Low-maintenance outdoor plants for busy gardeners

Plants are beautiful decorations for your garden, and luckily there are many of those which are easy to care for if you have a busy lifestyle. There are plenty of varieties that don’t need staking, frequent deadheading and dividing, complicated pruning, or excessive watering. Below we’ve listed the most popular low-maintenance outdoor plants for busy gardeners.

Daphne

Daphne is an evergreen, easy-care attractive shrub, with beautiful yellow-edged foliage. It has intensely fragrant white blooms in winter. The right conditions are full or filtered sun and well-drained soil. The beautiful Daphne requires no pruning, but be sure to plant it where it will have room to spread. Since Daphne is a relatively small and slow-growing shrub, it’s a good choice for small gardens and containers.

Daphne Plant

©Derek St Romaine – Daphne is an evergreen, easy-care attractive shrub with beautiful yellow-edged foliage.

Catmint (Nepeta)

Catmint is a non-culinary mint variety that has aromatic foliage, long-lasting blooms, and good drought tolerance. It’s one of the low-maintenance outdoor plants that busy gardeners love because of its beauty and color. You’ll enjoy clusters of purple-blue flowers of Catmint from April through October. It forms wide clumps, and needs room to spread. Plant it in the sun to part shade and this hardy plant will grow and flourish naturally. You just need to cut it down to the ground in the fall.

Nepeta plants

©Shutterstock – Busy gardeners love Nepeta because of its beauty and colour.

Rozanne Geranium

Rozanne Geranium flowers non-stop from late spring until a hard frost. This plant has an abundance of tiny, brilliantly colored periwinkle blue flowers with a white throat and dark purple veins.

Hardy Geranium is one of those plants that are great for curb appeal, and it will never look unkempt. Plant it in spring in part shade to sun, in moist, organically rich, well-drained soil, and it will bloom amazingly. Remove wet or moldy leaves at the end of the growing season and let healthy foliage remain for winter.

Geranium Rozanne plant

©Photoshot – Rozanne Geranium flowers non-stop from late spring until a hard frost.

Vinca

Vinca is one of the popular low-maintenance outdoor plants that will add color to your garden. They bloom in every shade of the pink, rose, and lilac spectrum and attract butterflies. If you can provide full sun and regular watering, you can expect them to bloom richly until frost. Vincas that are fertilized every other week can grow in almost any soil that drains quickly. They are pest-free and great for busy gardeners who can choose from beautiful Vinca varieties such as:

Vinca plant

©Shutterstock – Vinca needs virtually no maintenance once established.

Low-Growing Sedums

Carpeting forms of Sedums (also known as stonecrops) are very easy to care for, and they can survive unfavorable conditions of all kinds. There are many evergreen and herbaceous varieties to choose from with various foliage colors. They can produce flowers from bluish-gray to reddish-bronze, which will add wonder to your garden. When you find the perfect style for your yard, designing a tapestry of these weed-suppressing, drought-tolerant succulents will be very exciting.

Sedum plant

©Shutterstock – Carpeting forms of sedums are very easy to care for, and survive unfavorable conditions of all kinds

Final thoughts

Being a busy gardener may seem like a daunting responsibility. You probably don’t want plants just to survive – you want them to thrive. You want to keep an eye on them, check how they are doing, and give them all your love and affection, but sometimes that seems like a lot of effort. However, if you follow the right advice and choose low-maintenance outdoor plants, you’ll be able to keep your garden beautiful without too much work.

Why is Sustainable Gardening so Important These Days?

In essence, sustainable gardening is not a new term, but the practice has started gaining traction recently. What gardening sustainably means, what does the process involve, and what makes it so important today?

What is Sustainable Gardening?

It is vital to make one crucial distinction. Cultivating fruits, vegetables, and flowers in your garden without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers is organic horticulture. When you add care for the environment to this basis, you get what is considered sustainable gardening. Throughout this process, you are minimizing your impact on the environment and encouraging its regeneration.

vegetable plot

©Shutterstock – Sustainable gardening will minimise your impact on the environment.

