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Landscape Design for Minimal Care

<written by Paul Plant, Editor of subTropical Gardening magazine - www.stgmagazine.com.au >

Are you time short and seek an easier lifestyle?

Do you wish to have a garden but fear the maintenance factor?

A well landscaped garden will provide the ideal lifestyle without sacrificing the time to appreciate that lifestyle you seek.

Regretfully there is no such thing as ‘no-maintenance’ garden. Even a concrete front yard will need to be cleaned at some time. It may even crack.

A low maintenance garden is created by identifying precisely the needs and desires you seek to obtain from your garden. Once defined, these are then worked into the design to formulate simple yet functional spaces in order to fulfil these needs and desires.

Each space is then complimented with appropriate items (such as paving, decking, plants, soil, mulches, figures, furniture) to create character, a sense of space and to consolidate the design into reality.

When creating a hedge, it is best to keep all plants the same species. By mixing the hedge species it will result in varied growth rates, different watering and fertiliser requirements and continual pruning. With one uniform plant, they are all watered, fertilised and pruned at the same time… which saves you time.

The argument over deciduous trees and evergreen trees has been fought for decades. There is no winning side. It is true deciduous leaves drop leaves, but this usually happens during one intense period therefore maintenance is restricted to a short period. Evergreen trees can drop leaves 365 days a year, but the daily drop is very small and easily overlooked.

Water features although very trendy and stylish when new, can become a high maintenance problem ... they need to be monitored and cared for.

Native are also not the perfect minimal care plant. Natives come from all parts of Australia. A tropical native plant from Cairns grown in Brisbane will need a lot of care to survive just like a native heath plant from Victoria being grown in Carrara. Using only local native plants (endemic) is a great idea however the modified soils in new residential estates are usually not appropriate for these endemic plants. Natives should always be encouraged, but they do need some degree of care.

Palms likewise need maintenance either in the removal of old fronds or excessive fruit falling on the ground.

The secret of a successful minimal-care landscaped garden is therefore based on defining needs of the property owner, simplifying design and layout, and selective use of appropriate plants and materials.

Following these core secret components, you can work towards a minimal care landscape.

Extreme low maintenance plants:-


Succulents (Sedum)

Cycads (Macrozamia)

Desert Rose (Adenium)

Matt reed (Lomandra)

Crotons (Codiaeum)


Low Maintenance plants:-

Gymea lilies (Doryanthus)

Spider lilies (Hymenocallis)

Orange Trumpet Vine (Pyrostegia)


Bottlebrushes (Callistemon)


Bromeliads (Billbergia, Neoregelia)




Other hints on achieving a low maintenance garden:

·         reduce lawn areas… less lawn means less mowing

·         mulch well to maintain a depth of 5 - 10cm … this will save on watering and reduce weed growth

·         if keeping lawns make all garden beds with curved corners as this decreases mowing time

·         position plants in communities… plants that like water should be placed together, plants that don’t should be placed together in a different area

·         if you feel you are using too many chemicals on plants, identify the problematic plants and remove them

·         if you do not have time to look after a vegetable garden, then renovate the garden for an alternative use

·         position deciduous plants in garden beds so that leaves can drop directly into the garden to form mulch

·         do not plant vigorous growing plants near pathways

·         instead of planting short lived annuals, choose longer flowering varieties or change to perennials

·         to save time watering pot plants invest in water saving products like crystals or cells

·         use 3 or 6 month based fertilisers on pots rather than weekly liquid applications.

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