To maintain or not to maintain? That is the question

I don’t like hoovering. Or for that matter ironing. But some people really enjoy doing these things. They find them satisfying and meditative.

I feel like that about gardening. Having a garden for me is about the ritual. It’s difficult to know which point of the year to choose as the start of it. Is it late winter when the tidying starts for me and the cutting back of last years dead plants? Is it spring when the new growth is coming through including weed seedlings that need to be pulled out before they become a menace? Is it summer when it’s a matter of supporting plants and enjoying the fruits of your labour? Is it autumn when old spring and summer growth needs cutting back to allow the autumn plants to shine or late autumn when the dying garden can be allowed to collapse into winter?

But you see that is me. I love all of it. I find it satisfying and meditative and after saying I am just going into the garden for a few minutes to look around, three hours have gone by.

For many people that is not what they want to do in the garden. It’s a place to relax with a glass of something delicious or even a cup of tea sitting in the sun. It’s a playground for your children. It’s a place to share food with family and friends. Somewhere to light a fire pit and sit and chat into the later evening. Or a status symbol.

Scilla in the new part of the garden.

None of that includes the action of gardening.

There is a phrase that people use that seems an oxymoron to me. ‘Low Maintenance Gardening’. I think often in peoples minds it means No Maintenance. Unless you concrete over your garden there will always be some maintenance even if its not to the extent that I love to do. It helps if you know a bit about what you are planting. You can do much less ‘maintaining’ if you know what a plant likes and needs. It will then need less looking after, as I like to think of it. 

If you put a Lavender in a shady area of your garden that gets very little sun it will struggle to thrive. As will Salvias or Poppies. If you think of where these plants originated from, with Salvias it’s Central and South America and the Mediterranean, they like a relatively dry, well drained, sunny position and once established will not need much watering. If you have an area like that then Salvias and Poppies and your lovely Lavender are the right plant for that place. 

Happy in the sun

On the other hand if your garden is a bit shady or has a shady area think of the edges of woodlands. Plants that thrive there will do well in your garden. Things like Hellebores or Persicaria or Anemones (blanda, sylvestris or japonica) all thrive in partial shade. If the soil is well drained and humus-rich so much the better.

Pulmonaria, primula and primrose and Hellebore still in the shade

When you are tempted out to the garden centre over the Easter weekend keep in mind the conditions of your garden and check the labels on the pot, which should tell you what the plant likes, and buy the Right Plant for the Right Place. If you do this your plants will survive and thrive and you won’t have to do too much maintenance. Unlike me who will be out fiddling about, pulling up weeds and probably mulching and gazing.

Ps It’s Peat Free April so when you go to the garden centre make sure it has no peat in it and if its not clear ask someone to point you in the right direction.

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