IF YOU GO
The season’s final installment of the Third Sunday in the Garden series is Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Community Education Garden on the northwest corner of Springwater and Western avenues in Wenatchee.
The WSU Master Gardeners have hosted the popular series.
This week, come at 3 p.m. to learn how to dig and store dahlias from WSU Master Gardeners Sherry Anderson and Fernie Slabaugh. At 3:45 p.m., WSU Master Gardener Mickey Fleming will give tips for putting the vegetable garden to bed, and at 4:30 p.m., get the dirt on winterizing a compost pile from WSU Master Gardeners Tom Ernsberger and Barry Benbow.
I find myself on a roll writing about garden styles. Here is a follow-up to my Sept. 24 column (Gardening Styles — The Old and The New), with a piece about the latest trend in gardening style — low maintenance.
Low maintenance can mean something different for each of us. I know few people who want to work until their joints give out just to have the most beautiful garden in town. That said, low maintenance can be more interesting than a plain lawn with junipers and a few pots of petunias.
A Master Gardener friend of mine spent four years gradually removing her front lawn by hand, putting in a dry stream bed, collecting and installing colorful “water wise” shrubs, perennial flowers and grasses. She created a garden both beautiful and sustainable. Unfortunately, her life changed and she had to sell the house with its garden where she had worked so laboriously.
Shortly after she left town, I saw a flatbed truck sitting in front of her house, loaded with sod ready to replace her entire yard. Everything had been completely removed. Low maintenance to the new owner meant a nice plain grass lawn with a row of red geraniums under the front window. When you think of the weekly mowing, frequent watering, fertilizing, edging and thatching required to maintain a healthy lawn, I’m not sure the trade-off was worth it. In cases like this, I think low maintenance turns out to be low interest.
Here are some ideas several of my garden designer friends use when new clients say they want a low-maintenance garden that still looks attractive:
- Shrubs are essential to a good, easy-care design. They give multi-season visual interest, wildlife value and tolerate difficult conditions. Recent breeding programs have brought new popularity to many standard shrubs. New introductions of the old standby Japanese spiraea (Spiraea japonica) have much to offer. Improved foliage and better flower color, eye-catching new growth, compact mounded growth habit and resistance to mildew are benefits of the new Double Play series described in the September/October 2013 issue of Horticulture magazine. Author Meghan Shinn writes: “Double Play Artisan (‘Galen’) … exhibits deep pink-red new growth, with leaves that then turn blue-green. Double Play Gold (‘Yan’) bursts forth in spring with vivid chartreuse stems and foliage; these later turn a darker lime. It’s an improvement over other yellow-green selections in that it resists scorching in full sun.”
- Ornamental grasses are ideal candidates for the low-maintenance garden today. They are drought tolerant and not fussy about soil conditions, while remaining resistant to pests and disease. There is a size and color to accent any area of the garden. One of my favorites is black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’), which I am now using around my patio edges. It is only about 6 inches high and slowly spreads to make a dramatic statement. I have replaced several messy short-blooming perennials with this interesting grass. It seems to need no maintenance, other than occasional deadheading.
- Do not overlook the value of native flowering trees. They can provide much more than short-lived flowers. They offer food and shelter for pollinators, butterflies and songbirds. Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) has early-spring flowers and summer fruit as well as colorful fall foliage and interesting bark in winter.
I hope you have been inspired to expand your ideas of “low maintenance” to include easy care, interesting, beautiful and sustainable garden design.
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Gloria Kupferman is one of three columnists featured.