How to Reduce Pressure on the Environment

Sustainable horticulture or gardening does not come with a strict set of rules or a guideline, although it has its tenets. To follow these principles means to adopt and apply certain practices.

Management of garden waste

Gardens generate a regular flow of organic waste that can be put to good use. A hotbin mini composter is a quick and efficient solution that produces compost for use in your garden. Instead of sending your branches to a landfill, create mulch with the help of an electric chipper-shredder and battle weeds in an eco-friendlier way.

Hotbin composter

©Suttons – Creating your own compost will manage garden waste as well as feeding your soil.

Water conservation

Set up a rainwater barrel to collect water that would otherwise evaporate or use drip irrigation and low-angle sprinklers. Also, a sufficiently thick layer of mulch helps the soil retain moisture and structure and improves drainage.

Eliminate the use of fossil-fuel tools and appliances

You can reduce your ecological footprint by using electric tools only when necessary. Or, you can keep your tools close to the place where you use them. In case you need to pack the toolshed for relocation closer to your farm or allotment, make tools and other equipment ready to go by preparing them carefully. This involves cleaning the tools and removing any oil or fuel they might contain.

Dedicate to garden maintenance and design

Take the time to plan and design your garden. Battling garden pests and diseases is easy if you plant natural repellents such as rosemary or plants that attract useful insects.

ladybird

©Shutterstock – Encourage natural pest control. Ladybirds feed on destructive aphids!

Importance of Sustainable Horticulture

Once you get familiar with the ways it can reduce your impact on the environment, you realize how powerful it is.

Captures atmospheric carbon

Instead of burning plant-based waste and releasing carbon back to the atmosphere, it is much better to turn it into compost or mulch. Sustainable horticulture captures atmospheric carbon and locks it in the form of stable humus, sequestering it in the ground.

Sustainable gardening preserves the biodiversity of native plants and wildlife

Native plants are well adjusted to local climate factors, soil properties, as well as typical pests. By planting various vegetables native to the region, you are helping preserve their genetic diversity. If you desire to grow exotic plants and show off your garden, think twice. You might be introducing an invasive species or attract a host of new pests or diseases your plants are unaccustomed to.

potatoes

©Shutterstock – Opt for disease reistant varieties to reduce the need for chemical controls.

Also, you might be inadvertently endangering valuable and helpful wildlife. By encouraging wildlife gardening, you help maintain the overall biodiversity of your area and even help your gardening efforts and yields.

Establishing the right mindset for future generations

If you ever stood in front of a market stall looking at fruits and vegetables and wondered why they look so good but lack any natural fragrance, you have likely stumbled upon a realization. Those coming after us may not even know what quality produce tastes and smells like. Through sustainable gardening, we are providing future generations with the means to grow their own healthy sustenance.

Flowers You Should Avoid Planting Near One Another

There’s certainly an art to orchestrating your garden. Learning about which flowering plants work well together or which are incompatible due to their unique growth conditions is the key to creating gorgeous and harmonious combinations in your yard.

Below are several examples of flowers you should avoid planting near one another, which prove just how important it is to pay attention to your plant tags.

Hosta and Celosia 

Hosta and Celosia can serve as an example of two opposites in terms of their light requirements. Although the sunlight requirements of Hosta plants can vary widely, they are generally touted as shade lovers, whereas the very name of Celosia derives from the Greek word for “burning”.

hosta

©Thompson & Morgan – Avoid planting sunlovers with Hostas which prefer a shaded spot.

Therefore, if you are thinking about electrifying the darkest corners of your flower garden, don’t make the mistake of combining your hostas with plants that have trouble holding their own in the shady spots. Instead, you can choose to brighten the shade with Astilbe’s rosy-red flowers or with another shade-loving plant, such as tuberous Begonias, Lily of the Valley, Solomon’s Seal, Dicentra, etc. Similarly, avoid placing short plants that love the sun next to tall ones that will cast a shade over them.

Marigolds and Salvia viridis

There is no other reason why you should avoid grouping these types of flowers other than aesthetics. On the aesthetic front, thinking of plants in pairs or groupings is paramount. For instance, nothing promotes unwinding after a hard day like pastel garden schemes. So, bold reds, bright oranges, vibrant yellows, and other ‘assertive’ shades of annuals are rarely compatible with the gentle pastel hues of a typical perennial garden.

