7 Garden Tips from a Lazy Gardener
After several years (OK decades) of toiling away in the various gardens of my life and through trial and (much) error, I have come up with 7 tips for lazy gardening featuring 14 of my favourite low-maintenance and fool-proof garden plants.
True confession: although I love to sit and admire my backyard garden (while I am relaxing on a wicker chair, of course) I am (pretty much) a lazy gardener.
I just don’t have the energy or the motivation to devote hours of time to it’s upkeep. I would much rather be sitting in a comfy wicker chair in a shady spot, reading a book and drinking a cup of tea!
Below is the view from the back door – my property ends at the (Purple Leaf Sand Cherry) shrubs just below the fence.
Yes I know – I am very fortunate that my neighbourhood is filled with mature trees. They provide a lush backdrop to my little city oasis.
Garden Tip #1. Use hardy perennials (lots of them!)
Perennials are the plants that come back year after year – they will save you time and money – it is simple as that! The key word here is hardy – which I will explain below!
After our harsh Maritime winters, it is very gratifying to discover in April the first green buds peeking through the soil. After the brutal winter we had last year, my hardy perennials were flourishing by May and I thanked them profusely for not letting me down.
One of the best ways to achieve consistent growth, season after season, is to make sure you choose plants that are designated for your specific plant hardiness zone.
A plant hardiness zone is a geographically defined area in which a specific plant is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone. Check out this zone map to determine your area’s zone.
Living in the Maritimes, our gardening choices are a little more limited than other parts of Canada. so I make sure that the perennials I use are rated for Zone 4, and preferably Zone 3 for hardiness.
Note: Perennials sold by reputable nurseries should always have the zone indicated on the tag.
Below are two of my favourite all-purpose hardy perennials: Heuchera and Sedum.
Heucheras have evergreen heart-shaped leaves and delicate bell-shaped flowers that hang from slender stems. The foliage comes in various shades of green and purple. My hardy specimen above has been moved twice in the last five years and is still thriving in this sunny corner. I even added a new bright green variety to the right to fill in a bare spot. I love how the purple tint in the leaves enhance this little spot – this is a plant in which the foliage is just as attractive as the flowers (another reason why it’s a keeper).
A fool-proof perennial, the late summer blooming and shrub-like Sedum is considered a succulent – with fleshy water-storing leaves. This particular variety of Sedum has spectacular rose-coloured flowers (which you can see are almost ready to bloom) and has thrived for over ten years in my garden (with no attention whatsoever!).
Below are two other favourite perennials, Gooseneck and Liatris
Gooseneck is an excellent garden plant that prefers a sunny spot and is practically fool-proof to grow. This clump-forming perennial typically grows two to three feet tall and its gracefully curved blooms (consisting of many tiny star-shaped white flowers) are said to resemble a goose’s neck. I highly recommend it to fill in large bare areas in your border.
Update: A blogging friend informed me that she had to dig up some of her Gooseneck since it became a bit pushy and wanted to to take over. I have my Gooseneck in a large back border that is neglected but not unloved, therefore I don’t mind its tendency to wander. However, be aware of this, lazy gardeners and perhaps don’t plant Gooseneck in a small area – unless you of course don’t mind this plant’s urge to ramble.
Another easy-to-grow plant, Liatris provides a brilliant splash of colour in your garden in late summer. These 1 to 5 feet tall plants emerge from mounds of narrow, grass-like leaves. The flowers form along the tall spikes and the fuzzy, thistle-like blossoms, which are usually purple, flower from the top to the bottom rather than in the traditional bottom to top blooming of most plants.
Again, both of these perennials are basically ignored in my garden but like faithful friends they come back year after year.
These plants also make attractive cut flowers.
Garden Tip #2. Don’t be afraid of the shade
Try using these four attractive, no-fail plants for your shady areas. What I love about these plants is that the foliage is just as lovely as the flowers so that once the flowers are spent the stunning foliage provides a lovely accent to your low-maintenance shade garden.
Below left to right:
1. Lady’s Mantle: I love the feathery chartreuse blooms of this attractive mound-shaped shade plant. Its soft gray-green foliage has large scallop-shaped leaves.
2. Lamium come in different varieties and colours but the leaves typically have a silvery sheen. This plant features a delicate pink flower on tall stems.
3. Astilbes are one of my favourite perennials for a shade garden. They grow into a substantial shrub-like plant with attractive fern-like leaves. The flowers are feathery plumes in bright pink, purple and white shades. I snip off the flowers once they have lost their colour to maintain the shape of this plant.
