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This garden was designed by Carolyn; it demonstrates how it is possible to have a pretty, attractive garden all year round without too much effort. Carolyn reckoned that the things she was asked for most were low maintenance and year round colour and that is what she set out to achieve with this garden. As Carole always says, however, low maintenance doesn't mean no maintenance. All gardens need looked after but this one certainly less than most.

Here are some key factors to Carolyn's Low Maintenance Garden:

No lawn - although lawns cover large areas of soil, they require lots of time and maintenance. Instead, Carolyn has used decorative gravel to cover the main area of the garden and paving slabs to create main pathways.

Landscape fabric - there are positives and negatives about using landscape fabric, but for a low maintenance approach it is hard to beat. It is a good idea to place landscape fabric underneath the gravel. It both keeps the gravel clean and greatly reduces weeds. Carolyn has also broken up the gravel area by planting though the landscape fabric.

Mulch - as mentioned above, the gravel only covers the main area of the garden, leaving wide borders around the edge. The borders have not been covered in fabric or gravel, as it is where the bulk of the planting is. Planting through landscape fabric can be quite fiddly, so instead we use a thick layer of bark mulch to keep the weeds down in the borders. Mulch also helps hold in the moisture in the soil, so these borders rarely need extra watering.

Relaxation space - having a low maintenance garden means you can have even more time to be outside just enjoying it. We've got a bench sheltered by a pergola - the perfect place to catch a few restful minutes with cup of tea or glass of wine.

Careful plant selection - of course, all of the above can help make your garden low maintenance, but selecting the right plants is what really makes the garden enjoyable and beautiful. Trees and shrubs tend to require the least maintenance, but there are also perennials that only need a bit of maintenance in the spring or autumn. Also look for plants that offer more than one season of interest. Evergreens offer continuous colour and many are slow growing as well. Some deciduous shrubs have beautiful flowers in spring or summer and stunning autumn colour. Below are some of our favourites in the Low Maintenance Garden:

  • Pinus mugo - a slow growing, evergreen conifer with dark green needles and lovely cones. It makes a beautiful plant when mature, but do not be deceived by a young plant - it does need space to grow, reaching around 1.5-2 metres wide and high after about 10 years.

  • Hamamelis sp. - witch hazel is a deciduous shrub with lovely autumn colour. However, it is the enchanting, spindly flowers that appear in the early months of the year that attract most people. Flowering in January or February, the bright yellow, orange or red flowers add spark to any garden in winter.

  • Hosta sp. - Carolyn has a lovely hosta planted in the middle of the gravel. Although a perennial, it requires little maintenance and its full habit helps to soften the gravel. Slugs can sometimes be a problems with hostas, but the gravel helps with that as very few slugs dare to cross it.

  • Chaenomeles sp. - this early spring flowering shrub adds brightness to the garden. Ours is coral pink and we've trained it to grow along the fence. The only attention it ever needs is for the odd branch to be cut back or tied into place.

  • Grasses - one of the great groups of low maintenance plants, grasses only need to be cut back in the winter (and some don't even need that). They offer great texture and there is such a huge variety.

  • Pyracantha sp. - this is another shurb that is great to train against a wall if you don't have too much space. The bright orange berries are gorgeous in the winter.