All the time I have clients tell me they want low maintenance. But some even go so far to say they don’t want any maintenance, to which I reply: even if you had all silk flowers you would still have to dust them to keep them looking good . There is no such thing as a no maintenance landscape. A low maintenance landscape still does take some work, just not every week like your lawn! Unless you count the watering, that can be weekly if the landscape is new or we aren’t getting rain. But if you really don’t want to worry about that they do have special irrigation sytems to water plants for you- so I am not counting that right now.
So here are a few keys in what to expect from a low maintenance plant material:
Know that there will be 3 times a year that will be critical in you getting out and doing something with the plants- that’s right 3 times a season. Maybe it sounds like a lot but I am not asking for a full weekend of your attention every time, just a few hours for the average landscape. But please also do spend a little time in between watering you plants- the first few years there will be less trimming but much more watering needed -so more of a time commitment up front.
The first of these key points happen in late winter/early spring for your major shaping and pruning of your summer blooming shrubs. Caution there still may be snow on the ground and that is okay! By going out and trimming shrubs like Spirea and Dogwood (not the Lilacs and Rhodies please) this early you give them the right to push out new growth in a more compact fashion and look all fresh from the start of the season, you can also trim most of these type of plants back a little more this time of year- as much a 1/3 of the plants height or branching ( ask me more about this later).
The second key time frame is for your Spring blooming shrubs and evergreens. This time frame may vary with the spring, this year it was early, but once your Lilac has bloomed you know it is time to trim so no worries on needing the calendar to figure it out. This is usually done in early June. By going through and trimming your evergreens at this same time you find that they are more accepting of being trimmed with less browning of the tips. Not all evergreens will need trimming, but if you are looking to keep a compact shape or keep them dense a little shearing will help.
Lastly the third key time to be in the yard is to look over any perennials you have. Most people tend to this in the fall as they choose what plants are going to remain for winter interest but clean up the rest of the frosted foliage before it gets all compacts and mushy by spring. By going out in the fall you also have time to check on other shrubs and take inventory of what may have not done so well this year and catch up of some watering before winter sets in. Another great thing to consider is wrapping trees to prevent sun scalds and animal damage.
So all in all there is maintenance to a landscape… but if you have chosen the right plants for the right space this is all that you should need to do. However if you had chosen to put that 6′ shrub in a 3′ space you need to be working out there more than I have just outlined- please add another trim or 2 to the schedule and consider your self having a high maintenance yard.