Low maintenance garden design ideas

Always wanted a fabulous garden but afraid you will become a slave to it every weekend. With a little bit of thought and careful planning, you can keep your weekends free for leisure time. A landscape designer will certainly be able to do all the planning and design for you, but here are some tips to stimulate your thinking.


maintain existing trees

Healthy existing trees that have stood the test of time should be kept. They have acclimatised to the local conditions and created a micro climate that works for your patch. Trees cool the temperature of the immediate area, reducing the harshness of the space and allowing a greater variety of plant selection in the garden. They provide great shade for garden enjoyment.

increase the area for outdoor living

Today’s lifestyle demands what we create space within the garden for entertainment and relaxation. With good landscape design principles it is possible to create a lush green garden that is easy on the eye and not compromised by the presence of the entertainment area (generally known as the “hard space”). Think of the entertainment area as part of the garden decor and decorate it accordingly. Learn more about garden design here.

select the right paving surface

Now that you have decided to incorporate the entertainment area, a big factor in its functionality is the choice of floor surface. Try to keep it natural, giving off hues of sustainability and in keeping with the architecture of the home. There are some wonderful natural stones (e.g. blue stone and limestone) however make sure you are aware of the appropriate measures to protect and maintain them over the long term. Whilst sealing them when installing adds to the expense, it will ensure a better looking surface over a longer term. If near a pool, consider those surfaces that offer the best slip resistance.

minimise or eliminate the lawn

Lawns look great, but they require fertilising, aerating, weeding, watering and of course mowing very regularly. If you have to have one for the children to play, consider a tough buffalo grass that tolerates some dry conditions. None are drought tolerant, but they do bounce back after a period of dry conditions.

soil care

We often talk about feeding our plants, when in reality we are feeding the soil. A soil that is free draining, loose enough to allow oxygen and water to move through it and is replenished with nutrients regularly will always produce healthier plants. Never under estimate the value of adding organic matter, it is a fantastic nutrient, and you can never over feed with OM.

It will be necessary to know the PH (ie acidic or alkaline) and how to treat if it does not suet the plant choices. All you need to do is pick up a PH test kit from your local nursery or hardware. They are not expensive.

Time spent preparing the soil initially followed up with some easy ongoing care will mean less time chasing your tail trying to salvage or replace sick plants, versus more time relaxing in your garden. Learn more here.

plant natives

There is a difference between Native and Indigenous plants. Indigenous plants that are native to your region will naturally feel right at home in your garden. Spend some time walking through your neighbourhood and there is a good chance that plants growing the local parks etc will be indigenous to your area. Some native plants that are indigenous to say South Australia, which has a mediterranean climate, may not suit the more humid conditions of Sydney.

Native plants are generally a hardier species that tolerate our dry conditions therefore requiring less water.

Whilst I prefer a densely planted garden for aesthetic reasons, the other advantage is that weeds will be discouraged if there is no space for them to grow.

Whatever your plant selection, plant them en masse. Not only does it look stylish, but it is easier to care for a few species of plants only. Your landscape designer will give you valuable advice in this regard.

plant compact shrubs

If spending time pruning shrubs is not your idea of a weekend well spent, then choose plants that naturally maintain a compact rounded form as they grow. They naturally keep their dense foliage so that they do not become sparse and woody, as opposed to those shrubs that require annual pruning to keep their shape and style. A little nip and tuck from once in awhile might be appropriate but not essential.

Examples are Acmena smithii ‘Allyn Magic’ and Callistemon viminalis ‘Better John’.

Acmena smithii ‘Allan Magic’

Callistoemon viminalis ‘Little John’


Mulching your garden has many benefits, all of which minimise the time you need to spend caring for the garden. Organic mulches prevent evaporation, reduce weed growth and as it decomposes, replenishes nutrients back into the soil. Decorative gravels such as pebbles have all the same benefits with the exception of nutrient replenishment.


All plants require some water, and other than a few exceptions, our rainfall is not sufficient for most plants in the dry season. You can either spend summer hours begrudgingly hand watering your garden, or install an irrigation system. The benefits of irrigation by far outweigh the initial outlay. Plants grow more quickly with reliable automated watering that is programmed to suit the plant’s requirement. If left to us, we either overwater, or forget to do it all.


Buying furniture that requires continual cleaning, painting or repair will soon cause you to loose interest. Furniture is a matter of personal taste, but you get what you pay for. Items that are sometimes more expensive to purchase will last longer and require less maintenance. Hardwood will perform better than softwood, metal, glass and some PVC (non fade) products have better durability. It is sometimes a fine line between longevity and style. It pays to shop around.

garden art

Place some focal points in the garden. I think of it as garden art, it could be a sculpture (stone, metal or wire) or a contemporary pot or urn. All gardens will have their “dull season”,and rather than spending money and time planting annuals for seasonal color, why not install permanent garden art.

Need more landscape design guidance or inspiration, contact Brian he would love to help.

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