Maintenance Free Garden Favourites

 

This time of year blooms are pretty scarce in my gardens.  As I prepare my clients’ garden beds for the fast approaching winter, I take note (mentally) which perennials are essentially maintenance free.  That feature is in great demand for busy gardeners.

Heucheras are one of these.  They look great all year, even after the first few frosts have turned most other perennial stalks and leaves to mush.  They are absolutely maintenance free in the fall and require next to nothing in the spring.  Remove any crispy leaves and they are good to go.  I particularly love the dark burgundy colored varieties, but there are many others, including rusty orange and chartreuse. More and more I am using them as edging plants in my gardens…

maintenance free

 

Other (almost) maintenance free perennials include the ornamental grasses that are so popular today.  One of the reasons they are so popular is the fact that cutting them back to the ground first thing in the spring before new growth appears is the only maintenance required.  Another reason for their popularity is the growing number of gorgeous varieties available.  Remember though to check tags for their hardiness before purchasing. Here are just a few…

Although sedges look like they belong in the ornamental grass family, they don’t.  They are grass-like in appearance and grow in tufts, especially well in wet marshy areas.  Unlike the ornamental grasses, they don’t do well in the hot dry conditions of full sun spots in your garden.  They do however look great in shadier spots and tolerate part sun conditions.  Remaining green all year, they are maintenance free.  Another bonus is that they are very easy (unlike the ornamental grasses) to divide and move around.  So easy in fact that I have even used them in winter containers with evergreen boughs.

maintenance free

 

Although roses are not completely maintenance free, the newest varieties are pretty close.  Some don’t need any pruning (shrub roses) and others need only minor pruning after the last frost date in spring.  Many of the newest varieties bloom all summer long too.  Shrub roses do not need winter protection and many are hardy to zone 2!  To protect other hardy roses I mound soil around the base/crown of the plant after the ground freezes.  This prevents damage from freeze and thaw cycles through the winter.

 

Take your pick.  Most of these perennials pictured here are relatively maintenance free.  Just what busy garden lovers want.

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I’m a snob

Ok, I will admit it, I am a snob, a plant snob that is!  Some plants I find just too common and boring.  For example, “Look at that beautiful hosta!” said no one ever.  Or spirea either for that matter, unless you are talking one of the bridal wreath variety, then you may just hear or think that, but only if it is pruned correctly.

So, if that makes me a plant snob, then so be it.  I appear to have developed an aversion to hostas, probably because people have overused them in their gardens.  The only time I enjoy them is in the very early spring when their green spikes are one of the first signs of new growth to emerge from the soil as it thaws out here in the Ottawa area.  In the summer they get eaten by slugs and earwigs, and in the fall they turn mushy and slimy…

 

 

So, what perennials do I prefer over hostas for the edges of my gardens in my GARDENS4U and home gardens?  Here are my choices:

For shady areas I like perennial geraniums.  They are one of the first perennials to green up in the spring, require no maintenance what so ever, and maintain their neat, non-sprawling (most varieties) mounded shape.  They do spread throughout the garden, but are very shallow rooted, so easy to remove.  These geraniums are great for planting under trees, even evergreen trees where nothing else will thrive.

Another good choice for an edging plant in shady areas is lamium.  It is one of my favourites with its variegated leaves, reblooming pale flowers, and tidy habit.

be a plant snob with a lamium border

 

For part shade to part sun locations in the garden, I am loving heucheras these days.  Some varieties tolerate more sun than others, so be sure to read the tags.  By the way, heuchera is pronounced with a hard c.  I will never forget that after I was chastised for mispronouncing it by a 93-year-old client.  Heucheras come in a variety of colors from palest green to bright chartreuse to orangy-brown to reddish brown to deep wine red.  Leaf shapes vary too from smooth and rounded, to almost maple-leaf-like, to curly, lettuce-leaf-like.  They look good all summer, need no fall cleanup or protection, and survive our cold winters with no problem.  A simple tug to remove any crispy leaves in the spring and they are good to go.

become a plant snob with heucheras for borders

My first choice for full sun edging plants are those in the sedum or stonecrop families.  As succulents, sedums and stonecrops are all drought tolerant, thriving in hot, dry areas, especially next to stone walkways where not much else will grow. They too come in a variety of colors and shapes.  These sedums and stonecrops look especially nice when several varieties are planted together.

So, next season think outside of your comfort zone. Become a plant snob by replacing those boring hostas with a little more pizazz!

 

Latest garden project by Gardens4u

.As our fall weather was too nice to start garden cleanups and winter preparation, Gardens4u took on another garden project last week.  This client lives on the same street as two other clients for whom I have recently reconstructed front gardens.  This client wanted a smaller footprint for the new garden with plants that require no maintenance and stay tidy looking all season.  I started by removing all of the existing plants, leaving the large rock as the focal point…

"Gardens4u

Gardens4u after the clean out
after the clean out

 

I replanted a ring of groundcover (lamium) around the tree to include the tree in the garden.  I added heuchera in various colors around the perimeter of the garden to define its new edge, including around the outer edges of the rock. Both of these inclusions make it easier for the lawnmower, removing the chore of trimming around the tree and rock.  The large and overgrown clump of Solomon’s seal was dug out from around the rock.  It was overpowering the rock and looked messy.  In its place, I planted three different varieties of ornamental grass.  These were strategically placed around the edges of the rock.  Two tall ones went at the corners closest to the house and a shorter one at the front, outer edge.  This will draw the eye to the rock, making it an integral part of the garden.

New plants included the heuchera, a dwarf shrub rose, a varigated and reblooming weigela, as well as several colorful and long blooming perennials.  I reused a few daylilies, some (a very small portion) of the lamium, and none of the aggressive Solomon’s seal.  Unused plants have been potted up in my ICU (home inventory of plants) for recycling (use in someone else’s gardens).  Grass seed was sprinkled on the bare spots where the garden used to extend to.  The grass seed should be well watered after the past few days of rainy weather.  If the mild weather holds, the grass may even grow before spring.

The end result was a smaller, tidier garden between the rock and the tree.  The client will have to wait until next summer, unfortunately, to fully appreciate the new look…

Gardens4u after pictureGardens4u after picture

 

Unfortunately, this current week looks like our great weather is behind us.  That means Gardens4u will be starting that cleanup and winterizing this morning after it warms up a bit.  Cleanup is not nearly as much fun as designing a new garden project!