No such thing as a high maintenance plant - easy planting and easy care is the secret

There is no such thing as a high maintenance plant. Yes, you read that correctly — plants are not demanding. What happens is that sometimes, when we put the wrong plant in the wrong place, we create a maintenance issue.

If we position the right plant in the right position, then it should need little attention, perhaps some feeding now and then and a light trim the odd time. That’s about it.

Maybe occasionally, some infection will take hold or mineral deficiency will become apparent, and if that happens, then action can be taken, it’s normally a shot of medicine, again not high in terms of time needed.

A low-growing Japanese Azalea, for example, will remain good for many years, flowering each spring while retaining a dense evergreen shape and form, with no attention needed except to enjoy the annual floral display.

Trees too, provided the right one is chosen for the soil type, aspect and size of garden, will need little care except for watering and staking during the first year or two. After that, no care is needed.

I often espouse the low-maintenance attribute of certain plants when giving advice and explain the importance of correct plant choice for the garden. However, the rule doesn’t always apply.

Many plants will need to be pruned once a year to keep them looking well and performing at their best, but I don’t regard this as high maintenance.

There are, however, some plants that will need work to keep them looking well.

Lavenders, for example, will need regular trimming to keep them looking in check and stop them getting leggy and woody in appearance. Hebes, Erysimum (Perennial Wallflowers), and Cytisus (Broom), will need to be pruned often to keep their shape. Then you have those that need even more work.

Dierama or the Angel’s Fishing Rod — a stunning plant when in flower — produces tall arching stems of beautiful, pink, mauve or purple flowers depending on the variety. These flower stems come from a clump of narrow spear-shaped grass-type leaves which form a sizeable clump as they get older.

The problem with this clump is that it becomes an untidy and unkempt looking mass of leaves, living and dead, in green and brown.

To follow the text book, this clump should have brown, dead material removed regularly to maintain a clean and tidy looking plant. Call me lazy, but I think life is too short for this job as it does entail quite a lot of work to keep it looking well.

But Dierama is an essential plant for summer colour in the garden. When you see the stems bending like fishing rods dangling with pink to purple thimble-like blooms, it’s impossible not to stop and gasp at its beauty.

However,if you see the plant in its entirety, then this beauty is outweighed by the untidiness of the main clump of the plant.

Schizostylis or Kaffer Lilies are similar. They are a very welcome addition to the autumn winter garden as this is their flowering period. Lovely pink or red blooms are produced on stems up to 50cm high.

Similar to the Dierama, the Schizostylis also come from South Africa and is also similar in that the Kaffir Lily too, produces flower stems from ragged, dirty-looking grassy-type foliage.

If you have the time and indeed the inclination, then do remove any dead or damaged leaves, and this plant will look fantastic again, but if you don’t do this, then the plant will look scruffy when you see it in its entirety.

Now don’t let any of this put you off — for the colour it brings is glorious. ‘Mrs Hegarty’ is a beautiful variety with flowers a lovely pale pink in colour and ‘Major’ produces masses of stems of the reddest blooms. Do use these in the garden, for as I say, they do extend the season of flower colour, but think about where you are going to position them.

In pride of place with nothing around them will only serve to show off their untidiness, but place them in amongst some other plants that shield the lower part of the clump and you only see the bright and cheerful blooms — you won’t notice the less than beautiful parts.

‘Scarletta’ is a low growing form of the evergreen plant Leucothoe, only reaching about 30cm in total which has foliage of the strongest mahogany red at the moment.

Mix it with one of the pale pink Schizostylis to give you great effect for many winters to come.


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