How to Design a Low-Maintenance Garden

Garden design doesn't have to be difficult. Learn how to use easy-to-maintain plants to create a beautiful space.
Line Walkways with Gravel for Minimal Upkeep

Line Walkways with Gravel for Minimal Upkeep

Using small gravel to line walkways allows for minimal upkeep and maintenance.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Using small gravel to line walkways allows for minimal upkeep and maintenance.

As any garden enthusiast, and he or she will tell you it's possible to enjoy a beautiful garden even if you can’t devote a lot of time and effort to it. Luckily, there is a wealth of low-maintenance plants to choose from, and you can still create dramatic effects without resorting to expensive landscaping. 

By adopting a few simple techniques you can keep your garden looking vibrant and attractive. Choose pest- and disease-resistant plants, and cut down on weeding by using mulches. Select drought-tolerant plants where possible, and maintain more demanding types with automatic irrigation. Instead of annual displays of tender bedding, grow permanent, colorful evergreens and long-flowering perennials; select those that do not need support or deadheading. Some shrubs do not require pruning, while others may only need one simple cut per year. 

Consider replacing a lawn with a gravel garden or meadow. Adding easy care design features, such as a pebble fountain, helps to keep the garden interesting during the winter months. Line your floors and walkways with gravel for an attractive surface that needs minimal upkeep.

Key Design Elements for Low Maintenance Gardens

  • Colorful evergreens: Though planting emphasis is often on flowering annuals and perennials, evergreen shrubs, herbs, and grasses have longer lasting displays, and many are equally colorful and attractive.
  • Drought-proof containers: A row of architectural specimens can make as much impact as a multitude of high maintenance bedding plants. Use automatic irrigation, or plant drought-tolerant herbs, alpines, and succulents.
  • Raised beds: Easy care raised beds can be filled with alpines, herbs, compact perennials, or even a pond. You can garden at a comfortable height with no digging, and they can also be used for casual seating. 
  • Living carpets: Species adapted to long periods without rain, such as alpines and succulents, are often tough in other ways. Many can withstand harmful insects and don’t require regular feeding or pruning. 
  • Decorative ground cover: Laying colorful pebbles or aggregate on top of a weed-suppressing membrane is an attractive solution to weeds and is striking combined with creative planting. 
  • Hard landscaping: Create clean lines and surfaces with natural stone or manufactured paving. Bricks can be laid in patterns or as edging. Mix materials: try cobblestones with decking, or sandstone with brick.
  • Ornamental features: Display sculptures or use large, empty containers for architectural effects or as part of a color theme. Use furniture as a focal point, or consider a paving feature, such as a mosaic or circular patio insert.

Other Additions to Consider:

  • Handy storage: Store soft furnishings, tools, and toys in built-in units so they’re within easy reach.
  • Wild areas: Leave areas wild or convert lawns to meadows to free up your spare time. 
  • Simple lighting: Use solar lights—there is a wide range of easy-to-install products available.
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