Gardens

The Low Maintenance Garden Experiment: Under the Porch Windows

I’ve always had gardens. My spring and fall, and sometimes even summer, weekends have been filled with garden chores. Perennials, biennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, shrubs, trees and potted plants all have had a place in my yard. But when I realized I needed to make some changes, I didn’t know where to begin.

 My situation isn’t all that different from anyone else’s. As people grow older their ability, or at least their desire, to care for high maintenance gardens wavers. I wasn’t willing to completely do away with my gardens. But I needed to come up with a plan to make them less taxing. That was when I came up with the low maintenance garden experiment.

Hostas
Hostas

From now on, each plant would either have to meet a low maintenance criteria or be taken away. 

I would be throwing away money as I pulled out unacceptable plants and gave them to friends or tossed them into the compost pile. I would spend even more money to buy acceptable replacements. My desire for no maintenance plants would greatly limit my selection. Would I have enough plant varieties to choose from? I did not want my gardens to become dull and repetitive.

 The first garden I tackled was on the east side of my house below my front porch windows. It’s an important garden because it can be seen from the road and driveway.

I already had several anchor plants planted there; a small Japanese pine, rhododendrons, azaleas and a big spirea. Walking around the yard, I began “shopping” for other low maintenance plants that could use to fill in the areas between the shrubs.  The plant I relied most heavily on was the hosta.

Hostas can take up lots of space and look good all summer.
Hostas can take up lots of space and look good all summer.

Hostas often get a bad rap from gardeners for being boring. But today they are anything but. Hostas today come in whole array of sizes, color tones and patterns. And they’re big. They fill big spaces, and they do it in a hurry. Clustering different varieties together would make a colorful display. Large lime colored leaves against blue leaves against green leaves edged in gold. If I’d planted nothing but hostas in that garden it would still be alive with color. Hostas are tidy plants. They look good all season.  They can go for years without needing to be divided.

I transplanted hostas from other parts of the yard into the bed beneath the porch windows and added some tall and airy ferns.

Daisies add a bit of color.
Daisies add a bit of color.

DSCF2398

To add some color I chose a slow spreading daisy called “Leucanthemum Rebecca” which had grown in my gardens for many years. “Rebecca” is not the prettiest daisy I’ve ever seen; the colors are more drab than a daisy should be, but you can’t tell this from the road and it does have the benefit of having strong stems that won’t need staking and it will also bloom for years without needing to be divided.  In addition to the daisy, I added two daylilies,  a Sedum “Autumn Joy” and several Asiatic lily bulbs. In front of my dining room window I placed a shepherd’s hook with a bird feeder When the plantings were done, I spread a thick layer of mulch around them.

Asiatic lily bulbs will come up every year without any fuss.
Asiatic lily bulbs will come up every year without any fuss.

Our “porch garden” is now five years old. In that time, I’ve not had to touch it except to clean out some of the hosta leaves each fall and replenish the mulch every year which keeps the weeds at bay. 

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