Here at Turning Leaf Garden Designs we are always being asked to design ‘low maintenance’ gardens.  Most of our clients are busy people who want to relax and enjoy their garden in their free time.  While they want a high-quality aesthetic, they don’t necessarily want to spend hours and hours each week maintaining it.

There are a variety of different approaches and solutions to this perennial (excuse the pun!)…


Good design (and almost more importantly, knowledgeable planting design) can really help reduce the need for maintenance in the medium to long term.  Garden Design starts with a ‘Client Brief’ and if ‘low maintenance’ forms part of the Brief, this will be a constant presence throughout the design process, governing spatial arrangement and shapes, material choices and finishes, screening, ‘zoning’ requirements (for larger gardens), the selection of features and planting design.

Simple bold shapes make a garden design statement, while being ‘un-fussy’ to maintain and are always ‘legible’, even when maintenance has been sporadic or neglected.  It is usually easy to keep or restore order to a simple shape.

Simple interlocking shapes make a bold statement. The mower can be run over the stepping stones if they are set at the appropriate level within the lawn. Source: Turning Leaf Garden Designs

Thoughtful selection of materials can make a real difference to the levels of maintenance required to keep hard landscape looking good. 

Shady places where algae and moss can flourish are particularly noticeable on light stone colours, or gather on riven surfaces. Painted fences require preparation work to re-paint, unlike stain which is quick and easy to apply and refresh if required – or use timbers that will weather to a silvery grey and which require little or no treatment over time. Select simple water features with no standing water and below ground reservoirs for a low maintenance focal point…

Speaking of focal points, if a garden has a beautiful, effective well maintained focal point, maintenance effort elsewhere can be reduced.

Creating a focal point draws the eye. Source: Turning Leaf Garden Designs


Front Gardens

Front gardens are usually dual purpose – they are ‘utility’ for parking vehicles and storing bins but they are also our public face and a setting for our home. Unless the front garden is very large, planting a mix of shrubs and herbaceous plants (a tree too, if there is space) cuts down on the necessity of bringing the mower through to the front to cut the lawn, lends proportion and scale to the front of the property and gives privacy from roads and pavements, even to first floor rooms in time and reduces noise. Do think twice before paving over the whole area and turning the front garden into a sterile wasteland of block paving – even small ‘bites’ out of paving, if strategically located, can be home to attractive climbers or wall shrubs or a tree that can greatly improve and soften the look of a property while not really adding greatly to a requirement to maintain.

There is a small bed of lavender to the right-hand side here – when grown it will soften the expanse of hard landscape, define the boundary, add scent, colour and nectar for bees. Source: Turning Leaf Garden Designs


Low maintenance for larger gardens

As Designers, we use a variety of design principles, combined with horticultural knowledge and gardening techniques to deliver low maintenance gardens for larger plots. The most successful of these can be ‘zoning’. It is normally true that we spend more time looking at the garden from within the home than we spend out in it, and this means that maintenance effort should normally be applied accordingly – with more time being spent maintaining closer to the house and less time further away. A well-designed garden will have division, whether notional or physical, and it is a legitimate design technique to reduce the requirement for maintenance in some areas of larger gardens – imagine a manicured lawn close to the house and terrace, a lawn left fortnightly beyond that and then possibly long grass or wildflower grass and an orchard or woodland/wildlife area beyond that….

A little ‘wilderness’ is great for wildlife! Source: Wikihow. For further tips on how to create a wildflower garden, visit and watch out for our ‘Wildflower’


 - Written by Karolyn Mowll Director - BSc(Hons), MSGD, Cert Arb L4(ABC)

If you would like help realising the full potential of your garden we provide a full range of services: ‘Design, Build, Maintain’ so don’t hesitate to contact us! Alternatively for more professional advice on garden maintenance and design tips keep following our blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.