The Benefits of a Low Maintenance Garden – Part 2.

2 blog 5I think, in all the years I’ve been away from the UK the biggest thing I miss is my garden. As the years have rolled on so my thoughts, around March early April, hark back to the beginning of spring in the UK. Every year it seems, in greater and greater detail.

In my younger days I had no inclination toward gardening. As long as the back of the house could be seen from the bottom of the garden that was good, the grass wasn’t getting too high. The kids had somewhere to play while myself and ex had jobs to do and bills to pay; gardening came pretty low down the list of priorities.

As time went on, pressure eased, and improving our domain moved from the ideas stage to become various projects. Once the double glazing was in, the house painted, front porch built and painted; and guttering replaced we concentrated on our own specialities. Mine was the DIY, changing the kitchen and dining room into a kitchen-diner, moving doorways and altering the stairway, plus the garden; already the ideas were forming.

I wanted a garden I could enjoy, and mowing lawns and digging large areas of soil wasn’t my idea of enjoyment. The basics of converting a garden into a low maintenance garden I covered in part 1 of this blog. My own plot was about 85 feet long and 25 feet wide, facing in a south-easterly direction.2 blog 23

At the house end was an existing, concrete shed, 12 feet long and divided in two, with separate doors. To this I had already built a 10’ aviary using rustic poles for the uprights. Keeping the soil base I had planted Ivy and shrubs along the rear to grow up the netting, training it to grow across the top and shade out the aviary.

A concrete base had also been laid in front of the patio doors. At the time we couldn’t make up our mind whether to build a pergola, or buy a conservatory. At the far end of the garden and to one side was an old but still serviceable wooden garden shed.

We bought the house in the mid 1980s but it wasn’t until the early 90s when work, other than that already mentioned, was finally started, to convert it from something resembling a piece of waste ground to a garden. When I began levelling the ground it soon became clear I was accumulating soil rather than losing it so decided to have two separate levels. The half furthest from the house was levelled 12 inches higher than the front half.

The border to the left of the house, looking to the bottom of the garden was to be at ground level, 18 inches wide. On the same side on the higher level the same, but planted with young leylandii to train into a five foot hedge, the only real work to be undertaken; keeping it trimmed to height. Where the level changed a ground level border was marked out across the width of the garden.2 blog 4

With the aviary on the lower level, right hand side, an 18 inch ground level border was marked out in front of it. The border on the higher level, towards the bottom of the garden, raised 18 inches using concrete blocks. Across the rear, again, an 18 inch border, the width of the garden. The raised beds were all constructed first, the others marked out with nylon cord and pegs.

Finally all the paving was complete and other work undertaken at our leisure. The odd pot bought on regular visits to the local garden centre. A pergola finally built off the house, over the patio doors. A rustic trellis built across the garden where the levels changed, with an archway leading from one level to the other and planted with climbing plants. Slowly, flowering shrubs were added and more climbing plants like clematis and vines planted at the rear to begin covering the panels. A few slabs removed from the top level and a small rockery built for heathers and alpines.

Accumulated pots numbering a dozen or so and dotted around the garden, were filled with a mixture of topsoil and compost, likewise the raised bed. Spring flowering bulbs like snowdrops, daffs, tulips and croci were pushed everywhere in tubs and borders. As spring arrived, trays of bedding plants, standard and trailing, bought from car-boot sales and garden centres were planted in all tubs and borders. Trailing around the edges to cascade over the tubs or down the raised borders and standard to fill the centres and planted between the shrubs.
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Hanging baskets fixed to the house, shed wall and on the fence posts, again filled with trailing plants and with centre pieces of geranium. As time went on, other shrubs and perennials were bought and planted within the borders, beginning to fill the space and reduce the amount of bedding required.

Eventually, the benefits of my low maintenance garden were realised. The purchase of a few annuals, perennials or shrubs; along with the odd pot bought, topping up borders with compost and trimming my leylandii hedge was all that was required. Pottering as I like to call it. Now on my days off, time could be spent sitting in the garden with a good book, soaking up some rays, watching the birds in my aviary, or checking on my resident hedgehog as I strolled the boundaries of my ‘estate’.

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