NO MAINTENANCE VS. LOW MAINTENANCE
I love it when I’m meeting with a client for a design and they tell me that they want a NO maintenance landscape. NO maintenance? What is there out in this wide world that needs NO maintenance? I always have to smile because just about everyone asks for that very same thing. NO such thing as a No maintenance plant. Plants always need something done to them, like watering, dead leafing, deadheading, or cutting back at some point during the season. I will always try to pick out plants for them that are as close to no maintenance as I can. Then I then tell them how much they will love their new LOW maintenance landscape.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Since it is spring and planting season will be here before we know it, I’d love to talk about plants. Low maintenance perennials for color all summer, groundcovers, grasses, and trees that are meant for most urban sized yards.
RIGHT PLANT FOR THE RIGHT PLACE
When you go to your local nursery to purchase a plant, you should always be aware of the location you would like the plant to go. Is it a sunny side of your home, under a tree, or on the shady north side of the house? All these things should be considered and are important for the long-term survival of the plant. All nurseries and even big box stores have plants nowadays. They all should have a tag in the pot that will tell you what the plant is, what moisture it needs and the light it requires. Is this plant for sun, shade, part-shade? When I go out to a client’s home, I take note of what the lighting and moisture conditions are, and that in turn helps me to choose the correct plants. My teacher, Mr. Jim Funai, always said, “put the right plant in the right place”. It makes a lot of sense and will keep you from having a yard full of dead plants.
MY FAVORITE PERENNIALS
I’m going to cover some of my favorite perennials here. Perennials for color, that are easy to care for with just minimum care. I will start off with these perennials that are LOW maintenance, they do not cause problems by spreading and are just very easy to care for. All of these following perennials are for a full to part sun location.
Geranium x ‘Rozanne’ or Rozanne Geranium (zone 5-8). This is a geranium that will bloom from late May into October. It has dark blue flowers and the foliage will turn a rust color in fall. The plants will get around 1’ high and spread about 2’. They thrive in medium to dry soils. If they get a little too unruly you can cut them back and they will just go on to rebloom some more. Another geranium that I love to use is called Geranium sanguineium ‘Max Frei’ (zone 3-8). While like Rozanne, Max Frei has reddish-purple flowers and is a little smaller growing to about 9” tall. They have no serious diseases and are deer and rabbit resistant.
Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ or Purple Coneflower (zone 3-8). This is one of the old original varieties of coneflower and has been around a long time. It is a tall plant standing up to 3’ and spreading up to 1.5’. Coneflowers prefer dry to a medium soil moisture. They are resistant to deer, drought and attract butterflies, as well as birds. Goldfinches love to eat the seeds from this plant. I have used this variety, but also prefer another shorter cultivar in the “Pow Wow” series. Echinacea purpurea Pow Wow Wildberry is one I use a lot. It only gets 18-24” tall and has a hot pink flower head. I’ve also used Echinacea purpurea ‘Hot Papaya’ which has a spicy red and orange flower. It grows to 3’ like the Magnus.
Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Bath’s Pink’ or Bath’s Pink Dianthus (zone 3-9). They have carnation-type flowers and bloom for a long period of time. Bath’s Pink is a soft pink flower with a spicy scent. It is a low grower at 4-6” and spreads the same. It prefers a medium moisture soil, but I’ve seen it take drought very well too. Another awesome one is Dianthus g. ‘Fire Witch’. It has a deep raspberry-red flower but grows a little taller than Bath’s Pink at 6-8” in height. These dianthuses both are deer resistant, great for rock gardens and bed edges. With a little deadheading, they will continue to bloom all summer.
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’ or Cherry Brandy Black-eyed Susan (zone 4-7). Everyone loves the old fashioned Black-Eyed Susan, but this Cherry Brandy is just beautiful.
It has large, dark red flowers with a chocolate center and grows to 24” in height. I used this in a potted planted urn at Stan Hywet for the center height and it was great. At the time I didn’t realize it was a perennial, but I was happy to find out it is. Cherry Brandy will bloom all summer long and might need just a little deadheading to keep it going. It can self-seed and if you have the room a large planting of this would look amazing!
A very popular hibiscus is Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Lord Baltimore’ (zone 5-9). This hibiscus will reach a height of 4-5’ and spread to 3’. It has huge, 10”, crimson red flowers. If you have a medium to wet area, they will love it. There are many other Hibiscus varieties out there that range in color from, pinks, lavender, white, and rose. I think they make a nice “specimen” plant, which means a plant that is a focal point in the garden bed.
Yes, there are a lot of newer varieties of hostas that can tolerate the sun and will also resist deer. Usually having hostas in your landscape is like planting a salad bar for the deer. Not these three. Hosta ‘Blue Angel’ is a very large plant with heights of 3’ and spreading to 4’. They have a heavily textured leaf of deep blue-green color. They tolerate early morning sun or part-sun. Another favorite of mine is Hosta ‘Stained Glass’ (zone 2-9). It has 10” bright gold leaves and dark green edges. The leaves have deep veining that gives it the stained-glass look. The plant will reach only 20” but 4’ wide. The third favorite one is Hosta ‘Sum and Substance’. Another larger hosta that grows to 3’ high by 4’ spread. The leaves are 18” long and 14” wide. I’m guessing that is where the substance comes from! It starts out chartreuse and changes to a more golden color in sun and is another deer resistant plant as well. Deer will choose thin leaved hostas over these thicker leaved varieties.
Well, these are just a few of my favorite sun-loving, as close as possible to no maintenance as you can get, perennials. My next blog will focus on my shade-loving favorite perennials. One of my favorite resources for plant descriptions on the web is The Missouri Botanical Gardens at http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/
Till next time, think green