Let Your Garden Do The Gardening

No Maintenance Garden

No Maintenance Garden

Years ago when I was a landscape designer one of my biggest turn-offs were customers who requested the “No Maintenance Garden”.  Unfortunately, it was most of them, but finally it appears as though times are changing and people are becoming more aware of the benefits of a natural landscape.  No successful garden that includes living things can truly be no maintenance, but there will be occasions where, left to its own devices, the garden can take care of itself if you let it.

Verbena bonariensis, a tender perennial that has reseeded throughout my garden.

Verbena bonariensis, a tender perennial that has reseeded throughout my garden.

Particularly now is the time in the garden, if not overly manicured, where the magic of the reseed can occur.  It is not always easy to tell weed from wanted plant, but by not obsessing over unexpected growth, your garden can renew itself naturally.  Especially opportune are areas including brick and open stonework as well as regions of gravel.  These include walkways that homeowners hope to keep the most tidy, but the bottom line is that many plants do best in coarse terrain.  We work so hard to create the perfect fertile ground in our garden, but in nature plants often grow where the seed is able to anchor in one spot, collect water and be properly drained and not necessarily in the area of perfect soil.

Purple ? reseeded across the walkway

Purple Salvia lyrata reseeded at left on the walkway's edge.

More recent reseedlings in my urban garden…

Euphorbia myrsinites, Donkey Tail

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkey Tail)

Prunella and Ruelia humilis (Wild Petunia)

Prunella and Ruelia humilis (Wild Petunia)

Hernaria glabra (Rupturewort)

Herniaria glabra (Rupturewort)

Belamcanda chinensis, Blackberry Lily w/ Flower & Seed Images Courtesy of Wikimedia

Belamcanda chinensis (Blackberry Lily), Flower & Seed Images Courtesy of Wikimedia

So do let seedlings grow, but don’t ignore the garden altogether either.  If you watch your seedlings as they grow (and perhaps even document them), you will be able to identify friend from foe in the future.  For example, in my urban garden, I have less possible intruders than a less cultivated area and I am able to pinpoint the most likely intruders; porcelain vine, Virginia creeper, Boston and English Ivy and sweet autumn clematis who all come from one neighbor.  Now that I know what their immature foliage looks like, I can nab them before they take root.

There will always be surprises too, that make this exercise of will worthwhile.  As mentioned in a previous post, I have an accidental pumpkin vine growing in my walkway and I discovered a surprisingly large tomato plant in my, as of yet, undeveloped (to put it mildly) back yard.  The tomato has tons of fruit and I am looking forward to a late summer harvest shortly!

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Published in: on August 31, 2009 at 3:22 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Joel sometimes the volunteer plants are the most beautiful, especially when they grow and thrive in a place where we would never have planted them. An example in my garden is, where two ferns established themselves in the top of an old tree stump I was growing hen & chicks on. The ferns look fabulous there.

  2. Great post, I’m of the same thoughts. I weed in the ‘old fashioned’ way on my knees so I get to see those nice surprises rather than automatically cutting them up with a hoe… It’s great, especially when you get wild flowers self seeding for free! 😀

  3. No Maintenance Garden
    Thanks for the chuckle.

  4. I like that blackberry lily. I’ve never seen those before. I’m going to have to look into that.

  5. My garden’s pretty new, but my “plan” involves having a wild but mildly groomed landscape. In other words, I’m going to try to let native plants do their thing, with a little bit of guidance from me. It just takes time, and of course, I’m stuck having to buy native plants just to have them at all. Well, I snag seeds where I can, but some of them are hard to germinate! A few years from now, though, my yard is going to be a very different place!

  6. So, strange question, is that the salvia that people smoke and then halucinate wildly after? I hear its quite pretty as a garden plant, so I’m wondering if its the same thing?

    • Interesting question. Since I can’t speak from experience, I had to do a little research. From what I discovered, yes it is the same genus, but not the right species. The hallucinogenic variety is Salvia divinorum. Here’s an article: http://www.webmd.com/news/20080627/salvia-drug-du-jour-for-some-teens


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