I love the outdoors and being amongst nature. It soothes my soul and brings me joy. Fifteen years ago I lived in the middle of a noisy town, my kitchen window overlooked a public car park and bus station, my front door opened directly onto the pavement and I had no garden, just a tiny 8ft x 12ft back yard. For my health and sanity I had to move but finding a small, suitable house somewhere quiet that I could afford was trickier than I ever imaged, especially here in the lake district where village cottages are routinely bought by outsiders as holiday homes.
More than anything I dreamed of a garden but didn’t actually want any grass as a) I’m not well enough to mow a lawn and b) I couldn’t afford a gardner to do it and in any event due to my noise sensitivity the sound of a mower physically hurts my brain. However, I was lucky in that after 5 years of looking I finally found the little two bed cottage I live in now and it has postage stamp sized bits of ground front and back which were hard landscaped – no grass in sight!
The gardens (and I use the term loosely) were full of little connifer trees though to which I discovered I was allergic and covered in chippings which were difficult and painful to walk on, so over the years I’ve gradually changed the ground into a disabled friendly space. I’ve had to be careful though as I barely have the energy to feed and water myself most days let alone a garden full of flowers, so everything has been chosen to be pretty, insect friendly but low maintenance.
I thought I’d share with you the plants I’ve chosen which I find easiest to look after:
- Lavender (summer). Purple flowers from June-September and needs no maintenance other than a trim after the flowers have died. Go for English not French as it has a much longer flowering periods and larger flowers. Lavender Munstead is my fav and has lived through many a northern winter. When not flowering, lavenders are evergreen so provide winter foliage and year round structure.
- Alstromeria (summer). Pretty flowers on long stems which can be cut and brought into the house. Flowers from June-August and the only maintenance needed is to cut down to the ground after the flowers have died. Various colours available. These are perennials, meaning they die back each winter and grow again afresh each spring.
- Lysemachia (summer). Yellow flowers on long stems with variagated leaves which last from July-September. Also a perennial they need cutting back to ground level after flowering has finished and will grow again in spring.
- Potentilla (summer). A smallish evergreen bush which produces a mass of flowers all summer. The only maintenance needed is to trim after the flowers have died to keep the bush small and compact. ‘Kobold’ is my favourite with sunny bright yellow flowers.
- Phlox (summer). Phlox are fairly tall perennial plants which come in lots of different colours. They will grow just about anywhere including shady areas of the garden and reliably come back each year, flowering from July -August. Just chop them back to ground level when the flowers have died.
- Astilbe (summer). Astilbe’s will also grow just about anywhere and do really well in shady areas. They have green leaves all year round and spikes of fluffy flowers from July-August in a variety of bright colours. Simply trim off the flower heads after they’ve died and that’s all the maintenance they need.
- Anemone (autumn). Anemones come in all sorts of sizes and colours and usually flower in Autumn. Another perennial they need to be cut down to ground level when the flowers have died and will start to re-grow each spring.
- Aster (autumn/winter). Also known as Micklemas daisies, Asters are perennial plants which flower in Autumn/early Winter. They really brighen up a border when summer flowers have died and simply need chopping back to ground level once the flowers have faded. My fav variety is Little Pink Beauty.
- Helebores (winter). Clumps of pretty helebore flowers really brighten up the garden in late winter and although the flowers fade the large green leaves continue all year. They come in various heights and colours – simply cut off the flower stems when they’ve died and any dead leaves.
- Campanula (spring). Campanula will grow anywhere, including cracks and crevices in walls and pavements. They are evergreen and are covered in little flowers in Spring and often again in Autumn. They need zero mantenance.
- Heather (spring/autumn). Heathers are small evergreen bushes which produce flowers in Spring and often again in Autumn. All that’s needed is to trim them after flowering so they don’t get too big.
- Astrantia (spring/early summer). Another perennial, Astrantia are fairly tall but delicate looking plants which make good cut flowers. They have small flower heads in various colours and simply need cutting back to the ground after the flowers have died.
I have all the above plants in my tiny garden borders and if they can thrive here in the cold, rainy north it proves they’re pretty indestructable. They don’t suffer from pests or diseases and other than feeding them each spring and chopping them down when the flowers have died they don’t cause me any work.
I don’t have many of the traditional plants, such as Roses, that healthy gardeners usually do simply because I don’t have the energy for the feeding, pruning, watering and dead heading they need so I stick to plants which basically look after themselves – then all I need to do is sit back and enjoy them 🙂
I paved over my back ‘garden’ and had a little wooden deck laid in my front ‘garden’, so I now have spaces that are easy to walk and sit on and need no maintenance other than a blast from the pressure washer each spring. My flower borders are just small trenches less than 90cm wide around the edge of each ‘garden’ but it’s amazing the amount of plants you can actually grow in a small space, so long as you choose wisely.
The lavender in particular is a-buzz on a sunny day with bees and butterflies and because I never use chemicals in the garden I also get visits from frogs, toads and hedgehogs not to mention sparrows who nest in the ivy which grows on my garden wall and behind the shutters on my windows. Bertie likes it too, cos there’s all sorts of lovely smelling plants on which to cock his leg 😀