August 4, 2012

Planning for a Lower Maintenance Garden

The daylilies have been blooming profusely for the past month, which has been gorgeous but has required a lot of work to keep up with the deadheading. I've had an overall lack of time and energy for gardening and blogging lately (this mother-of-four job gets serious during summer break), and that's spurring me to modify my plans for the backyard design. Fewer flowers to deadhead. More low-maintenance shrubs, especially evergreens.

I'm also thinking of how I could remove some of the daylilies in the front yard (I have 60 daylilies out there, for goodness' sake) and plant more evergreen shrubs. Since our winters last six months, I really should have been focusing on plants with winter interest all along. But I needed to get flowers out of my system for a few years and get tired of all the work before I could get serious about winter plants. Of course I'll still have plenty of daylilies in front, including a dozen or more plants of my all time favorite 'Hush Little Baby', shown in the first two photos.

I'll keep a few 'Smoky Mountain Autumn' dayliies as well (above). Also 'Autumn Sunset', 'Francine Joiner', 'Big Smile' and some others. But 'Apricot Sparkles' (which has been a stingy bloomer for me in part shade), 'Dublin Elaine' (too tall and pale) and 'Millie Schlumpf' (too pale) will be given away. As for evergreen shrubs, I'm not planning to add a bunch of boring junipers and aborvitae or pokey spruces and barberries (ouch). But there are lots of new, dwarf, broad-leaf evergreen cultivars available now. I need to do some research on them.

Monrovia has some interesting holly cultivars on their website. I plan to ask the experts at the nearby nursery which evergreens are their favorite. At the temple we have dwarf inkberry holly (Ilex glabra 'Compacta') that aren't pokey and 'Little Rascal' holly shrubs that are pokey. They didn't look great during the harsh winter two years ago, but most winters they look OK.
Above is 'Jolyene Nichole'.

I already have some 'Green Tower' boxwoods (5-7' tall, 1-2' wide) and plan to use a few more in the backyard. 'Green Velvet' boxwoods (2-3' tall/wide) are on my list as well. The local nursery says it is their best-selling shrub, and it can handle shade or sun.
Above is 'Blue Pearl' bellflower (Campanula), which I like much more than floppy 'Blue Clips'.

Azaleas, rhododendrons, pieris and other acid-lovers look sickly in my neighborhood unless they are grown with a soil-acidifying regimen. Since I'm going for lower maintenance, those shrubs are not on my favorites list.
Above is yet another shot of 'Royal Sunset' lilies, which were very pretty this year but required deadheading, ugh.

I'll still have perennials and roses in my backyard garden, lots more of them than sane people grow, but they will be concentrated in focal areas instead of spread everywhere. 'Rozanne' geraniums (above) will have a heavy presence as groundcovers. Serious gardeners have already heard plenty about this plant, but my newbie-gardener friends need to know that this is the Best Plant Ever! It blooms from June to frost without deadheading (hallelujah) and comes back every year. It can grow in sun or shade, though it doesn't like intense heat. Hardy to zone 5. One foot tall and 2-3 feet wide. Love that low-maintenance color.


  1. Ah...wish I were able to take those daylilies off your hands ;)

  2. Hi VW,

    I hope the new camera is going well for you - I have to agree that you can definitely tell and from my own previous experience it's always best to go for at least mid-range with cameras and lenses. Starter range is a waste of time imo and I won't make that mistake again! :D

    Good luck with the garden; I'm no fan of shrubs but can appreciate that with children gardening has to take a back seat. Have you considered Cotoneasters? Are they not hardy enough for your area? They have nice blooms that attract Bees and then berries in the winter for the birds and are usually evergreen - here they are anyway.

  3. Oh yes, and I meant to say I plan on getting your lens or one similar ;)

  4. I look forward to seeing what evergreen shrubs you decide upon. Haven't seen the dwarf inkberry in person, have read about it. I love having gardenias in my front foundation...too cold for them in your area?? Keep us posted.

  5. I started on the flowering shrubs and some conifers a few years ago trying to go with more maintenance free. Now after this year I'm going to reduce the size of a couple beds. Just waiting for my shrubs to grow a little bigger and reduce even more perennials. Do what you have to do girl.

    Cher Sunray Gardens

  6. I could have written this post! (except for the four young children part that is!) I have been going through this struggle with "change of direction for years". I still can't totally let go of so many plants that I swore I would cut back on. At one point I did away with all my perennials except daylilies... now I find myself years later heading in that direction again. Of course the daylily collection has grown tremendously once I started hybridizing my own. As I look at this entire issue, I start to think that I sometimes garden in certain ways to please others... once I realized that I cut back by 3/5ths on the annuals in the gardens. I am seriously thinking of doing no annuals at all one year (perhaps this coming year) and dividing a great many of my daylilies... bedding them out and selling them very inexpensively when in bloom. As much as I love the gardens, I sometimes regret being so tied down... hence all the changes this past year to groundcovers, conifers, and plants that basically take care of themselves... it's a start but there is a long way to go yet. You'd think at 63 that I would have rid my life of the stress of being overcommitted, but I guess it's in my blood. Good luck with your changes in the gardens... just be certain that they don't give cause to regret down the road... by the way, you have some lovely hemerocallis pictured in this post... I just can't avoid getting inspired by them... must be strong! Take care, Larry

  7. Any interest in native plants for wildlife? Berries for birds, or would you get monarch butterflies?

  8. Diana, I have kind of stumbled into the enjoyment of birds and bees in my garden. I didn't plant things specifically to attract them, but the bees flock to my crabapples, salvia and catmint, and we're happy to have them! It caused great excitement when our baby trees grew big enough to have birds landing on the branches. We're still hoping for a nest someday. We have a birdbath outside the living room window and enjoy seeing birds there. Last month we found a giant black beetle on the front porch - 4 inches long or more - I thought beetles only grew that large in the tropics. So interesting. I am thinking about viburnum shrubs for their colorful berries and am happy to share them with the birds. We've enjoyed a lot more butterflies this summer and I plan to plant more parsley in hopes of attracting more of them. Maybe some of the ornamental milkweeds as well. I'm definitely thinking about how to add more red flowers to attract the hummingbirds. But it seems that a healthy garden, with a minimum of chemicals used (I squirt a few drops of Roundup on the grass that sneaks under the edging since pulling it up doesn't work, but that's it), will draw the wildlife all on its own. Though I'm not looking forward to the day when the squirrels move in and dig up my flower bulbs!


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