4. Hostas come in hundreds of varieties but are easy to recognize for the heart shaped leaves and mounded shape. An extremely popular plant, it is commonly grown for its foliage but also has pretty white or purple blooms on tall stems. Try using different colours of green Hostas in the same garden area for a stunning display.
Garden Tip #3. Mix it up
Don’t play it safe in your garden – you can mix perennials, annuals (those are the plants that last only a couple of seasons), shrubs and vines in the same area – the key word is lush!
Below and to the right of the shed I have planted a variegated Dogwood shrub, perennials Hosta, Astilbe and Catmint, annual Impatiens and a Virginia Creeper vine.
Catmint (Nepeta) features soft, silvery-green leaves in a mound-like shape with loose spikes of lavender-blue flowers. I like how it tumbles over the flagstone border.
Dogwood shrubs are typically grown for their pretty foliage, such as this variegated variety. As an added feature this shrub has red stems which look pretty in the winter.
New Guinea Impatiens, are an annual plant that produce much larger flowers than other types of Impatiens and are suitable for bright sunny areas, although they will also do OK in semi-shade. A fool-proof annual they will bloom all summer long and well into fall and require no maintenance.
A Virginia Creeper vine is a fast-growing, grow anywhere vine that clings on its own to surfaces. I do nothing to this vine and year after year it provides luxurious growth – one tiny plant quickly grew into this healthy vine that provides privacy from the street outside my corner lot.
Garden Tip #4. Use Begonias for your pots
I have tried many many different types of annuals for the bright blue pots that sit on my patio, and I keep coming back to Tuberous Begonias.
They are low maintenance – the dead flowers just drop off – they love shade and/or sun and they come in a variety of bright beautiful colours.
I like to mix white begonias in with another colour – these ones are a deep pinky red. Trust me, they will still be flourishing months after you plant them!
Garden Tip #5. Hanging plants are not just for hanging
The problem with buying individual plants for your outdoor standing planters is that they will be rather dinky and will take a while to grow enough to drape over the edges. There is a much cheaper and easier way:
For a lush and full arrangement of flowers use a hanging plant since these will typically contain a mix of mature plants,
I have been using this method for years.
a. Simply buy a hanging plant with a mix of flowers. The one I purchased for the planter below was $25 from Superstore (Loblaws).
b. Cut off the plastic hangers attached to the plant container.
c. Remove the plant from the container by tipping it over carefully while holding the plant stems at the soil and plunk it in your planter.
That’s it – no really – that is it!
I love the artful and abundant mix of flowers in my planter below, achieved of course, by using a hanging plant.
Garden Tip #6. Flagstones & Vinegar are a great combination
We have used lots of flagstone in our backyard for the following reasons:
a) It is cheap!
Flagstone is very affordable – about $5 a square foot. Or, if you are very lucky you have a neighbour who is getting rid of tons of flagstone and they give it to you for free!
b) It is easy to install!
Installing a simple and natural flagstone patio or path is pretty easy if you are OK with using soil between the stones. You simply dig up the area to the the depth of the stones (usually 2 inches). Place the stones – think of a jigsaw puzzle – and add back the soil between the stones.
However, with this easy-peasy method, weeds can be a problem.
I have found the best way to prevent weeds is to pour straight vinegar in the area between the stones. I use a squeeze bottle and simply pour the vinegar directly on the soil. Once a month should do it. I also add a thorough application of vinegar in the fall to prevent early spring weeds.
Trust me, it works!
Tip #7. Try putting Hostas & Daylilies together
Garden experts are expert at designing gardens so that plants will flower at different times throughout the season so that you have a consistently flowering garden. This is kind of complicated for me (the lazy gardener) but I have found – purely by accident, of course – that Hostas and Daylilies will bloom at different times. Just as your Daylily flowers are spent, the Hosta will start to bloom.
If you do this you will look like a gardening genius and it will appear as if you really knew what you were doing when you planted these two together!
And, as a bonus, if there’s a “sure bet” perennial, it is the Daylily. Use it profusely in your garden. They thrive in zone 3, tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions, are not troubled by diseases or pests, and bloom faithfully for years with virtually no attention. I love the grass-like appearance of this plant after it has finished blooming.
Hopefully, my garden tips will save you time and money when you are planning your own tranquil garden.
Let me know if there are any garden plants you have had great success with – I am always seeking new ideas for my own lazy, but beautiful garden.