From the Ground Up — Green on Green: A classic, low maintenance garden design

Published 9:29 am Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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Traditional gardening has always been about wrestling nature into submission, an approach that’s labor intensive and somewhat like warfare. Gardeners have to be vigilant in case nature decides to upend their best plans, especially those involving finicky plants from faraway growing zones. Some gardeners, however, have always known that they don’t want to spend hours weeding or tweaking the height of the grass borders in their yards. 

When they moved to Farmville, Sherry and Jack Honeycutt knew that they didn’t have the time or inclination to do yard work; they just wanted an attractive space where they could relax, and their kids could gather with friends. By working with Nan Colvin, a local Master Gardener and landscape designer, they developed a landscaping plan that has served them well for many years and that has eliminated most repetitive weeding, watering, and edging. 

Their overall plan was to think green, as in evergreen shrubs with varying leaf shapes and textures. They chose easy to grow, sturdy shrubs that don’t require extensive pruning or fertilizing. There are hollies planted along the front of the house; they serve as a frame and are supplemented with an American holly and blue spruce, which both have interesting textures and colors. They are focal points. 

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Along the sides of the house, there are beds with wavy, curving edges that encourage the eye to wander from beginning to end. The beds are sparsely planted and feature a Japanese maple, a huge, gnarly dogwood, and some grasses, which are low maintenance and add a sense of movement. There are also several crape myrtles that have highly textured bark and bright pink frilly blooms in late summer. They’re basically punctuation marks. 

There is also a large oak leaf hydrangea that serves as a privacy screen for a side window. The panicles of flowers are pretty all year, even after they have turned brown. And this theme of green leaves, bark, and texture continues on to the edge of the yard. Rather than a privacy fence, there is a row of birch trees that have been planted close together and serve the same purpose. 

In addition to a unifying theme and plan, every garden needs a generous space for relaxation. It can be a porch, patio, or just an area that’s defined by plantings. Here’s it’s a simple deck facing an expanse of green. Every garden also needs some sentimental elements, things that link the owns to family or fond events from their past. Here there’s a very thorny osage orange passed on from a family member, as well as a statue of St Francis. 

Lessons learned from this “simple” theme of green on green? Use lots of mulch to cut down on the need for weeding and to help define beds. For maximum impact, use large plantings rather than small ones. Use annuals in a few containers to indicate the changing of the seasons. Above all, keep everything simple and stick to the theme of green on green supplemented by different textures and leaf shapes. It’s classic!