Marigold

©Thompson & Morgan – Choose plant combinations with care to avoid garish colour clashes.

Avid gardeners weave annuals in and out of their perennials, but they site them in recurring themes so that one echoes the hue of another most beautifully. Therefore, instead of plonking down a bunch of Marigolds and Petunias next to rosy pink Salvia viridis, pair the latter with some pale-yellow daylilies to repeat the colour of Japanese anemones further back.

Japanese Iris and Vinca

Plants that like wet soil and those that cannot tolerate extended periods of flooded or waterlogged conditions are another two examples of flowers you should avoid planting near one another. Iris ensata, for instance, can easily turn those swampy spots in the yard into a colourful focal point. This is because Japanese iris, unlike many garden flowers, doesn’t include planting in well-draining soil; instead, this easy-care flower loves wet conditions.

Iris ensata

©Shutterstock – Avoid planting moisture loving Iris ensata alongside drought tolerant species.

On the other hand, hot weather annuals that need good drainage (such as vincas), and various types of succulents that are mostly considered great indoor plants fit for small spaces like small apartments, deliver a sickly performance in cold, soggy situations.

Gardenias & Gardenias

Gardenias are flowers you should avoid planting near one another because they, in particular, foster leaf pests such as, for instance, the aphids. These gardenia bugs create honeydew on which sooty mould thrives. Thus, it’s best to avoid planting these plants in their immediate vicinity, for it might exacerbate a pest problem in the whole flower bed.

Gardenia

©Shutterstock – Planting large numbers of the same plant can be problematic if they are prone to disease.

A Taste For The Tropics: Creating A Jungle Garden!

If summer holidays to far-off places feel out of reach right now, maybe it’s time to plan for a holiday at home? Creating a tropical feel on your suburban patio isn’t as far-fetched as it might sound. There are plenty of exotic beauties that will flourish in our cooler climate, but still create that luxuriant leafy feel that will transport you far away on sultry summer days.

Jungle Garden

©Shutterstock – Create your own jungle paradise!

Layer up hardy plants up with frost-tender species that can be plunged (pot and all) into garden borders in summer. Plunging makes it easier to lift them later in the year when they should be brought back into the greenhouse, just as autumn begins to chill the air.

Add a few carefully selected flowering plants for a splash of colour, and suddenly you’ve created your own jungle planting scheme!

Hardy plants for structure

Some exotics are perfectly hardy, and these are ideal for creating the bare-bones of your planting scheme. These stalwarts will stay in place throughout the year providing a permanent structure.

Trachycarpus palm

© Shutterstock – Trachycarpus and Chamaerops provide year round structure.

Architectural evergreens, such as Tracycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis provide year-round structure. Their enormous, fan-shaped leaves deliver plenty interest and create a fabulous canopy. Although tough and reliable, it’s worth choosing a sheltered spot where their large foliage is protected from strong winds, which can leave them looking dog-eared.

Fatsia japonica is another ‘must-have’ hardy evergreen with its large, glossy leaves that simply scream ’jungle’! Despite its leafy looks, it’s easy to grow and needs virtually no maintenance!

Fatsia and Cordyline

©Shutterstock – Phormium and Fatsia create a textural contrast.

Cordylines and Phormiums boast strappy, linear leaves that provide a good contrast to broad-leaved plants like Fatsia. They come in a bright range of colours too, delivering an explosion of foliage that arches outwards from a neat, low maintenance clump.

Frost-tender beauties

If you’re about to embark on a jungle adventure, it’s handy to have a greenhouse or conservatory available. There are many frost tender species that will bring your tropical planting scheme to life, but they will need some winter protection. 

Exotic blooms

The voluptuous foliage of a Canna, topped with its bright summer blooms can really make a statement.  Overwintering is easy – simply reduce watering and bring them indoors to a frost free location (a shed or garage will even do the trick). 

Callas (or Zantedeschia) make a great choice too and are easier to lift and store. In autumn, as they die back, lift the tubers from the soil. They can be dried off and stored in paper bags in a cool, frost free place over the winter, and replanted in the following spring.

