In the Garden:
New England
May, 2013
Regional Report

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For low maintenance, limit the number of containers you plant. Then place where they'll not only have lots of visual impact, but will be convenient to water.

Plan for a Low Maintenance Landscape

We all want an attractive landscape, but we don't all have hours of time to spend taking care of it. If you're balancing garden care with work, child care, and other responsibilities and activities, here are some suggestions for getting the most garden payoff for the least amount of time spent.

Rely Trees and Shrubs
Use properly chosen trees and shrubs in mulched beds as the backbone of your garden design. They'll provide long-term structure and seasonal interest for the least amount of effort over time. Once they are established, trees and shrubs that are well-adapted to the conditions your landscape offers will perform well with a minimum amount of care. Grouping plants in mulched beds will help to keep weeds down, conserve moisture, and make mowing easier.

Start by evaluating the conditions in your yard -- climate, soil conditions, light, and space. Consult gardening references, experienced gardeners, and knowledgeable garden store staff for advice on plants that are best suited to the conditions that exist in your garden. Checking out nearby native vegetation can give you an idea of what plants might do well in your garden. But don't assume that just because a plant is native to your general geographic region that it's a good bet for your yard. Only plants that are adapted to the specific conditions found in your garden are going to thrive, whether they are native or exotic.

Size Matters
Here is one of the most important pieces of low-maintenance advice: learn the ultimate height and spread of the trees and shrubs you choose, and plant them where they will have adequate room to develop. Don't plant anything that will eventually get too tall or wide for its location unless you are willing to remove the plant before it outgrows its space, and you'll save yourself countless maintenance headaches over the years.

Go Easy on Flowers
Flowering perennials and annuals are lovely, but even ones that are often listed as "low-maintenance" require more regular effort than trees and shrubs. Pick a couple of spots where a flower garden will have the most visual impact -- along your front walk or next to your patio, for example -- and concentrate your efforts there.

For the easiest care, don't choose plants that need staking, like delphiniums, or that are particularly disease-prone, like powdery mildew-susceptible garden phlox (or select mildew-resistant cultivars). Also pass over plants that need frequent division to thrive, like asters, bearded irises, and yarrow. Opt instead for perennials like hostas, peonies, and baptisia that can go for years, even decades, without division.

Cut Back on Containers
Containers are great for combining interesting plants in exciting combinations. But they are also entirely dependent on you, the gardener, for food and water. If you can't resist the lure of a greenhouse full of gorgeous plants in the spring, choose only one or two containers as large as your space and pocketbook allow. (The larger volume of soil mix in the pot won't dry out as quickly as that in a smaller container.) Then place your containers in a spot that is easy and convenient to reach with hose or watering can.

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