Sit back, relax, and let them grow Carefree: If you don't want to fuss with a garden, or if you want to put your time and energy into other things, consider low-maintenance landscaping.

July 21, 1996|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

Days are hot, the evenings almost as bad. About the most gardening anyone wants to do these days is pull a ripe tomato off the vine.

The phrase "low-maintenance," forgotten in a wave of energy and enthusiasm all spring, now has your full attention. You're thinking about:

Low-maintenance plants that don't need pruning every other day.

Low-maintenance plants that aren't attacked by every pest under the sun.

Low-maintenance plants that don't break up in ice storms and don't litter the landscape with messy fruits and broken limbs.

Relax, there are plenty.

And, while a low-maintenance landscape may the primary goal for those weary of yard work, its principles work just as well for dedicated gardeners.

Putting these ideas to work in a portion of the garden conserves time and energy for more labor-intensive projects, such as vegetable growing or rose gardening.

Two basic principles apply: You choose plants that don't bring problems with them, and you set out plants where they have space to reach their mature height and width. Find out what you will have to do with your plants before you buy them.

Follow both principles, and you will go a long way toward reducing such aggravations as annually cutting back the hollies or camellias that suddenly cover the windows or picking up an endless stream of broken wood from such weak-limbed trees as the silver maple.

Throw in some stretches of ground cover where grass steadfastly refuses to grow despite your constant efforts, and you reduce your work load considerably -- allowing time to tend the vegetables and roses.

But low-maintenance doesn't mean no maintenance. Even a bed of ground-cover junipers or liriope will need a check for the odd weed; azaleas that are just the right size for the front border will still need fertilizer and, in dry stretches, watering; a sturdy oak will still need training and pruning.

Here are some of the trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers that I think of as low-maintenance plants.

Trees: Ginkgo (male plants only; females produce foul-smelling fruit), Eastern redbud, magnolia, oaks, Japanese zelkova, hackberry, fruitless sweet gum, tulip poplar and American holly.

Shrubs: Barberry, deutzia, forsythia, witch hazel, beauty bush, rugosa roses, spirea, viburnum, weigela, aucuba, abelia, nandina, mahonia, osmanthus, pieris.

Perennials: Hosta, day lilies, yarrow, coreopsis, Lenten rose, crane's bill geranium, candytuft, creeping phlox, black-eyed Susans, veronica, sedums, lily of the valley and lamb's ears.

Ground covers: Mondo grass, blue fescue, periwinkle, ajuga, wintercreeper and lamium.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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