Gardening brings so much pleasure to so many people, but the trouble is, it takes time and a fair bit of patience. The majority of us lead such frantic lives cramming so much in to our days that by the time we have a few moments to contemplate our garden, it is either dark or we are simply too tired to consider gardening. So if you would love to have a beautiful garden, but do not have the time or motivation to put in commensurate effort, here are a few tips for creating a low maintenance, but enjoyable, garden.

Watering
During most normal summers watering can be very time consuming. Select containers that are made from non-porous materials. If you prefer porous terracotta or wooden troughs, line these containers with polythene.  You can also add a water retaining gel so that the compost can hold more water and think about covering the surface of all containers with some sort of organic mulch.

There are many automatic watering systems available that save hours of watering time. There are also self-watering containers available particularly useful for window boxes and hanging baskets; there is nothing more frustrating than tripping over watering hose. Use a through feed reel attached to an outside tap so that you only unwind as much hose as you need.

If watering your plants is one of those things you only remember to do once you are tucked up in bed, select drought tolerant plants and apply a layer of mulch to prevent water evaporation from the soil. Drought tolerant plants can often be identified by some of the following characteristics:

Spiky leaves – such as agave, cordylines, phormium or yuccas.

Grey, hairy leaves – such as Brachyglottis, Convolvulus cneorum, Helichrysum petiolare.

Thick, waxy leaves – such as echeveria, lampranthus, mesembryanthemum, sedum spurium.

Aromatic leaves – such as lavender, rosemary, Helichrysum italicum, Salvia microphylla and evergreen herbs.

Sun-loving flowers – some summer bedding such as geraniums, gazania and mesembryanthemum, perennials and shrubs such as hibiscus and cistus.

If you are unlucky and suffer from a hose-pipe ban it is important to remember which plants should have priority when watering.  Recently planted specimens and those with a shallow, fibrous root system such as hydrangeas and rhododendrons will suffer if not watered.  Worry less about your lawn as it will recover in the autumn.

Lawns
If your lawn has corners but your neighbour’s doesn’t, you will be doomed to losing the mowing race every time. Replace those corners with smooth sweeping curves that allow the mower to glide around easily. Remember that if you mow twice a week you could leave fine lawn clipping on the grass to feed it and this eliminates the needs to empty the grass-box.

Small areas of lawn are particularly difficult to mow. Consider replacing those fiddly sections of lawn with gravel, glass chippings or paving slabs. Leave spaces between the slabs so you can plant some ground hugging plants to soften the appearance. Alternatively place plants amongst the gravel, these could include such treasures  as chamomile or thyme which are particularly suitable as they do not mind being trodden on occasionally and they release a wonderful scent when their foliage is crushed.

Plant Maintenance
Grow tall perennials close together so that they support each other, eliminating the need for staking. Select flowering plants that cope well with the wind and rain so you do not have to regularly deadhead them. Good gap fillers that do not need staking and require little attention include achillea filipendulina ‘Cloth of Gold’ and the smaller ‘Moonshine’, coreopsis verticillata and delphinium.  Sedum can make a welcome splash of colour in the autumn.

Many shrubs require little more care than the occasional trim.  Low maintenance flowering shrubs include potentillas, spiraeas, dogwoods and ceratostigma.  Interesting evergreens include elaeagnus pungens and euonymus fortunei varieties, aucuba japonica or choisya ternata.  If your soil is light and sandy and tends to dry out quickly, choose plants that tolerate these conditions.  Examples are cistus, helianthemum, lavender or caryopteris.

Climbers can be particularly time consuming.  Select climbers that naturally train upwards or sideways and do not need tying to their supports.  Also avoid climbers that need regular pruning.

Hedging frequently demands a lot of work. Use an informal border of compact evergreen shrubs that do not need pruning. Alternatively choose a species that needs trimming only once a year such as elaeagnus or holly. There are sprays available that inhibits new growth on your hedge when sprayed onto a lightly trimmed hedge in late spring. It is not recommended however for use on yew, box, viburnum, roses, myrobalan plum or hedges less than three years old.

Weeding and Digging
 It is essential to get rid of weeds early on so that they do not have the chance to spread. Dig out the weeds or apply some weed-killer and then cover the bare soil with a layer of mulch or ground cover plants to stop the weeds from getting established. In general you do not need to worry about digging. Simply spread compost or well rotted manure over the surface each year and leave the friendly earthworms to do all the hard work.