New tricks for old Gardeners
Over 40 members had a very light-hearted evening with lots of laughter as our speaker, Katherine Crouch, gave us plenty to think about on this subject.
First of all, she gave us images of gardens where people had paid large sums of money to get low maintenance gardens. The result was often very boring with concrete, slabs and gravel and nothing changing with the seasons.
Next she gave us some (quite surprising) design ideas for low maintenance. A ‘tropical’ area can fit the bill as the basic planting would be mainly plants grown for their interestingly shaped, large leaves, quite possibly evergreen. A lush background needs only a few injections of colour.
An orchard area is a good idea. Widely spaced fruit trees give spring blossom followed by fruit and the grass underneath can be easily mowed if the tree canopy is kept high by using standard trees rather than bush. Tree pruning will be needed but no digging or seasonal planting.
A woodland garden can be very easy. The spring flowers make the most of the sunlight before the tree canopy lowers the light level. Ferns then unfurl and remain until the frost takes them, the leaves fall and then the cycle begins again the following spring. No digging or spreading compost is needed.
Bulbs naturalised under a wild flower area just needs mowing after seed fall in late summer.
Perennials, the hardy ones that give no trouble, under -planted with bulbs, will come up every year and could just be tidied with a low trim with a hedge cutter in February. It would not be super tidy and manicured but it could give lots of pleasure. Every third year some dividing and refreshing of the plants would be needed.
After these design ideas, Katherine gave some tips on individual plants and here are a couple of them:-
Ground cover roses have multiple flowerings and can be pruned with a hedge trimmer. The only drawback is that they have little perfume.
Climbers do not have to go high. Grow wisteria over a normal fence and then pruning is easy – without a ladder.
Katherine had brought several garden tools with her and she now turned to these to show us ways to make the task of gardening easier. She told us to stop digging! Just use a fork to open some grooves in the soil, (don’t lift the soil), and then cover with a good layer of light weight mulch, like chipped bark. The ground is now ready for planting. This works for areas that have been in cultivation.
If you need to do some hoeing, do it sideways and stay upright. To do this, work with both thumbs pointing upwards on the hoe.
Use a hoe to make a drill for seed planting and seeds can be put into it using a tube if you can’t bend. Planting at a distance can also be used for bedding plants so long as they are well-rooted in a plug. Make a hole, drop the plug into it and close the hole with a tool or your foot.
A good source of gardening gloves is Avon Bulbs. They sell a brand called Maxiflex and their ‘small’ size actually does fit small lady’s hands so that fingers reach the ends and dexterity is improved.
Finally, use a lightweight sack truck for moving heavy pots and bags of compost.
The whole talk was done with lots of humour and nearly everyone found something they could put into practice.