Strelitzia, Calla and Canna

©Visions, Newey plants – Strelitzia, Calla and Canna make an exotic display!

Strelitzia is better known as the Bird of Paradise plant for its impressive bird-like blooms. This exotic perennial makes a magnificent pot plant for your jungle patio. From late autumn to late spring, it will need full protection in a warm conservatory or greenhouse – so before investing, be sure you have the space to keep it safe and snug during the coldest months.

Fabulous foliage

A jungle planting scheme needs plenty of spectacular foliage to provide that characteristic, lush and leafy feel.  Banana Plants (Musa basjoo) deliver impact in abundance! These enormous perennials grow quickly to the size of a small tree, their broad, lustrous leaves unfurling from an upright stem to create a majestic, architectural display. Although unlikely to fruit in our cooler UK climate, their distinctive looks deliver the sights and sounds of a tropical island as they wave gently in the summer breeze.

Caladiums are bang on trend right now! Forming a mound of colourful, heart-shaped leaves, they create the perfect understorey, thriving in damp, shaded conditions. Bring them indoors in winter and enjoy their funky foliage in your warm conservatory.

Caladium and Coleus

©Visions, Newey plants – Caladium and Coleus boast dazzling foliage.

If overwintering Caladiums feels like too much effort, stick to quick and easy Coleus for your dazzling foliage! Coleus is just as colourful and can be grown from plug plants of even from seed each year, making a great alternative where winter greenhouse space is limited. At the end of summer, just add them to the compost heap!

Familiar garden favourites

Splashes of colour from reliable garden favourites can inject impact into a leafy landscape. A few carefully combined Dahlias how the power to deliver a rush of adrenaline! Few plants have such a diversity of colours and flower shapes so these reliable perennials are perfect for dotting among foliage plants to surprise you with their late summer blooms. Lift them in winter, or protect them with a dry mulch of bark chips.

Begonia Santa Barbara

©Ball Colegrave – Choose Begonia boliviensis varieties such as Begonia ‘Santa Barbara’.

 If you can’t bear to be without a few hanging baskets then opt for Begonia boliviensis varieties. These trailing Begonia cascade with more subtlety than the flouncy x tuberhybrida cultivars. They are generally grown as annuals, coping well in sun or shade, and making a versatile addition to a jungle theme.  

Exotic climbers

Don’t neglect vertical spaces! Exotic climbers will cover ugly garden walls and fences. Train them as a leafy screen to enclose your favourite seating area, adding privacy and creating a tranquil paradise.

Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) is perfect for the job, with a vigorous growth habit that will quickly cover unsightly garden structures with a cloak of evergreen foliage. Don’t be fooled by its tropical blooms – this showy climber is surprisingly hardy in the UK!

Passionflowers

©Shutterstock – Passiflora caerulea are surprisingly hardy, despite their tropical looks.

Let the scrambling stems of Gloriosa superba meander among other plants. Its flame-like blooms will add dash of unexpected colour. Each leaf has an intriguing tendril that helps it cling to its supports. This tropical climber does need warmth to start the tubers into growth, so it’s best potted up in spring and grown on a windowsill indoors until all risk of frost has passed.  In autumn, simply lift the tubers, dry it off and store it for the following year.

Creating your own tropical getaway isn’t difficult if you have a sheltered, sunny spot in the garden. Once you’ve grown just a few of these exotic beauties you’ll find yourself adding more to your display each year – they are more addictive than you might realise!

 

Essential Tips for Growing Indoor Bonsai Trees

The ancient art of bonsai has long been revered for its ability to draw inner peace, centre the mind, and cultivate a deep connection with the natural world. What’s more, if you’re keeping an indoor bonsai tree, science tells us they also help to purify the air we breathe in addition to serving as a stunning ornamental centerpiece for the home or office.

Here I’ll share a few essential tips and considerations if you’re looking to grow and nurture a bonsai in your home. What’s great is bonsai trees aren’t as arduous as you might think and with a few well followed guidelines you too can enjoy the great benefits of bonsai.

