Creating a Low Maintenance Garden with the 'Wow' Factor!

My wife Val and I have just completed a four day effort at the local Waikato Home and Garden Show.

Hi to everyone keen on gardening! What a fantastic event! We designed one of the major exhibits for the show - a mediterranean-style garden and patio setting, complete with a seaside backdrop, atlantis-style water feature, mediterranean topiary and espaliered citrus trees in full fruit in troughs, a long outdoor bar table on wheels decorated along the centre with fragrant lavender plants in full flower, and a variety of coloured lighting to accentuate special plant features and settings, all creating an exciting atmosphere. 

The public response to our site was extremely positive and we chose this style garden because it’s very reflective of the long hot summers we have currently been experiencing, and subsequent need to choose gardens and plants that will handle these drier summer months. Its no use thinking that we can just water whenever we want,to keep our gardens looking tops, because when the pressure comes on  for water your local council will decide to limit the use of sprinklers and water useage. 

I also was one of the major guest speakers each day in the speaker series - my topic was CREATING A LOW MAINTENANCE GARDEN WITH THE ‘WOW’ FACTOR! Basically the speech included some great ideas about what plants to use, their combinations and layout in the garden, which can make your garden very appealing yet easy care. 

Just to summarise the main points I made:

  • Make sure you select PROVEN PERFORMING PLANTS  in your garden, which is not necessarily the plants being promoted (or in prime spots in garden retailers).
  • I find that one of the best ways to ADD VALUE (aesthetic and monetory) to your property is to hide wooden fences, privacy, and make sure your garden style (whatever that is) is easy care) - there is virtually no one out there these days that wants to buy a property that is high garden maintenance. The reason I know this is that over the last five years, every single client of mine, has asked me to help them create a low maintenance garden.
  • KEEP YOUR GARDENS SIMPLE - generally speaking the gardens with lesser plant varieties are more eye catching - most people who are not happy with their garden, have too many different plants, like a bag of licorice all-sorts. 
  • One great way of adding the ‘wow’ factor to a garden, is to select a FEATURE PLANT or SCULPTURE and make that the centre piece - and underplant with a simple groundcover.
  • When using groundcovers, try and keep to one variety (or two at maximum ). The reason for this is when they grow it doesnt matter if the same variety grows into each other, but if two or three groundcovers grow together, you will very quickly end up with a mixed mess of foliage.
  • SELECT PLANTS FOR THE CONDITIONS - in other words, if it’s a shady area, select plants that thrive in a shade garden, same with a hot dry garden, select the proven performers for these conditions. If you dont know - ask a knowledgable person, but dont guess!!
  • FLOWERING PERENNIALS can be very high maintenance and many are five minute wonders!! Once again do some homework and only select proven performers. There are many great perennials avaliable these days that will give you continuous flowering for up to 8 months of the year, and need very little work. These days there is huge pressure on all plant breeders around the world to breed ornamental garden plants that are extremely low maintenance and have extra long performance in the garden.

10 plants that I personally feel fit the above criteria are:

ALSTROEMERIA PRINCESS SERIES - one of the very best flowering perennials - up to 8 months of continuous blooms

LOMANDRA NYALLA and LIME TUFF - two of the best grasses on the N.Z. market

TRACHELOSPERMUM JASMINOIDES - a true 10/10 groundcover and climber

ARGYRANTHEMUM POLLY - extremely compact growing and free flowering daisy

CITRUS LIME COCKTAIL - highly ornamental citrus variety, with masses of baby limes throughout the year - very decorative and extremely useful in cooking and drinks 

BOUGAINVILLEA RED DRAGON SERIES - an outstanding flowering shrub for extra hot dry gardens and containers.

AJUGA BLACK SCALLOP - a super groundcover where its shady and damp

HYDRANGEA PEE WEE - an outstanding variety of hydrangea for the low maintenance garden - masses of white flowers that hang like a bunch of grapes, and beautiful colours on the foliage in autumn

CERCIS FOREST PANSY - simply striking coloured foliage - the same as a good shiraz wine. I think this is a great smaller growing tree, which suits a smaller section.

LAVENDER THE PRINCESS -  all the right breeding brings a super compact plant with a continuous display of fragrant blooms, blooming over many months throughout the year.

Hope you are all spending time in and enjoying your garden at this time of the year.

Happy Gardening with Graeme!

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Graeme Burton - Landscaper - Rukuhia Homestead, RD2, Ohaupo 3882
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