By Anne Halpin
Surrounding your home with a beautiful landscape not only integrates your home into its setting and enhances the view from your windows; studies have shown repeatedly that good landscaping also enhances property values. But keeping the landscape looking good throughout the season and year after year requires work. Savvy homeowners can take advantage of some strategies for reducing the amount of maintenance while still having a beautiful landscape. Whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you, here are some ways to lighten the landscaping load.
Try groundcovers. In areas that don’t get foot traffic, plant groundcovers instead of lawn. Groundcovers don’t need mowing, need less fertilizing and watering, and suffer fewer diseases than a lawn, and some of them offer the bonus of flowers. A few good groundcovers for sunny locations (and all of which are considered deer resistant) include ajuga, or bugleweed, bearberry, ceratostigma (which bears electric-blue flowers in late summer), lysimachia and creeping thyme. In a shady location your choices include wild ginger, pachysandra (a classic, very tough and adaptable), vinca (also called periwinkle, it bears violet flowers in early spring, but can spread where you don’t necessarily want it to in amenable conditions), bunchberry (which bears bright red berries), sweet woodruff (small white flowers in spring and a gentle aromatic scent) and lamiastrum (some varieties have silvery leaves).
Plant a screen instead of a hedge. Instead of a formal hedge that needs meticulous shearing to retain its clean lines and manicured look, you can define property lines with an informal screen of shrubs that don’t need pruning. If you’re looking for tall evergreens, Leyland cypress, junipers and hollies are some likely candidates. Arborvitae has long been a favorite among East End homeowners, but it has also become a favorite of deer, and is best planted on fenced properties where deer are excluded. If you don’t use your home in winter, a screen of flowering shrubs such as forsythia, bridalwreath spiraea, Japanese spiraea, lilacs or rhododendrons may do the trick. Or you can plant ornamental grasses, which are resilient and low in maintenance, needing only an annual cutting back. Some widely planted varieties, mostly miscanthus, have become problematic in our area, spreading seeds that grow into new plants where you don’t want them; consult a good local nursery or landscaping company for advice.
Grow long-blooming perennials in beds and borders. If you love flowers and crave a perennial garden of flowers that return year after year, seek out varieties that are long blooming and don’t need frequent deadheading (removal of old blossoms) to look their best. Low maintenance perennials for a sunny spot include Siberian iris, alliums (ornamental relatives of onions), purple coneflower (Echinacea), black-eyed Susan, peonies, yarrow (Achillea) and Russian sage (Perovskia). For a shady location, some good choices are heucheras (which have beautifully colored and patterned leaves), hellebores (which bloom in late winter), columbines (Aquilegia), astilbe, bleeding heart (Dicentra), ferns and if you don’t have deer, hostas (which offer foliage in many shades and combinations of green, gold and white). All these plants grow well in our area, and they’re readily available at local nurseries and from online sources.
Grow resilient roses. If roses are your pleasure, planting the tough, carefree landscape roses that have hit the market in recent years, such as the Knockout roses, which bloom all summer, instead of finicky hybrid teas that need regular upkeep to look their best, is a real work saver. Landscape roses grow about 3 feet tall, are disease resistant, and produce flowers throughout summer and into fall.
Taking a little time to strategize ways to decrease the time it takes to keep your landscape looking beautiful will let you enjoy more time at the beach, save some money, or just appreciate your beautiful surroundings.