Pragmatic Gardening

Whether north or south, this is the season to relax and contemplate the coming summer at home. Low garden maintenance is key to a leisure outdoor lifestyle, and careful plant selection and innovative equipment can free up many hours of pleasure in your home landscape.

More Garden Leisure, Less Maintenance Work

Call it pragmatic gardening or making more with less. What is the most expedient, immediately gratifying, reasonably enduring (for several to many years) strategy that will raise the tone of your garden space without incurring large expenditures and weeks of re-design work? Answer – woody plants with colourful foliage. Using colourful trees, shrubs and conifers is a smart way to enhance garden design without adding to necessary maintenance

Trees and shrubs with vibrant foliage from spring to late autumn are attention grabbers in a home landscape, and colourful conifers extend the interest to year-round. Their surprising colour display eliminates the need for more detailed plantings and provides diversion from a lack of formal design features. A Harlequin maple with variegated green and white foliage flashes as wind moves through the leaves, filling a corner where a perennial bed demanded your attention. A deep purple columnar Dawyck beech tree makes a dramatic spring to autumn statement at the corner of a house, replacing forsythia or lilac that bloomed for two weeks and then melted into green foliage. Using a hedge line of colourful shrubs in a sunny location, such as Ginger Wine ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), makes a display of emerging orange leaves in spring, maturing to burgundy in summer, with white flowers and red berries. Dwarf trees such as the maroon ’Pinkie’ Japanese maple or vibrant ‘Blue Point’ juniper can stand by garden steps where sprawling perennials previously took more than their allotted space.

To decrease necessary garden maintenance with colourful woody plants, begin by identifying the locations where too much work is required. Consider the light in those spots, then proceed to a garden centre to select colourful shrubs and trees that will thrive in the available light. Once installed in your garden, you’ll have a finer sense of enhanced design and a colourful season ahead, with only the need for regular watering. No more deadheading spent blooms, staking tall stems, squishing aphids and tidying up plants in fall.

Low-stress Watering

All living things require adequate water on a regular schedule — people, dogs, cats, and gardens. Health suffers without sufficient water, appearances change, and unattractive signs of deprivation set in. If you’re less than attentive to a regular watering schedule, it could be because of the inevitable fight with the garden hose. The kinks, knots, refusal to unbend and straighten out, the leaking connections – it can be a miserable experience repeated weekly until you begin avoiding the whole thing.

Watering solutions come in the form of newly designed equipment that is effective and specific to various applications, and doesn’t require professional installation. What’s more, once set up in your garden, they do most of the work for you. If you can turn on the main water spigot, that’s the total of your necessary effort.

Smart watering keeps the water delivery close as possible to the plant root zone. When water is hurled ten feet into the by an oscillator or sprayer, up to half the moisture is lost to evaporation. We’re all familiar with the luxury of in-ground lawn irrigation that delivers water at ground level. But lawn irrigation isn’t sufficient for yew and cedar hedges. And what about the patio containers that seemed a good idea in spring when box plants beckoned, but now require daily watering through the heat of summer? Home garden irrigation kits designed for a variety of growing situations are the answer.

Do-it-yourself irrigation kits feature many customized applications — soaker hoses (both above and in-ground), spaghetti lines, adjustable dribblers, and equipment for raised locations like decks. Commercial growers have used shrubbler devices for many years, and they are now a standard in home garden irrigation kits. The shrubblers allow water delivery to individual plants and can be adjusted to deliver a slow drip or enough water to cover a 36-in diameter circle. Multiple shrubblers throughout the garden are each customized to the location, and the whole string of devices operates simultaneously.

You may be familiar with the many forms and concepts for drip systems, but also consider irrigation devices specifically designed for raised beds, row vegetable gardens, perennial borders, deck gardens, fence mounts and tree irrigators. Depending on your garden’s particular needs, more than one irrigation system can be installed and controlled by a switch regulator at the spigot end. You need only switch the water feed to the designated irrigation line and feel secure that valuable plants are getting exactly the amount of water they need to flourish. No more weekly hose dragging!

by Judith Adam

Canadian Snowbird Association
Medipac Travel Insurance