10 low maintenance plants for an instant – but long-lasting – garden

May 22nd, 2021 Posted In: Garden trends & design

I’ve been finding out about the ultimate low maintenance plants for an instant – yet long-lasting garden.

And holiday homes really need easy-care gardens, because there’s so little time when a gardener can go in to maintain the garden. So Garden designer Posy Gentles has just designed two low-maintenance, high impact gardens for Chimney Farms Barns in Oxfordshire, part of the Quince boutique holiday home collection.

Garden at the Lock-keepers snipe

The Lock-keeper’s Snipe, one of the Quince holiday barns, is a U shaped building around a square central courtyard. Posy divided the courtyard up into geometric areas to create places to sit or eat, breaking up the space with different levels

Quince holiday homes have stylish, contemporary interiors. The founder, Sarah Wood, wanted the gardens to reflect this design ethic. Also the gardens also had to look good immediately, yet still look good five years later when they’d grown.

Blue sitting room The Lock-keepers Snipe

The stylish deep blue living room at The Lock-keeper’s Snipe overlooks the central courtyard garden, so it needed to be just as good-looking.

And one of the signature elements of Quince holiday properties is a bath in the garden! Chimney Farm Barns are courtyard properties, with windows on the three sides. So while the bath is open to the air, it also needed some privacy.

Bath in garden

The bath house is to one side of the courtyard garden, beside a door to one of the main en-suite bedrooms. It’s protected on three sides with recycled scaffolding board walls, but is open to the sun, lavender and birdsong on the fourth.

Yellow bath in bedroom

Although you could have just as glamorous a bath inside!

All in all, it was quite a design challenge. Posy chose the plants carefully, each one picked for easy care and a maximum season of appeal. This is a garden that doesn’t need dead-heading, watering, fertilising or even much pruning. And most of the plants are resilient enough to thrive even in very dry summers.

However, do note that in the first year after planting any plants, you must water them regularly until they get their roots deep enough to survive without.

It’s also worth remembering that all gardens need some maintenance. For example, every garden needs weeding, although you can slow weeds down by planting densely and using gravel or other mulches.

If you prefer to watch a video rather than read a post, you can watch this on YouTube here.

Top 10 low maintenance plants

Evergreen low maintenance plants for year-round impact

Posy started her palette of planting with evergreen plants, because they have structure and form all year round.

Her first choice was lavender. Lavender has a compact shape – especially if you clip it tightly once a year in August. It makes a good plant for low maintenance pots or as a low hedge to divide up the space. See how to clip lavender tightly in this post.

Lavender is a low maintenance evergreen

Provided that your garden is sunny, lavender is a very easy-care plant. It’s evergreen, too. This garden is only a few months old – Posy and Sarah were putting in the finishing touches when I visited, so the plants haven’t even had one summer to grow. This lavender will be much bigger and chunkier by the end of the year.

Easy care rosemary

Rosemary provides a deep, year round green and, like lavender, offers scent in the garden. Rosemary needs almost no attention, although it sometimes only lasts five years or so.

Choisya ternata

Choisya ternata is so obliging that many people dismiss it as a municipal car park plant, but its pretty white, scented flowers often appear throughout autumn, winter and spring. If it gets overgrown, you can hack it back, says Posy, and it’ll round out again.

Sedum

Posy picked this sedum ‘Rose Carpet’ because it will last a long time in a pot and doesn’t need as much watering as many plants in pots. In the garden, she has planted the type of sedum that is now known as hylotelephium. She recommends Hyotelelphium ‘Herbstfraude’ or ‘spectabile’ because their flowers look good for so long. You can leave them on the plant throughout winter to create some winter interest, and just snip them off in spring when the new foliage emerges.

Ruby flowered broom

I just adore this red flowered broom (Cytisus scoparius ‘Burkwoodii’ ) which flowers in late spring and early summer and is tolerant of wind and drought. Note that yellow broom is invasive in North America, Australia and New Zealand, so if you live in that part of the world, don’t plant a broom variety unless you’re sure it isn’t the invasive type.

Easy, spreading ground cover geranium

Plants which spread or self-seed make for easy gardening, because they cover the ground, which helps slow down weed growth.

Posy chose Geranium macrorrhizum as a ground cover plant, because it has pretty leaves (often evergreen, depending on your climate) and delicate pink flowers in spring. ‘It’ll just spread into any gaps and you can simply pull plants out if they spread too far,’ says Posy.

