruits, or rather vegetables, of their labour without waiting too long.
The trick of having a garden that doesn’t need a lot of work is to create a space that has different levels and features. For example, if you were to have a series of ground level beds and grass, they need more obvious attention throughout the year, as they are the most obvious, visible areas. If you have staged levels, and features such as trellis, this creates a more interesting space that requires less work to keep interesting. However, there are other ways to have a garden that doesn’t demand too much continual attention.
Artificial grass is a good way of keeping your lawn green no matter the season. However, it’s not just a simple case of laying artificial turf over soil, or existing grass, without some work. This can make the lawn seem bumpy and uneven. It’s important to dig into the ground about 75mm deep, creating a level area to lay the artificial grass onto. Dig a little deeper, around 100mm for poor drainage areas. It’s also a good idea to consider laying down weed control fabric first, as weeds can still push their way through the artificial grass.
Another alternative to natural grass is to replace a lawn, or sections of lawn for other materials such as gravel. Gravel delivers a finish that doesn’t need the same attention that grass does - no mowing, no feeding, no watering. And with the colours and types of gravel available it can still be decorative. It’s worth pointing out that you may still need to lay down weed proof membrane or landscaping fabric first, as weeds can still grow through.