By Rick Cozza, The Italian Gardener
“What can I do to begin lessening the ongoing upkeep of my yard, so I can spend less time managing it and more time enjoying it?”
Most of our yards were planted when the house was built, often 30 to even 50 years ago. The plants available then were limited, and often purchased by unfamiliar building contractors. They looked good then, but now require a regular regimen of pruning, raking, complaining. Today, the breeders have developed many new plants that fit in the exact space and give you multi-season beauty. So, why not make a change now?
And, while you are at it, let’s also suggest some things to allow you to enjoy your yard a bit more each year as you have a bit more time to enjoy it. Seems logical, don’t you think? But, where to start?
Begin with your entry. Years ago, there were yews, burning bushes, azaleas, rhododendrons and lilacs. By now, the yews either block the front windows or have lost their green centers. Burning bushes are either 10 feet tall, and/or require your attention at least twice a year to keep them manageable (don’t you have better things to do?). Azaleas and rhododendrons love the acid soil on the east coast, and cringe at our alkaline soil here. Consequently, they likely are spindly, woody and less than attractive. Lilacs are either 20 feet tall, or have been hacked back to stubs. Make this the year of change. Spend some time and money this year to have them removed, and replaced by some of the lovely new varieties of plants that never outgrow the space you have allotted to them. Fothergillas were likely never even heard of back then, but are one of my favorites. They grow to 3-5 feet, have lovely bottlebrush flowers in spring, and astounding fall color. You will spend ‘zero’time pruning them.
There are now dwarf varieties of many of the huge plants of yesteryear, which will fit very nicely into your new, revised front yard. Winterberry Hollies with their wonderful red berries in fall, Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangeas, with huge white, or now red, pannicles of flowers and rich burgundy fall color. And there are Dwarf Lilacs that will grow to only four feet tall and wide, new hydrangeas that bloom on new growth instead of old, and will therefore actually bloom in this region after a hard winter. And there are bright, vigorous new perennials that will come back year after year, allowing you to stop buying those same old impatiens year after year for the front walk. So, make this the year that you cut out that unnecessary work in caring for your outdated landscape. Get some help, get some advice, but get going. Who would not want a Lemon Lace™ Elderberry near the front door? One of my goals in any landscape is to have visitors (and the owner, too) stop along the way to marvel at the lovely plantings. And, while you are at it, stop at Lily’s At Levis Commons, or check out the aluminum/tubular steel benches at plowandhearth.com to add a new bench for you to sit back and enjoy all you’ve done. It will give you more time to yourself, and isn’t that what you wanted?