Plant selection is very important if you want a low maintenance garden. Some plants are high maintenance nightmares. At the top of the list is lawn, which needs regular mowing, fertilising and edging (paving is a much better low maintenance choice). Azaleas need spraying for a flower rot called petal blight, so avoid them. Also avoid most hybrid tea and floribunda roses, which need lots of pruning, spraying and fertilising. Many people think that native plants are low maintenance, but this is not true.
When choosing low maintenance plants for your garden it’s a good idea to ask your local nursery people or gardening experts for advice, because low maintenance plants are often those that love your local climate and soils.
In our segment Don looked at six classic, easy-care plants that perform well in a wide variety of situations.
Best low maintenance performers
Lomandra (Lomandra longifolia)
An easy-care, Australian native with narrow, strap-like leaves. It forms tussocks to around 1m (3′) high, and has creamy flowers on spiny stems. This hardy plant requires little maintenance once established. ‘Tanika’ is a new variety of lomandra that grows in sun or shade, tolerates heavy frost, remains green throughout the year and is suited to all soil types
Camellia (Camellia japonica cvs)
Camellias have attractive, glossy leaves and gorgeous white, pink or red flowers. They are not usually thought of as low maintenance plants, but once established they will perform well for many years.
Japanese sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica)
Nandina is an evergreen, upright shrub with bamboo-like stems, attractive foliage, creamy white flowers and bright red berries. This plant is unkillable in most areas of Australia and doesn’t need much in the way of care. The variety ‘Gulf Stream’ grows into a dense, rounded shrub about 50cm (20″) high and 50cm (20″) wide. It has graceful, bamboo-like foliage, colouring to beautiful orange and scarlet tones in the cooler months of the year.
New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax cvs)
These dramatic, clump-forming plants have long, sword-shaped leaves, which vary in colour depending on the variety. Most cultivars are frost hardy and grow well in almost any climate.
Bird of paradise plant (Strelitzia reginae)
Another hardy clumping plant, the bird of paradise or strelitzia has spoon-shaped, grey-green leaves and magnificent, orange and blue flowers.
Oleander (Nerium oleander cvs)
Best of all the hardy plants, oleanders are native to the Mediterranean region. There are many cultivars, with flowers in a range of colours from purest white through light pinks, apricots and deep reds. They will tolerate dry, sandy soils, salt-laden winds, drought and heat. All parts of the oleander are said to be poisonous.
To find out everything you need to know about low maintenance gardens, see the bonus ‘Low Maintenance Gardening Guide’ in the November 2002 edition of the Burke’s Backyard Magazine.