Low maintenance is a term I hear quite often in my profession. I tend to think that it is an overused term. Everyone is seeking the “low maintenance” landscape. I think it’s time we explore this idea and dig deeper into what people are trying to achieve.
I don’t blame the public for their attraction to this concept. I would imagine that landscapers came up with this slogan to appeal to the hard working homeowner who is not much of an outdoor person. I hate to say this, but these people usually end up with a very expensive landscape design that tends to die out over time because either they were not given proper instructions on care or the homeowner was under the impression that the landscape was supposed to be “little to no maintenance.”
Before I go any further I want to mention that there are folks out there who seek and promote low maintenance for really good reasons. Those who are trying to be more environmentally friendly by finding ways to use less water, planting natives instead of exotic invasives, finding alternatives for lawns to decrease harmful emissions released by gas powered equipment, etc. It’s the people who are actually trying to work with their region instead of changing it entirely. A good example of this is the installation of sod on the beach. Another excellent and humorous example is from the movie “The Next Best Thing.” A client of Robert’s is reading over the bill and asks, “A thousand dollars for dirt? Since when does dirt cost a thousand dollars?” Robert says, “‘Dirt cheap’ is an expression, Mrs. Griffith. It doesn’t apply to a city built on a desert.”
What really irks me about the low maintenance band wagon is that it implies something that cannot and I think should not be delivered. It gives the false expectation that you will never have to work in your yard, which leads to my next problem. The fact that people are not willing to leave their living rooms, away from the TV, Ipad, Iphone (or whatever…), and spend some time outside in their yards. My thought is if you don’t like working outside (which is okay, it’s not for everyone) then please live in an apartment or live in the city. I wait for the day when I start seeing concrete landscapes due to the yard becoming “just too much.”
Again, let me back up a minute and define what is exactly considered high maintenance. At least my definition. I know there are those out there who think my style of gardening is hard work and are all ears at what I could possibly think is high maintenance.
A few different scenarios come to my mind. Vegetable gardening in Florida is one. I always spend a lot more time checking on the veggie plants than I do anything else. The growing of extremely tall plants that are used as cut flowers. The amount of staking that is involved is intense. I had beautiful tall Cosmos one year and just one good windy thunderstorm put them under. A large area committed to only annuals. Then of course there is the good ole’ American lawn. I’m sorry, but there is nothing low maintenance about a lawn.
Though these styles of gardening require a lot of work, just like with almost anything, as long as it is done in moderation it’s okay. As most of you know I have a large planter in front of my sunroom that I change out for winter and summer. That is one of the few places I have annuals. I will also have a little bit of grass in my back yard eventually. I just don’t want you to think me a hypocrite. If you enjoy the extra work, then that is just fine. As long as you’re not complaining about having to do it.
So you ask what is my point to all this? I think that a little garden work every now and again does us all good. My philosophy is that if you do all the hard work at the beginning of the creation of your garden, it will save you time and money in the long term. It will also leave you time just be in your garden. If you look back at my posts about the construction of my front yard cottage garden, it was a lot to do. I never ever want to do it again. Although, I did it in the winter time when there were fewer bugs and more pleasing temperatures that permitted me to work longer. I planned for the future by adding manure, so that I would not have to worry so much about fertilizing. I implemented several inches of mulch to ensure I could water and weed less. Also, since I have plants that are properly spaced instead of just mulch, the plants choke out the weeds too. They are all perennials and there has always been something blooming. I will even have flowers during the winter. I can also tell you this. I happen to know that I have spent less time in my yard than those who have what is considered a “low maintenance” landscape. I am referring to the only evergreen shrubs and lawn yards.
I realize this may offend some people because landscapes like this are common. All I can say is guys…you are really missing out! By all means plant what does well here, make sure you have some color all year long, but please plant some pretty perennials! What concerns me is that we are becoming a country of repeat homes and yards. The idea of having a garden is disappearing. Many believe that these uninteresting manicured landscapes are considered gardens. Those are not gardens to me.
We spend a great deal of time earning money to pay for our mortgages, why not actually enjoy not just the inside, but the land that is ours too.