Category - Blog

What Is A Low Maintenance Garden?

url=”” cpfl=false]Digging Deeper- The thoughts and observations  on Low Maintenance Gardening.

Our intention is to write a blog with more content and body based upon our work in the Cambridgeshire are and other clients in neighbouring counties.
This article is about low maintenance gardens, myths surrounding them and offering you examples of how you can achieve REAL low maintenance whilst not compromising on seasonal interest and REAL beauty within your garden.
Can you ( and by “you” I mean domestic homeowners with medium sized gardens) still have  high visual impact gardens whilst at the same time not become a slave to them.?

Can we have seasonal, long-term interest in the garden, whilst at the same time not having to deadhead for two hours at the end of each working day?

I hope by end of this article you might re-examine your perception of “low maintenance” and potentially make positive changes in your own garden
When meeting a new client the most frequent comment is “It just has to be low maintenance, we simply haven’t got the time these days” followed by the obligatory “We were thinking about putting the garden down to gravel, what do you think?”

My reaction is to smile politely, (though inwardly I am screaming).

So how do we define low maintenance?

Your personal definition of low maintenance will probably be influenced by the time you can spare in the garden and/or by the amount of hours you can pay your gardener to maintain it on your behalf. So it will obviously vary considerably between individuals.
I can tell you what isn’t low maintenance.Does this scene look familiar?

landcape garden design
Though these plants that are considered low maintenace ( Nandina, lonicera, Pieris, Heuchera) they are planted in a minute border.

The Nandina, loincera and Pieris will need to be pruned throughout the year to keep them within the confines of the border, furthermore by pruning they will lose their individual form (and flowering buds) and look like generic shrubby “blobs” which I see too often these days.

Creating REAL low maintenance gardens boils down to one simple thing… correct plant selection! If the beds are designed correctly, you shouldn’t need to work so hard to keep plants under control. The most appropriate plants should have been chosen for the space at the design stage.

garden designer

This border has been designed so it only requires 4 hours maintenance per year. Low maintenance doesn’t have to be boring!!!

Secondly, take a look from outside back into your garden. How much bare soil do you see? Can you see more bare soil than plants?
It’s vital that you have as much ground coverage as possible in your garden. You could use a conventional bark mulch , or you could use a mulched thick layer (4 inches) compost.

However have you considered that you could cover the soil surface with a dense plant layer? Let me make this point clearly. A dense ground cover layer is very different from ground-cover plants as shown in the picture below.

ground cover

This type of planting will make your garden feel very bland/sterile. Secondly a lot of the ground cover plants are highly invasive.
As illustrated in the pictures below this can be achieved with a wide range of plants.
Perhaps consider the example below

ground cover garden design
This method of planting uses a greater variety of species. By increasing the number of species, you can vastly extend the seasons of interest.

Also consider planting your garden at a higher plant per square metre density.

Having specimen (low maintenance) shrubs at two or 3 m apart with acres of soil in between them simply isn’t going to work . It may be cheaper in the short term to plant this way, but it is merely a false economy.

The money you may save at the planting stage will be undone by the amount you pay for maintenance both in terms of cost and time.
I hope this blog gives as a small insight into how you can create a lower maintenance garden for yourself, that can be highly attractive at the same time.

Take some time to re-examine your own garden and analyse if your ‘low maintenance garden’ is errr, ummm actually low maintenance. You would be surprised how a few simple changes and tweaks to your existing planting, with a few new additions can transform you garden space into something beautiful and truly low maintenance.
Daniel Lee

So, why employ a landscape gardener?

As a rule, we are only really exposed to the skills of
landscape gardeners in TV ‘make-over’ programmes and
magazine articles. Both these mediums fail to properly
illustrate the skill it takes to design the ultimate garden
and have often been photo-shopped to within an inch of
their lives! Horticultural detail and technical content are,
at best, sketchy.

cambridge lanscape garden design

My aim is to include a more detailed, inclusive ‘education’
exchange between me and my customers! For example,
an immediately planted garden might look perfect – but
what about when its 6 months or a year old? How often
do the plants spread the wrong way or take over space
allocated for more delicate, tender shoots to make their
way in the border? Often designers who lack the
horticultural knowledge will place entirely the wrong
plants and shrubs together resulting in a fight to the

Enthusiasm for the developing, maturing garden means
that a skilled landscape garden designer will take the long
view. Gardens evolve over time, look different with each
season and often provide lovely surprises for their visitor.
Many gardens are spoilt by over developing the so-called
‘features’. The position of the obligatory rose archway
needs, at least, to be placed in the correct place – i.e.
where the rose grows towards the sun AND around the

Garden features used in many gardens can end up
looking like carbon copies of your ‘typical’ garden.
Always including a pergola, stepping stones, paving,
miniature pieces of lawn – full of moss…. I could go on. A
classic error is to use Indian sandstone, which looks
pristine when it’s first laid, and is cheap. Then, a year
later, said stone has become weaker through a cold
winter, been jet washed (by an apparently diligent owner
removing not only the dirt but the pointing and top layer of
stone), newly cleaned stone then freezes and starts to
crumble. Not so cheap now is it?

Other considerations need to include colour schemes,
seasonal changes, proportion of herbaceous v annual v
biennial v shrubs, type of soil, growth habits (conical,
spreading, spherical) and will the weeds be suitably
suppressed by the correct combination of plants?
What we can do together is to design something more
appealing and original.

Digging Deeper|Garden Designers

Digging Deeper – the thoughts and observations of a  Professional Landscape Gardener & Designer and nature enthusiast at the  Cambridge Garden Design Company

This is our  first blog posting and we plan to use this site to generate interest, inspire conversation and ultimately help.

landscape garden design

In particular we want to attract your views in order to ensure that you feel your garden has been developed using a collaborative process to include your ideas and dreams. Of course, if you want a garden designed exclusively, develop ideas that can be used to transform or design your beautiful garden by me I will do that too! In my experience there are many who would value the chance to really play a part in the design of their outside space. After all it is you who will be using it and watching it grow and develop for years to come.
*Please see the end of this article to view a comprehensive directory of other garden designers you may also want to consider. Our service is by no means the only company that will offer you these services. However, I plan to ensure that, as garden designers, our service will be unique in that it encourages discussion and creativity from both the experienced designer AND at the same time includes your thought processes and artistic interpretations.

*Directory Society of Garden Designers:
British Association of Landscape Industries:
Association of Professional Landscapers:

Cambridge Garden Design
119 Bramley Way Hardwick Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB23 7XE
Phone: 01223 750782