 

Bonsai tree

©Shutterstock – Bonsai trees are easier to grow than you might think!

 

Picking a Suitable Indoor Bonsai Tree

It’s important to note that only tropical or subtropical trees should be considered for indoor bonsai. All temperate trees require a period of dormancy during the winter season to complete their annual growth cycles.

Great choices for indoor bonsai (particularly if you’re new to bonsai life) include the Carmona (Fukien Tea Tree), Zelkova (or Japanese Elm), Ligustrum (Privet), Ficus (Retusa and Ginseng), and the Sageretia (Chinese sweet plum).

Where to Place Your New Bonsai Tree

Much like caring for a houseplant, a key factor is going to be the light conditions you’re able to offer the bonsai tree throughout the day. 

 

Bonsai tree

©Shutterstock – A bright spot with indirect sunlight is ideal.

 

As a general rule, aim to keep your bonsai in a position where it mainly receives indirect light for the majority of the day (short periods of bright direct light are fine).

Definitely avoid any south-facing window ledges, particularly during summer months as this may cause your bonsai tree to overheat. Similarly, avoid close proximity to radiators or free standing heaters during the winter.

Watering Your Bonsai Tree

Ensuring your bonsai is regularly watered is absolutely essential. Your exact living environment, relative humidity, and the type of tree will play a factor but you should aim to monitor soil moisture levels daily initially. A few key pointers:

  • A bonsai should never be allowed to dry completely. Check the relative moisture level approximately 1cm under the soil’s surface (your finger is fine or you could also use a soil moisture probe as well). If dry, your tree is ready for it’s next watering.
  • When watering, aim to cover the entire soil surface so the roots have the best chance of receiving a good soaking.
  • A good technique is to water the tree from above using a watering can with a fine nozzle to avoid disturbing the soil on the surface.
  • I’d recommend investing in some form of tray to catch the drained water as it flows through the soil. This will also help to create a nice humid atmosphere around the tree in-between watering cycles.

 

Bonsai tree

©Shutterstock – Ensuring your bonsai is regularly watered is absolutely essential. 

 

When to Feed Your Bonsai Tree

Bonsai trees require a little help with feeding as the natural roots aren’t able to dig deep into the ground to draw nutrients as a regular tree would do in the wild.

It’s really important to use the correct type of bonsai fertilizer with a high phosphate level. Follow the instructions detailed on the package but generally the tree should receive a feed every 1 to 2 weeks from spring through to the end of summer and monthly from late autumn through winter.

Pruning Your Bonsai Tree

The cornerstone of the art of bonsai is maintaining a regular pruning and trimming schedule to preserve their overall beauty and aesthetics.

The trick is to keep an eye on new growth (particularly during spring to summer months) and aim to pinch back to the overall shape you’re looking to maintain. These will typically appear as growth from the tree’s main branches and trunk. Once they reach around 3cm it’s a good time to cut back with sharp scissors as neatly to it’s parent branch as possible.

Don’t be too over-vigorous as a little growth is important for the tree’s overall health and wellbeing.

 

Bonsai tree

©Shutterstock – Use scissors to prune new growth.

 

When to Repot Your Bonsai Tree

Bonsai trees will typically outgrow their pots every 1 to 2 years. The best time to check the root structure and consider re-potting is early spring. If the roots have completely filled the current pot it’s a good time to consider stepping up to the next container size. 

When repotting, it’s important to use a suitable bonsai soil mix. These will have the correct balance of peat and perlite with some added feed to ensure your tree gets all the nutrients it needs.

Wrap-up

Nurturing a bonsai tree at home is a really rewarding pastime. By following a few simple steps each week you’ll quickly learn to understand your own tree’s unique needs and preferences. Before you know it you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master in the art of bonsai. Enjoy!

 

Peonies – 6 Fun Facts & 5 Essential Growing Tips

The peony is a famed ornamental flowering plant in the genus Paeonia. Their stunning, voluminous blooms are on show for a short season each year running from late spring through to early summer. They’ve long been a favourite of many a gardener and the best floristry studios where they feature prominently in weddings, bridal bouquets, table centrepieces, and floral arrangements. What’s more, the venerable Peony also has a fascinating story to tell across history and in modern culture. Plus, we’ll share 5 of our favourite peony growing tips. Read on!

