Summer should be time for relaxing, for cool drinks by the pool, for barbecues and lazy weekends. You may enjoy getting outdoors more, but it’s pretty unlikely that you’re looking forward to mowing the grass every week or getting elbow-deep in garden weeds.
A great landscape requires *some* maintenance but the best landscapes require the least amount possible while still offering you an outdoor escape and an enjoyable space.
So how do you find that Goldilocks zone of seasonal care? Where a little bit of TLC goes a long way and you can spend most of your time enjoying your space instead of working for it? It starts with smart landscape design, of course.
Here are some ways to design low-maintenance right into your landscape from the start, with beautiful, simple components that look great and provide enjoyment not only throughout the summer but year-round.
Patios And Decks
One thing we can guarantee when it comes to a patio or deck: it will never need mowing! You may be used to seeing a vast expanse of green lawn but a great hardscape in the form of a patio or deck is really a double win.
First, it reduces the amount of the green stuff that you have to feed, water, trim and maintain. Second, it provides a foundation for all that relaxing you’ll now have time to do. Create an outdoor dining or cooking space, a seating area for lounging or gathering with family and friends, even a fire pit or outdoor TV viewing area.
Your new, low-maintenance patio or deck can also contain other elements, like a patio pond or water feature, container plantings, even a potted herb garden right outside your kitchen door.
You’ll most likely enjoy using a hardscaped space more than an empty, grassy yard anyway (just think of how many fewer bugs will arise from pavers as opposed to lawn!) and it will require a whole lot less of your time to manage.
Natural Stone Gardens
Stone gardens are a close cousin of paver hardscapes. Rather than flat surfaces, though, these beauties offer a unique, irregular, and more decorative aesthetic. Days of pulling weeds from between the roses in your flower beds will be long behind you.
Various sizes of natural stones, crushed stone, and even larger boulders can all work together to create a stunning visual. Combine stone with other elements, like outdoor artwork, bubbling water features, or even some container plantings and you’ve got a lovely, low-maintenance addition to your landscape.
Stone doesn’t need to be weeded, mowed or even replaced. And there are so many ways to be creative with stone, from combining sizes and shapes, to varying the height and depth of your garden in different places, that you may wonder why you spent all those years with gardening gloves!
One of the simplest ways to ensure a low-maintenance garden is to go with native plants. You may love the look of exotic blooms, fruiting trees and rare, decorative grasses, but they can be highly challenging to nurture and maintain. Non-native plants are not adapted to the soil conditions, temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions of your area, which means you’ll have a lot of work to do creating an “artificial” environment that will help them survive.
Choose native plants instead, those hardy, worry-free plantings that are perfectly suited to your New Jersey yard. They’ll require less water, less attention, and will even attract wildlife like birds and butterflies, all of which will keep your garden even healthier and more enjoyable.
And don’t worry that “native” means “dull”, either. There are quite a few options that will look great and be easy to care for, including beauties like Sugar Maple, Foxtail, Blue Mistflower, Aster, Sumac, Coneflower, Gooseberry, and literally hundreds more.
For a low-maintenance landscape, you may want to lose the lawn, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up on grass entirely. There are other types of grasses that can be far more lovely and bring in other, multi-sensory elements that a lawn can’t offer.
Tall, ornamental (and native!) grasses have the advantage of never needing to be mowed, and they look great all year long. Green and lush during warm months, golden brown or pale white during cool ones. They’re great nesting and hiding spots for birds and wildlife, which is not only fun for you but a good way to pollinate and help naturally maintain your landscape.
And all you need to do is spend one breezy day listening to the swish of those grasses to appreciate how soothing the experience can be.
Color can come in many forms. It can be expressed in flower beds, through artwork, and even with furniture, pillows and other décor. Everyone enjoys a splash of color, so where yours will come from depends on the conditions you have to contend with in your yard.
Flower beds are the typical way most people envision adding color to their landscape, so if you’ve got the space, the lighting, and the soil for it, plant away! Choose wisely – remember to go native, and don’t be afraid of wildflowers. An artfully designed wildflower meadow in your front yard will do a lot more for your curb appeal than a bland expanse of green.
Look for long-bloomers, and even all-season plantings. A brightly colored Forsythia may look fantastic for a few days in early spring but if you’re not fond of the greenery that results afterwards, consider a different type of color. There are plenty of blooms that will last all season and even into fall. And there are plenty of options for plantings that will change throughout the seasons from greenery to blooms to intriguing bark, stems and even berries as the cooler seasons set in.
If you’d rather not contend with maintaining a flower bed at all, or if your landscape is simply not conducive to supporting colorful blooms, you can still bring in color in other ways. Think bold sculptures and artwork, brightly colored cushions, and painted wood furniture.
Or, for a more contained approach, think container gardening! You don’t need good ground soil – or any at all – to add florals to pots on your patio, porch, or even within stone gardens. Containers help you avoid weeds, can be easily moved, and will naturally constrain the size of the blooms within them.
Once you’ve got native plantings, it’s only a hop and a skip to holistic, naturalistic design. Naturalistic design brings together color, texture, sound and scent, seamlessly blending designed landscape elements with natural surroundings to create harmony and a self-sustaining ecosystem.
All you have to do is imagine all the trimming, pruning, weeding, fertilizing and other maintenance that goes into keeping your box hedges perfectly squared, or your lawn at a neat two inches, to start to appreciate the brilliance of naturalistic design.
A naturalistic landscape should be, by default, low maintenance. By choosing native plants and taking advantage of what Mother Nature has to offer – whether it’s rich soil or poor, full sun or shade, dry spots or marsh – naturalistic design aims to work with, not against, the environment you have.
Rather than trying to grow difficult exotic plants, or fight to grow flower beds in sandy soil or clay, or even fuss over constant watering and weeding requirements, you can simply sit back and let your landscape take care of itself.
Naturalistic design incorporates all of the elements we’ve talked about here – from hardscapes and stone, to water features and containers, greenery and color, and much more. In doing so, each element supports the other, addresses environmental issues, and is suited to take advantage of the best features of your space – and hide or work around the worst!
If you look forward to warmer months so that you can get outside more but don’t look forward to the endless work and effort involved in keeping up with your landscape, contact us for a consultation. Our landscape professionals will work with you to create a low-maintenance space that you’ll love, with plenty more time to enjoy!