Monday, May 10, 2010

Do you want low maintenance or no maintenance?

Words and phrases get kicked around in the gardening world as casually as spilled dirt. One of those phrases is "low maintenance" gardening. But actually when someone tells you they want a low maintenance garden what they're really saying is "I'm lazy and I don't want to work in my yard. At all. I want it to look like a photo out of Sunset Magazine but I don't want to lift a finger."

When a client in the past approached me with this dreaded phrase I used to smile and nod and attempt to accommodate them. Well, no more. Even a desert gets rain once in awhile. First, I explain that there really is no such thing as a "low maintenance garden." Really, there isn't. If you want your yard to look great you will have to work at it or you will have to hire someone to make it look good. Second, after the look of hope and excitement has been replaced with confusion and sometimes despair, I explain to them that gardeners are not miracle workers. They cannot instantly make your garden look fantastic unless they use plastic plants and it will not continue to look fabulous with little to no attention. Thirdly, I throw a bone-a little wishbone, that is. Yes, I can make your garden require less pruning, yes, I can choose plants that can suffer some neglect. And that's about it.

Anyone trying to sell you a "low maintenance" or "easy native garden" that is drought tolerant is selling you snake oil and what will eventually be a crappy looking garden filled with weeds. Gardening is work, and a great garden is hard work. So what's your excuse?

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