Time Saving Landscape | Article | NYC | Green Echo Studio

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J. A. Young    

Category | Design & Garden Ideas |


Better Things to Do: Creating a Time-Saving Landscape with Easy Trees, Shrubs & Groundcovers

There are some aspects of life that actually allow us to have our cake and eat it too. Landscaping can be one of them—if you plan it that way. A garden and landscape is never one hundred percent maintenance-free (unless you pay someone to upkeep), but choosing to landscape with easy-to-care-for trees, shrubs and groundcovers will greatly reduce the time you need to maintain your garden.

The most important thing you can do before settling on specific plant selections is to assess the conditions of your setting and soil. Once you have a handle on your conditions, prepare your soil. Weed, remove debris, loosen the soil and condition it with compost. Map out where you want trees and shrubs to be planted and also where you intend the groundcover to be placed. Once you do the proper preparation work, you have a better shot at a healthy landscape and your newly installed plants will have fewer struggles to adapt.

Usually once your hardy trees, shrubs and groundcover begin to mature, watering is not generally required—which is one reason the following listed plants are ideal. However, watering may be necessary in times of drought or if your plants begin to struggle. Installing sprinklers or drip irrigation is ideally done before you get your landscape set up—certainly not essential, but an option nevertheless.

Low-maintenance groundcovers are varied and many. From clumping shrubs to creeping vines, there is bound to be one perfect for your situation. Most groundcovers require a couple years before completely covering a large area the way a traditional lawn might, mulching is paramount to help suppress weeds and to keep the soil from eroding. Consider some of the following low-maintenance groundcovers for your landscape.

Lily-of-the-valley is a dense groundcover that is an ideal weed-suppressant. Preferring a partly shady and cool location with adequate moisture, this groundcover is extremely hardy—usually requiring watering only during times of drought. It grows to an approximate height of eight inches and is an aggressive spreader (it may need an edging to hold it back). Its flowers are lovely enough for the vase.

If a grassier look is preferred, opt for dwarf mondo grass. Perfect for shady areas, this low-growing plant produces grass-like mats that are relatively maintenance-free. However, it is not extremely aggressive, so it will take a couple years to really fill in a large space. Be sure to weed in those initial couple years.

Creeping phlox is a very attractive groundcover that blooms each spring. Choose cultivars with lavender, pink or white blooms. During the remainder of the growing season, clumps of soft grassy foliage are left with little to worry about—except to water in times of drought. This evergreen groundcover prefers a moist and shady location, although it will certainly tolerate sun.

Time-saving shrubs and trees can also be stunning additions to your landscape. However, it’s important to give saplings and young plants the necessary care for the first couple years. Once you get past this point, these hardy trees and shrubs are well-adapted to take care of themselves with only minor tasks—pruning here and there—on occasion. Also, take care not only to choose healthy and hardy plants—but ones that don’t make much mess or you’re likely to be spending time cleaning up after them.

Little-leaved boxwood is a tidy evergreen shrub that can serve as a low hedge. Growing and spreading between three to four feet, this plant prefers full sun to partial shade in a moist-well-drained soil. In the spring, it produces a subtle and sweet fragrance.

The peeling bark of the river birch makes it an attractive tree that provides year-round interest. Growing to an approximate height of sixty feet, the river birch is not prone to pests or disease and will thrive in a moist fertile soil with lots of sunlight. It is ideal beside a water feature such as a pond or stream.

There are several varieties of Japanese holly growing to several heights so you can choose the ideal plant for the setting you have in mind. This handsome shrub requires full sun and a moist acidic soil. Taller varieties may need clipping here and there.

Other low-maintenance shrubs and trees to keep in mind for your landscape include: Oak-leaved hydrangea, dwarf fothergilla, heavenly bamboo, inkberry, Oregon grape, mountain silverbell, Colorado spruce, shrubby cinquefoil, lace shrub, English yew and the pale sweetshrub.

Again, initial care to these plants means more time for the gardener later when the mature plants take root and remain more maintenance-free. Not only will they prove easy-to-care-for, they will add considerable beauty to your landscape—no one need ever know how garden-friendly they are and your landscape is destined to be one of the loveliest without being difficult to maintain.


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