Gardening / Going low with maintenance

A low-maintenance garden at Gleneagles… designed to match the Federation-style home.

“I WOULD like a low-maintenance garden” was the catch cry for many clients for whom I designed gardens.

Cedric Bryant.

What they really meant was they would like a NO-maintenance garden, which obviously is not possible.

But on the positive side, one can have an almost low-maintenance garden and in this column I illustrate two examples for consideration.

In the picture of the Gleneagles garden, the clients wanted just such a garden with extremely busy lives running a building firm. They’d built a beautiful Federation-style home with great attention to detail. The garden needed to loosely tie in with the period coming out of the strict Victorian formal gardens. I used Buxus sempervirens box hedging in the front garden touching on the Victorians’ love of diamond-shaped garden beds. Bright colour is provided with roses that need a good prune only once a year and occasional dead-heading and feeding.

Many readers will remember Peter and Polly Park’s garden in Scarborough Street, Red Hill, which was regularly opened to the public. This was a spectacular series of gardens within a garden with extensive use of box hedging. We supplied many plants to this garden from our nursery in Yass in the early ‘80s.

Polly was fanatical about her garden and everything had to be pruned to perfection, to the extent the box hedges were not game to produce a new leaf for fear of her secateurs!

Some readers might think that’s a tremendous amount of work even with box hedging. Not so, in our own garden we have extensive box hedging that I trim once a year, in early autumn or early spring. It’s important, as with all evergreen shrubs, to trim at these times so the new growth hardens before the first frosts in autumn or the last frosts in spring. One can give a second light trim in late spring/early summer to tidy up the new spring growth, but this isn’t essential.

The entrance to a townhouse complex… colour could be added with perennials or annuals around the bay trees.

THE other picture provides a miniscule garden, in this case the entrance to a townhouse development. With box hedging, the feature is two Laurus nobilis or bay trees trained into standard specimens.

Colour could be added with perennials or annuals around the bay trees.

These two examples illustrate it is possible to have a low-maintenance garden that is still interesting with the absolute minimum of work.


  • Check out the delightful new series of Armeria including “Sweet Dreams”, “DayDream” and “Dreamboat”, all with varying shades of pink pom pom flowers, now at garden centres.
  • Once the rhododendrons, azaleas and all other spring-flowering, acid-loving plants have finished flowering give them a light trim and feed to which is added a heaped tablespoon of Epsom salts in a nine-litre watering can of water.

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