Geranium macrorrhizum

Geranium macrorrhizum (Rock cranesbill) spreading happily in the garden of Rose Barn, which is adjacent to The Lock-keeper’s Snipe and whose garden was also designed by Posy. This plant spreads in a thick mat and its leaves are slightly scented.

For long-season flowers that don’t need dead-heading

When choosing low maintenance plants, Posy has picked plants that are resilient enough not to need fertilising and which can withstand dry summers. But dead-heading is also a time-consuming chore, so plants that don’t need dead-heading are easy care.

Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri) is a tough and undemanding plant with delicate, airy flowers that last throughout summer and long into autumn.

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura’s delicate white or pink-and-white flowers last throughout the summer and well into autumn, with little or no attention.

gaura, fennel and verbascum

The delicate white flowers in this picture are Gaura, along with fennel and verbascum in another garden designed by Posy. See it here in What to Plant in a Coastal Garden. She’s also used fennel at Chimney Farm Barns, because it is an easy, undemanding self-seeder, which spreads happily without requiring much attention.

Low-maintenance trees for structure and screening

Trees are generally low-maintenance plants, but some trees – such as fruit trees – will require annual pruning. Posy picked two trees that need very little pruning – one for structure and one for screening. Both the Lock-keeper’s Snipe and Rose Barn have enclosed square courtyard gardens, surrounded on three sides by the barn.

If you’d like to know about choosing the right tree for your garden, this post should help.

So Posy divided them into different zones, because both properties sleeps 12. As people are likely to want to chat and spend time together in small groups, there are three seating areas in each garden.

One seating area is placed to enjoy the morning sun.

Relaxing seating area at Rose Barn

Relaxing wicker chairs positioned to catch the morning sun at Rose Barn.

A second seating area in both gardens catches the evening sun. To partly screen this and one of the eating areas, Posy used multi-stemmed amelanchiers (Amelanchier lamarkii). It has pretty white flowers in spring plus berries and glorious foliage colour in autumn. The leaf canopy is quite light, so it offers privacy with dappled shade.

Multi-stemmed amelanchier

A second seating area at Rose Barn is partly shielded with multi-stemmed amelanchier. They only require light pruning once a year – and perhaps not even that.

Amelanchier lamarkii spring leaves

The spring leaves of  Juneberry (Amelanchier lamarkii) go a glorious colour in autumn.

Upright junipers

To add vertical interest and structure, Posy has also added several upright junipers. They maintain their shape without pruning and are tolerant of a wide range of climate and soil conditions. The bath house behind was built with recycled scaffolding boards.

Easy care self seeding flowers

Self-seeders are the easy, low maintenance plants, giving your floral colour without the work that annual plants involve. All you have to do is pull up any plants that have landed where you don’t want them. Posy has picked three exceptionally easy-going self-seeders. They are verbena bonariensis, erigeron and fennel. For more easy self seeders, see my post on 25 good self-seeding plants.

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis self-seeds freely and often pops up in a glorious cloud of small, airy flowers.

Low maintenance Self seeding plants

Both Erigeron karvinskianus and fennel will self seed readily, filling cracks in paving and gaps in borders.

See more of the Lock-keeper’s Snipe garden in video

You can see more of the garden in this video on Low Maintenance Plants on YouTube.

More resources

You can book Chimney Farm Barns here. It’s in the middle of The Chimney Meadows Nature Reserve, an area of ancient water-meadows and home to many wading birds and other birdlife. You can watch the sun going down over the water meadows from a bench at the back of Chimney Farm Barns.

Find Posy Gentles Garden Design here. And there are more gardens designed by Posy in this post on Small Garden Planting Ideas that really work and more Garden Planting Ideas for Small Gardens.

If you’re generally feeling overwhelmed by your garden, there are some tips here.

Shop my favourite gardening books, tools and products

I’m often asked for recommendations so I’ve put together lists of gardening books, tools and products I use myself on the Middlesized Garden Amazon store. Note that links to Amazon are affiliate which means I may get a small fee if you buy, but I only recommend products I use personally or which have been recommended by people I trust.

And you can buy a Middlesized Garden mug, t-shirt or tote bag with my favourite saying ‘Gardeners Learn by Trowel and Error.’ I hope it helps people feel that they can just give gardening a go and not worry too much if something goes wrong.

Middlesized Garden mug

Available in blue, green and white, too, from Spring.

Pin to remember low maintenance plants

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Easy care plants for a stylish low maintenance garden


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