Last year we completed some upgrades to a delightful garden in Gerrards Cross for a client looking for it to have more colour and interest, yet be low maintenance. He sent me this image last week:
You may notice the use of very large screen planting at the rear has now almost completely hidden the house next door- we used Osmanthus as an attractive evergreen that can br brought in very large for instant screening. In front of this we allowed for a deep planting bed adjacent to the main patio to ensure that a good range of plants could be fitted in. No plants produce flowers all year, so the best approach is to have a good range of flowering plants (the azaleas in the foreground are a splash of early colour, a Cornus kousa in the centre is just peeping out white flowers and the blue Ceanothus is in full flight!). Agapanthus, dicentra and philadelphus will provide later colour, and the red leaved acer gives good value with attractive foliag emost of the year and a splash of brighter autumn colour before losing the leaf.
The client was wary of having too much deciduous planting- but since most of the garden was already evergreen and they found this dull we agreed that the heavy evergreen screen behind and the large ceanothus were enough in this important bed.
The approach shows the importance of uising flowering shrubs for a low maintenance garden- very little needs doing here- a thick mulch keeps the weeds down and moisture in, and there is relatively little perennial planting (just some pretties to fill the beds at the front) so not much to chop back in the winter. The shrubs are all relatively slow growing, but will need a gentle prune every so often- DO NOT clip into mounds- this looks very manicured, but completely loses their lovely shapes, far better to take out some of the branches entirely and thin out carefully than hack into unnatural shapes!