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Low-Maintenance Gardening

by Judy Camp

A popular trend in gardening today is to go low maintenance. We want a beautiful garden, but a busy lifestyle means we don't have time to tend to it on a regular basis. Today we want gardening to be as easy as possible.

"Low-maintenance gardens can be high on impact, and they can be just as stylish as gardens that demand regular attention," according to Peter McHoy in his book Planning Your Garden.

Low-maintenance gardens allow you to leave for a week or more, and the plants can fend for themselves. The most important aspect of a low maintenance garden, besides your choice of plants, is the floor for your garden. "It's important to get this aspect of the garden right, as, initially, it will be the most time-consuming and costly part of planning your garden," McHoy says. "Large areas of the same kind of hard landscaping material will look boring. Be prepared to mix different kinds of paving materials." In Planning Your Garden, McHoy shows how to use various materials to create symmetry in your garden design.

Here are some inspirational ideas for easy gardening:

• Paving: a huge variety of pavers are available, but you will need lots of plants in combination with them to soften the effect. You can pave a walkway through your garden, or create a patio, with plants throughout.

• Gravel and stone: These are best with drought-resistant plants such as lavenders. A few plants go a long way in this type of garden, and maintenance is limited to trimming back any plants that begin to outgrow their space," says Peter McHoy. Lay the gravel thick to keep weeds away.

• Raised beds: These can be used in conjunction with various ground coverings, and can be made of wood, brick, or a number of other materials. Raised beds usually hold a greater depth of soil th an do pots or tubs, so plants are less likely to dry out, and it should not be necessary to water a raised bed daily during hot weather, according to the book, Planning Your Garden.

• Use drought-resistant plants: check with your local nursery for the plants that grow best in your climate, and choose the ones that work the best with your garden style.

• Ground-cover plants: "Ground-cover plants are also important 'carpets' for suitable beds and borders," says McHoy. Use plants that do well in your area. Some choices include moss, chamomile, thyme, and even clover.

• Other options include planting through gravel, through gaps in a patio, and against walls.

The number of plants you use, and the size of your low-maintenance garden is up to you. The more plants you use, the more tending they will require. But your initial planning will make a huge difference in the time you need to spend, as well as your enjoyment later in your perfectly designed garden.

Judy Camp is a writer for . Read more articles on home and garden topics in the Home Style News email newsletter. Subscribe free at

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