Dave’s Gardening Corner: Low-maintenance Gardens

Someone asked me my thoughts on a low-maintenance garden. She has a bad back and was considering, among other options, artificial flowers for a garden. Artificial flowers are a touchy subject for most gardeners and even home decorators. The current stance most people probably take is closer to “Never ever do it!” then just a simple “don’t do it.” There’s good reason for it.

Artificial flowers just don’t carry the beauty or feeling of real flowers. On the other hand, artificial flowers have come a long way, and you can get some very nice ones. You also avoid the bugs and allergy problems. Personally, I use artificial flowers inside the home both to save money and because of my allergies. But for the outside of the home, I fall more into the “Never ever do it!” camp with the only exception being in a wreath for the door.

I think many people use artificial flowers outside with the mistaken belief that they are easier than real flowers. That’s not really true. Granted, once you stick it in the ground, you’re done, but unless you like the static never-changing look of artificial flowers, you won’t be satisfied, and your flowers will never reflect the joy of changing seasons. Plus, once the sun starts to work on those artificial flowers, it won’t be long before they just fall to pieces. Add to that the fact that you’ll have to pull them in the Fall (unless you want your flowers sticking up through the snow), and you’ve got even more work. And none of this even includes the cost of artificial flowers of the annual cleaning you would absolutely have to do.

Instead of artificial flowers, might I suggest a low- to no-maintenance flower bed. There are many flowers that do just fine on their own as long as they are watered. You probably won’t ever have a competition-quality garden, but if you were thinking of planting artificial flowers, I don’t think that was your intended goal, was it?

Here’s my short list of low- to no-maintenance flowers. These are all standard flowers that you should find in virtually any garden center:

  • Petunias: infinite colors, four common sizes, and as long as they are watered, you’ll never need to touch them.

  • Pansies: similar to petunias in their requirements, but they have some of the most vibrant colors out there. These are early spring plants, so plant them as soon as you see the tulips and daffodils. Speaking of which….

  • Tulips and Daffodils: bulb plants that you throw into the ground in the fall and then walk away. That simple. The leaves do go a bit ugly towards mid-summer, so you may have some work there, but you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to.

  • Irises: big plants with fantastic feathery blooms. I like the foliage, but I know many who cut it back. These are also bulbs like your tulips.

  • Snapdragons: Gorgeous creamy yellow blossoms. These will bloom all summer long.

  • Lilies: a million varieties with a slender grass-like leaf. These will bloom all summer long and when not in bloom, have a very pretty leaf base that looks similar to some of the decorative grasses that are currently popular.

There are plenty of other options that will provide you with a good garden with little to no work. Just ask around at your neighborhood garden center. And when you consider that you can get a 6-pack of petunias for around $2 compared to a single artificial flower for the same price (or more) this really becomes an easy decision.

Artificial flowers do indeed have their place, but you really can accomplish the low- to no-maintenance garden just as fast and easily with real flowers. 

NOTE: If you really want a low-maintenance garden, go with perennials. They’ll largely take care of themselves. Remember that they tend to be quite a bit bigger than annuals and a bit more expensive. If you go this route, make sure to consider my personal favorite shrub: Weigela—a million varieties, a thousand colors, hundreds of shapes, all of them beautiful.

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2 Responses to Dave’s Gardening Corner: Low-maintenance Gardens

  1. angeladecker says:

    *hides head in shame* I gave up on trying to grow flowers in the pots on our stairs, so I just stuck fake flowers I was trying to get out of the house there instead. The problem with our stairs is they’re shaded, so I have a hard time finding shade flowers. I also want perennials so I don’t have to replace them every year. But I’d go for cheap annuals as long as I could have something there. What do you recommend that has a long bloom season?

    • daveloveless says:

      Try for impatiens. They are gorgeous flowers that do great in the shade, and you can get them in a range of pale colors and sizes. They are annuals, but they are beautiful and bloom through the summer.

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