The entire idea of designing a simple garden is to be able to care for the garden with basic or little maintenance. Please keep in mind that maintenance is vital for the existence and preservation of any project, therefore “low maintenance” does not mean “no maintenance.” To create a garden that looks simple and beautiful, the choice of plant material that will do well with the kind of existing soil, sunlight and design of the layout of beds and borders are extremely important.
A good “help” for the soil before planting will improve the growth of trees, flowers and shrubs—and help them to stay healthier for a long period of time. It is important to know the needs of the soil to be able to improve it. Most soil problems are corrected by adding natural organic conditioners. There are different kinds of compost or well-rotted manure that will improve any kind of soil adding nutrients and improving drainage. Compost materials or soil conditioners as peat moss and organic fertilizers should be well mixed into the existing soil to achieve better results.
The best choices for plant material are native or well-adapted plants. Native plants will be naturally suited to your growing conditions, and will never look out of place. They will tolerate extremes of cold, heat drought or moisture. They also will suffer less from insects, predators and diseases. Native plants need less fertilizer or spraying for their preservation.
Evergreen trees or shrubs with glossy dark green leaves should be located in the corners and centers of your borders to give year round structure, and something to look at during the winter months. Ornamental grasses with “bottlebrush-shaped” seed heads in different varieties, textures, and heights, work well to help break up the rigid look of Evergreens. Spring/summer bulbs like the Alium Globe Master, with its purple globe shaped flowers, or the Cana, with its orchid-like flowers in red, orange, or yellow, when planted in autumn or early spring contribute to soil aeration and provide a splendid show during the season. Lamb’s Ears with wooly, silver evergreen shaped leaves and spikes of tiny purple flowers, Salvia with oval leaves topped with violet-purple flowers, Calamintha with mint scented flowers, or Agastache with spikey purple or coral-colored flowers, mixed together give the design more grace. Additionally, a blend of colors heights and scents attract wildlife that will naturally help protect these plants from predators and disease.
Trees, shrubs, and flowers are grouped into flowing drifts that sweep through the border. The back of the border should be planted in a gradation of heights for depth and visual effect, but plants along the edges should be mixed in heights for added interest. This makes maintenance easier when it is time to prune, “dead-heading” or trimming.
The contour of beds and border should have no straight lines. The diagonal of the garden give it a more dynamic aspect. With curved edging of the beds, your eye will tend to follow the path. The undulating edges make it simple to keep the contours over the years. These curves can always be made deeper or smaller depending on garden growth or yard space.
Ultimately, simple gardens will increase the chances of overall success in your backyard projects. With basic or little care, good soil preparation, selection of native or well-adapted plants that assume natural habits and design of beds and border following natural curves, any garden project will be kept simple yet tailored.
Landscape designer, writer, and lecturer Frederico Azevedo is the Founder of Unlimited Earth Care, Inc., providing high quality landscape design and maintenance to the Hamptons for over 23 years. For more information call 631-725-7551, or visit unlimitedearthcare.com.