The Lazy Girl’s Garden

blue phloxEveryone wants a beautiful, unforgettable yard or garden. But few of us want to dig, weed and sweat. Fortunately, with a little thought and research, you can have a small paradise that’s very easy to keep up, allowing you to get on with the important work of basking in a hammock with a glass of iced tea and a copy of “Gone Girl.”

Forget grass

Grass is boring and high maintenance. It wants nothing better than to go all brown on you or die completely and leave your front yard naked. Grass requires too much water, too much fertilizer, too much replanting and too much cutting.

No matter what your Uncle Fred tells you, there are perfectly good substitutes for grass. Ground cover, for instance, can be beautiful, and it grows sideways, not up, so you just got out of mowing and trimming. Two hardy native ground covers are: American alumroot (Heuchera americana), a leafy perennial whose green leaves are beautifully accented with purple veins, and wild blue phlox (Phlox divaricata), which is really a tiny wildflower that comes around again year after year without being replanted.

If ground cover is still too much work for you, there’s rubber mulch. Rubber mulch is not especially fashionable, but it is indestructible. It looks respectable when used as the dramatic setting for plants in well-defined raised beds. Rubber mulch is also a godsend for people with small children that play in the yard. It’s non-allergenic and will not cut your offspring when he  or she falls on it. It will also stay cleaner than any organic thing you might think to have in your yard.

You could, in theory, just cover your yard with rubber mulch and be done with it. But, to give it a little style and grace, you will want to interject some low-maintenance shrubs or small trees or, if you’re really avoiding doing any work, some potted plants. Finish the whole look off with a stone pathway or two and a fountain or statue, and you have a yard that your neighbors need not sneer at.

A quick Google search for rubber mulch will turn up tasteful, organic looking colors like wine and forest green, but, if you’re not a slave to understatement, you can buy your mulch in bright colors like cobalt blue, salmon pink and lemon yellow.

If the lovely colors of mulch are not your thing, there’s always white rock – a favorite ground cover of people who wish to create the illusion of a Japanese garden as well as those who live in water deficient places.

Plant natives

Farmer and St. Matthews Feed & Seed Consultant Carson Nation says, if you want to plant something and then forget about it, plant natives. Kentucky wildflowers make a beautiful garden and, because they are from here, they can tolerate the local soil and weather better than imported plants.

Nation has planted several “perennial gardens,” as he calls them near his crops because they attract bees, which he needs as pollinators. He gets a 30 percent better yield on his crops as a result. He recommends wildflowers like echinacea, rudbeckia, foxglove, wild bee balm and lovilia.

Nation also recommends native trees like serviceberries, paw paws and persimmons because they’re hardy and they bear fruit. You don’t have to spray them because they stand up well to pests. “I let ’em go and grow,” says Nation.

Hardscapes

Once you’ve created a low-maintenance infrastructure, you can have a lot of fun with ornaments, also known in the home and garden world as “hardscapes” – flagstones, statuary, permeable stone or brick walkways, decorative stones, fountains, bird baths, etc.  One local expert on hardscapes is Joe Nicholson, the manager at Architectural Salvage. Nicholson says that urns are a popular item for landscapes.

“People can use them as a planter and plant around them. We sell a lot of them.”

People also like to buy terra cotta masonry, according to Nicholson: “Terra cotta is fun to put around. You have your own little ruins.”

People also go to his store looking for arbors, architectural elements that gardeners use to train roses and other climbing plants. Arbors, Nicholson explains, “give a sense of entry to a garden. They can support a vine.” When the vine is mature, “they look spectacular,” he adds.

Another hardscape feature that lends itself to vines is a topiary – basically a wire column, sometimes topped off with a sundial called an armillary. Admittedly, the dramatic topiaries that you find in formal gardens require quite a bit of maintenance to keep their dramatic edges, but there’s no reason that your topiary has to be that structured. It doesn’t have to look like a poodle.

But, if you decide on a topiary, what vines should you plant? If you want foliage that will, in the long run, cost you no effort, find a weed you love and plant it. Lonicera sempervirens, also known as trumpet honeysuckle, is a gorgeous vine that grows like, well, the weed that it is. If you really want your garden to stand out on the block, plant the native and gorgeous Passiflora incarnata, a.k.a passionflower. VT