By Bill Primavera
Most every spring I write a piece about simplifying garden chores to achieve maximum effect in design and color with minimum effort in planting, weeding and especially bending and kneeling.
Although I’ve lived for three years in a condominium where someone else does all the bending and kneeling to keep the surrounding property looking like Shangri-La, I enjoy thinking about past garden chores. I can still throw out some tips that may be of help to you in simplifying your workload without sacrificing satisfying results.
Once a garden plan is developed and set in place, spring chores amount mainly to maintenance. As naïve as I was as a young homeowner thinking that every tree, shrub and bulb I discovered on my property, as well as ones that I plopped there over the years, would continue to grow and prosper during their lifetimes and mine.
Oh my, how the landscape that embraced my historic home changed over the near half-century that I owned it. Thanks to pestilence, severe winters and especially those unforgettable storms, Irene and Sandy, which toppled 17 mature trees, my property was transformed from an almost completely shaded stretch into a very sunny property, requiring an entirely different landscaping plan and maintenance requirements.
That unforgiving sun demands that little things grow into big things, be they cultivated or wild, and that requires a lot of work to either encourage growth or eliminate it. That would have been fine if I were willing, which I was not, and had the time, which I didn’t.
After the tree service people removed nine felled trees from Hurricane Irene, then another eight from Sandy, my property, which had been a gorgeous shaded glen, suddenly looked like a war zone. I was also thousands of dollars poorer from the experience.
At first, I was grateful that none of the trees had hit the house, but I didn’t know where to start with suddenly moving from shade gardening to that of bright sunlight.
Years ago, the spreading limbs of two century-old sugar maples required only broad swaths of evergreen pachysandra below. And in the sunny areas of the property, enthusiastic gardener that I was at the time, I planted beds of annuals and perennials in every inch of space that had access to the sun. Now, suddenly there was too much access to the sun and I had no drive to plant much at all. But it taught me some lessons in garden simplification that I pass on here.
Where a giant maple had once stood, centered on my front lawn, I seeded grass and bordered it with the pachysandra that had been under the tree to create a soft transition to the wooded area beyond.
I replaced all of the annual beds with either hardy perennials or daylilies, or better yet, vinca, where I didn’t have to do anything at all.
For flowers that require less planting time, I’ve turned to container gardening. Since my attack by Mother Nature, I’ve created a more architectural garden by collecting urns – iron, aluminum that looks like iron, concrete and clay – and interspersed them on either side of the entrance to my driveway, three on my patio, at the entrance to my front door and at several locations in my backyard.
To make them really carefree, I planted three geraniums in each urn, usually in pink and one white, my favorite combination. Geraniums are the hardiest plant under the sun, and surrounding them, I planted white and pink petunias, the kind which hang over the edge. Then I mulched them to better retain water. The nicest thing about container gardening is that I didn’t have to bend over or kneel to plant them.
To guard against the need for constant weed pulling during the summer, I asked my lawn maintenance people to drop me off a truck of “clean” wood chips at the far edge of my wooded property. Then, when I felt like some exercise. instead of going to the gym I picked up my pitchfork and coated every bed of perennials and around my hostas with a thick layer of chips to retain moisture and keep the weeds at bay all season long.
While a publicist and journalist, Bill Primavera is also a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.
Examiner Media – Keeping you informed with professionally-reported local news, features, and sports coverage.