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Wed Jun 25, 2014, 04:21 PM

"Low maintenance" planting beds for in front of a home business

A small company I am working with has a house they inherited on some farm property. It is a lofted log cabin with sky lights and just a basic porch across the front and the front door right in the middle. There is a circular driveway, fine gravel, about 7' off the porch so a path from that to the door goes right between 2 planting beds, each about 6' x 11'

They agreed to let me landscape it (I'm an apartment renter so I have pent up gardening in me) but asked that it be "low maintenance". I suggested that the planter beds are actually the best place for any high maintenance plants since we have easy access to them and may even just weed or tend while talking outside but that was not well received. There are two giant "meatball" bushes at the outside corners of the porch and one is dead so I want to take out both and have suggested something evergreen since we live in a 4-season environment here.

We host lunches, meetings and job interviews in this house so I liked the idea of doing a kind of herb garden and a potage out front. I wanted all italian/french/english herbs on one side and asian and new world on the other. Rosemary, mints, sage, etc I like edible landscape stuff so I would replace the meatballs with raspberry bushes/trees. We also talked about planting in containers like farm crates that were lined and then filled with soil. We could have extra containers going in the greenhouse and rotate them for the season or to just refresh them.

So none of my ideas are low maintenance. I don't want to create work for someone else but I'm struggling to come up with low maintenance landscaping that I can love. All I have so far is: something that vines and stays low for the base layer, a couple containers with an easy herb or two (like mint, sage, thyme) for the middle layer and some perennial flowers like black eyed susans for a top layer that has some pop.

I welcome any suggestions or experience you may want to share for what has worked and is low maintenance. Also I am stuck on the vining plant so would love any suggestions for that. We are Zone 5A, Hudson River Valley.

a big THANKS.

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Reply "Low maintenance" planting beds for in front of a home business (Original post)
KurtNYC Jun 2014 OP
TygrBright Jun 2014 #1
KurtNYC Jun 2014 #3
Sentath Jun 2014 #2
KurtNYC Jun 2014 #4
Curmudgeoness Jun 2014 #5
KurtNYC Jun 2014 #6

Response to KurtNYC (Original post)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 06:34 PM

1. There's a lot more to plant choices than climate zone.

Do you plan to irrigate?

Whether something is "low maintenance" also depends on whether it gets all the water it needs without supplemental watering, either seasonally or in terms of its growing cycle.

If you're not irrigating, you'll want something that will do well in an average moisture year, and tolerate both some drought and some over-watering, because that's how things roll these days. (But there's no such thing as climate change so STOP SAYING THAT! <---sarky)

Also consider how much shade the area gets, at what times of day. Both NOW, and in the future (if you're planning on taking out a big overgrown shade tree, building a wall or structure that might partially shade the area, etc.) Something that can handle intense overhead noonday sun may not actually thrive much if the whole rest of the day it's shaded out.

Another thing to consider is that you will almost certainly have to make a trade off in terms of how quickly things grow versus a) how long they last and b) how much maintenance they require.

Quick-growing things often ALSO get quickly OVERgrown, and need whacking back periodically. They may also have comparatively short lives, even as perennials (although not always.) Stuff that "spreads fast" may also escape its boundaries fast, and have you rootling up suckers and escapees.

I would think in terms of phases. Put in slow-growing, long-lasting, low-maintenance stuff, and fill in the "holes" for now with annuals and containers. Reconcile yourself to a couple of years' worth of nurturing a bit more intensely, with the payoff of better long term results.

As far as what plant materials in particular work well in this area, there is no substitute (IMHO) for actual go-and-look research. Walk around and see stuff you like. Take pictures, make notes. Take the notes and pictures to 2-3 GOOD locally owned-and-operated growers or nurseries, and get more advice/information.

The more work you put in up front, the better your results will be, even if they may take longer to mature than quickie plantings.

didactically,
Bright

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Response to TygrBright (Reply #1)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 07:30 PM

3. Thanks - I really like that strategy

>>Put in slow-growing, long-lasting, low-maintenance stuff, and fill in the "holes" for now with annuals and containers.<<

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Response to Sentath (Reply #2)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 07:30 PM

4. I like the purple.

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Response to KurtNYC (Original post)

Wed Jun 25, 2014, 08:20 PM

5. Everything that I have is maintenance-free

or at least I do no maintenance. I should do a little to keep it from getting too overgrown, but I take the "survival of the fittest" attitude....and I have seen things disappear because of it.

This is what my backyard is like:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/103631546

It is pretty shady, so the plants may not work if it is very sunny.

Where I work, they did low-maintenance landscaping, and what has worked well over the years is: Black-eyed Susans, Coneflowers, and the Daylilies are beautiful. The only thing that needs done is to keep it mulched so weeds don't get a foothold.

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Response to Curmudgeoness (Reply #5)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 08:11 AM

6. Nice.

It has a relaxed feel to it. I like the bird houses.

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