Create a Low Maintenance Garden: Top Advice for City DwellersColin Campbell-Preston
Few things in life match the wonderful feeling of relaxing in a pretty garden at the end of a long day. For many of us, however, having a perfectly tended garden feels like just another thing we can’t fit into our busy lives. This is especially true if you live in the city, where the ‘garden’ is often made up of little more than a small patio or even just a balcony. Despite this, creating a low maintenance garden in your tiny city space is actually really achievable.
With a few changes to your approach, it can also be designed to be as low maintenance as possible, so you can spend more time sat outside sipping tea and less time on your knees with a trowel. If that sounds like your dream outdoor space, read on for some top tips on how to create the ultimate low maintenance city garden.
Designing Your Space
Planning your garden carefully is especially important if you have a small urban space, which can quickly appear crowded. It is also key to keeping maintenance as low as possible, helping you avoid plants and features that will take over the garden if they aren’t regularly tended.
One of the best things you can do to reduce the maintenance time in your garden is to rethink the lawn. Grass requires a lot of tending in order to look its best and quickly becomes overgrown and messy if you can’t find time to mow it. Consider laying a patio instead, which can just be swept when you want to sit out and will happily support a sun lounger or a barbeque. If you feel like this won’t be adequate greenery, you can always add in extra pot plants on the paving stones, which have the added bonus of being moveable if you are having a lot of friends over.
Choose Your Variety
When it comes to choosing your plants, it’s important to look for the right variety. If you want your garden to be low maintenance you will need to choose hardy plant varieties than can be relied on even with limited care. For example, if you’ve got your heart set on some roses, pick something like Rosa ‘A Shropshire Lad’ by David Austen, that reliably re-bloom year after year.
Shrubs are also a great thing to consider, as they require very little tending to look attractive. Although they may not seem as colourful and pretty as a border full of perennials, an evergreen shrub will look pretty all year round and the shade it casts will greatly reduce how much weeding you need to do. Pick something like Russian Sage, which looks spectacular even in the dead of winter.
The eye is drawn to movement, but it can be hard to get this in a smaller garden that doesn’t have space for sweeping climbers and rustling trees. Consider growing some interesting grass varieties instead, which are not only easy to grow, but add a lot of drama and texture to a small garden. Either pop a few varieties in your borders or try growing some pretty grasses in pots to act as an excellent privacy screen on a balcony. Glamorous grasses like Pennisetum orientale ‘Shogun’, which is finished with blue foliage and pink flowers, can be just as attractive as flowers and are much easier to take care of.
Add Some Herbs
No matter how small your garden is, even if it’s little more than a window box, you should always make space for herbs. Not only are many of them evergreen and very pretty, but they also taste delicious and will impress guests in both the garden and your cooking. Purple sage, golden oregano, shrubby thyme, and rosemary are all very versatile when it comes to culinary value and they look suitably ornamental in the garden. Plus, they don’t require much more care and attention than the clipping you’ll be doing to add them to all your favourite dishes. Low maintenance and delicious, what could be better?
If you want a garden that blooms with pretty perennials in the spring, but you don’t have time to put in the legwork when it comes to weeding, top-dressing your beds can be a great option. Simply choose ornamental gravel, stones, or wood chippings and cover the beds, leaving room around the base of your plants. The covering will keep the weeds mostly subdued and it has the added benefit of looking a lot nicer than plastic sheeting.
Keep Furniture Natural
One of the key reasons to have a garden is so you can enjoy sitting in it, so garden furniture is important, especially in a smaller urban garden. When you’re choosing your table set, recliner, or pretty bench, be sure to go for one that has untreated wood. Varnish or paint, whilst it might look attractive this summer, will only need redoing repeatedly as the weather begins to take its toll. Untreated wood is much lower maintenance, keeping its rugged appearance no matter how much it rains between (and during) barbeques.
Top Plant Tips
It can be easy to get over excited in the nursery and come home with all sorts of exciting plants that are either going to wilt and die, or completely take over in your low maintenance garden. Here are a few things you’re likely to see on the labels and what they actually mean for your little urban plot:
- ‘Good for naturalising’ is something you want to avoid in small urban gardens.
- ‘Vigorous’ means it’ll soon take over the entire garden and you won’t be able to open your door.
- ‘Self-seeds’ means you’ll need to take the time to cut all the seed heads off before they ripen.
- ‘Evergreen’ is a good thing, this will look nice all year round with little attention.
- ‘Scented’ is something you want in a small urban garden, which are often enclosed enough to trap the beautiful perfumes.
- ‘Climber’ may quickly become a tangled mess in your tiny garden.
To stock up on supplies to create your perfect low maintenance garden or get some advice from our expert Plant People, pay a visit to one of our garden centres near Alexandra Palace, Wandsworth Common or Berkhamsted. Alternatively, head over to our homepage for more gardening inspiration.