A friend of mine once confided she had a special place in her heart for trees.
She wanted her home to be surrounded by trees, from as far back in the landscape as she could see to right up near the back door. Because her home was a new construction, built by a contractor with a goal of eliminating every tree on every plot, her property was very bare. But that wasn't an issue because the challenge of a blank slate only gave her more enthusiasm.
Once the house was completed and the property had been adequately graded, grass planted and foundation shrubs picked out, she began her quest for landscape trees. This is where things began to turn ugly. Deciding to start at the far back of the property, she found a nice, three-year maple and planted her first tree. She had read the articles that gave her knowledge on the proper planting and care of trees. She also read the articles that said you need to water religiously, every day for the first two years so the tree could establish a deep root system for good health and longevity.
On rainy days, the system worked great because nature took over the task, but on days when there was no rain, my friend could be seen carrying buckets of water out to the tree at least twice a day.
Perhaps she didn't mind hauling heavy water buckets to the back of her yard. She may decided the end result would be worth the trouble, or she may have chalked it up to a good workout. Not every gardener cares about low maintenance. Some gardener actually enjoy pulling weeds and digging border trenches. But I suspect that more often than not, people want nice gardens without all the work. This is where a good plan comes into play.
Planning a garden, whether it is a huge landscape design or simply adding a few trees here and there, can easily be accomplished by keeping just a few things to keep in mind. The first is to resign yourself to the idea that all gardens will require some sort of maintenance, even trees, for at least a little while.
All landscapes, if left to their own resources, will revert back to their wild state. My own backyard is a perfect example. For many years, we manicured a section of our property near the woodline. Paths were cut through shrubby areas to reveal a secret corridor lined with ferns, multiflora rose and elderberry shrubs and smooth sumac. We thought about creating a more domesticated secret garden in that spot by including hosta and other cultivated herbaceous perennials. Perhaps even a garden bench at the halfway point along the aisle.
Then when our attention turned to the upper landscape; creating a garden pond, building a greenhouse and developing perennial borders, we neglected this woodline area. It only took three years of neglect for the wild understory shrubs and taller trees to move in, creep closer to the mowed edges, fill in the secret aisle, and completely change the woodline.
The bottom line is this. There is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden. You can put in trees and shrubs in place of perennials and annuals but you have simply created a low-maintenance garden. There still will be trimming, weeding and pruning to do. Nothing is completely maintenance free.
To start designing your garden, no matter what type or where, the first thing to do is determine how much time you are willing to spend on its maintenance. You also might want to consider if anyone other than yourself will be helping with landscape care. It always helps to have support.
You also have to learn your level of tolerance for what happens in the garden. Perhaps you don't mind a few unwelcome insects on the roses or maybe you don't see all of the weeds. On the other hand, you just might not be able to live with any weeds or insects at all.
In my garden, I like to see a more tidiness near the house, but further in the back I don't mind that things aren't formal or pristine. Pulling weeds can be therapeutic.
As the season progresses, we will delve more into the field of garden design and take a look at all types of plans to fit all types of personalities. Hopefully you will see yourself somewhere along the way.