Peony bouquet

©Thompson & Morgan – Peony flowers feature prominently in weddings, bridal bouquets, table centrepieces, and floral arrangements.

Peony flowers – rooted in Greek Mythology

Peonies are native to the Mediterranean in addition to Western parts of the United States and China. Whilst there are references to the flower in ancient Chinese texts dating back as far as 1000 BC the name ‘Peony’ is thought to originate from Greek Mythology.

The story is centred around Paeon (or Paean), who was a student of Aesculapius – the Greek God of medicine. When Paeon healed Pluto using the root of a peony plant, Aesculapius became jealous of his young maestro’s talents and tried to kill him. Fortunately, Paeon was saved from death thanks to the mighty Zeus who transformed him into a flowering ‘peony’ plant. A flower Zeus was sure others would long admire and look on with affection.

peony flower

©Shutterstock – Peony flowers are rooted in Greek Mythology

The healing power of peonies

Peonies have long been coveted flowers for both their medicinal benefits as well as the gorgeous flowering displays.

Across China, Korea and Japan, peony seeds and roots are utilised to treat an array of ailments including convulsions and insect bites. Dried peony petals are also a popular herbal remedy in teas.

Peonies: The go-to petals for your next tattoo

The peony for many centuries has been one of the most popular floral symbols used in tattoos. For instance, in Japanese and Chinese body art you’ll often find an interplay between powerful animals and mythical beasts (such as lions and dragons) with delicate floral components. The peony is one of the most popular floral symbols representing the intersection between power and delicate beauty.

The Official 12th Wedding Anniversary Flower:

Peonies also have a deep association to romance and with gestures of the heart and are officially recognised as being the 12th Wedding Anniversary Flower.

Peony flowers

©Thompson & Morgan – Peonies are the recognised flower for 12th wedding anniversaries.

The ‘Queen of Flowers’

China, in particular, has long held a deep cultural appreciation of the peony flower. Before the plum tree, the peony flower was considered the national flower of the country. It was also adorned the title of ‘Queen of Flowers’ and came to symbolise both honour and wealth.

Red, White and Pink Peonies (each symbolise different emotions)

Peonies have an underlying association with love, compassion, good fortune and prosperity. As with many flower varieties, symbolism is often tied to the colour of the petals.

red, white and pink peonies

©Shutterstock – Peonies have an underlying association with love, compassion, good fortune and prosperity.

Whilst shades of red peonies lend themself to romance, white peonies are often associated with sorrow, remorse and regret. The mighty pink peony, so often the centrepiece in a bridal bouquet, is a symbol of young, early love and a celebration of life.

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5 Essential Peony Growing Tips:

Here are 5 essential tips I’ve picked up over the years to help your homegrown peonies thrive:

1) Plant Peonies in late Autumn

Whilst you could plant peonies in early spring, they never seem to do as well. Aim for late September into October to give the plants an opportunity to settle before winter draws in. You’ll see the benefits come May the following year, especially if you give them a feed at the time of planting out.

2) Peonies love full sun-light

Once bedded in, peonies are actually quite self-sufficient. Just ensure you plant in conditions with maximum light as they adore the sun’s rays to flourish.

Grow Peonies in full sun

©Thompson & Morgan – Grow Peonies in full sun.

3) Ensure enough spacing between peony plants

I’d recommend a minimum of 3 feet between each plant to ensure enough space for the plant roots to breathe and grow. There’s nothing worse than overcrowding to create an environment where disease and rot can spread.

4) Support the stems!

Peony flowers aren’t shy in terms of their size and volume. Sometimes the sheer weight can place a strain on the stems so ensure they’re suitably supported with a wire support, or bamboo stakes and cable ties if required.

Peony Frame

©Thompson & Morgan – Support Peony flowers with a frame.

5) Ants love peonies too (leave them alone!)

You might notice ants have a particular affinity to the peony flower. Worry not. The ants are just after the sweet nectar and help protect the plants from other invaders which would be a much bigger concern.

 

 

 

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