Advice and tips for a low maintenance garden

We asked some of the best garden designers on Design for Me for their expert advice on designing a low maintenance garden.


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Juliet – Garden designer in Stroud, South-West

(click on her name to view her full profile and shortlist her for your garden design project)


1. Keep it green

Don’t have time to tend to your garden, but want it to look beautiful whenever you come home from work? A low maintenance garden doesn’t mean you need to pave everything.  Consider evergreens and use contrasting textures and leaf shapes to make a backdrop for splashes of colour.  

foliage contrasts low maintenance

ferns and leaves with galvanised trough

steps and ferns pod garden low maintenance

Ferns and evergreens with contrasting textures and shapes

2. Change with the seasons – use containers

Use containers to add seasonal plants and move them out of sight once they have done their thing, so you can refresh them with the next season’s top performer.  

September colour Prunus incisa in pot

September colour – prunus incisa

seasonal colour in pot in low maintenance garden

3. Be bold

Try bold colour combinations like cornflowers with apricot roses, or drop a pure white anemone into a mixture of ferns.

cornflowers and rose splash of colour

Cornflowers and apricot roses

Cosmos and Prunus incisa september colour

Cosmos and prunus incisa

Hebe is also a great choice for creating a green backdrop in sun.  Anenome hybrida (Japanese anemone) will flower from August to October and look after themselves in sun or shade and are great cut flowers.  Try Selenum wallichianum in sun or part shade, for a frothy wild and natural look plus winter seed heads, without having to re plant every year.



Josh, garden designer in Richmond, London TW1

(click on his name to view his full profile and shortlist him for your garden design project)


1. Lose the lawn

If you are thinking of designing a low maintenance garden, which is often the case in London, then rule out both topiary and lawn. Remember to source paving tiles that suit your garden conditions and avoid concrete tiles altogether. Make sure the pavers are not very dark or very light as they show all the dirt. The light paving also tends to stain quite badly too and then takes lots of time to clean.


2. Ditch the decking

Decking is high maintenance and slippery in the UK. Either swap your decking desire to the lower maintenance option which is composite decking boards or even better switch to a low porous paving type such as slate.


3. Irrigate

I always suggest irrigation for a low maintenance garden. This frees you up to sit back and drink that glass of wine in your garden in the evenings, rather than having to water your plants three times a week through the growing season.



Ali & Ben, garden designers in Oxfordshire

(click on their names to view their full profile and shortlist them for your garden design project)


4. Shrubs shrubs shrubs!

Essential for a low maintenance garden, shrubs provide backbone to a garden and happily there is a vast array of low maintenance options to pick from in the shrub world. A high proportion of evergreen shrubs ensures form and structure throughout the year but there are also some beautiful, deciduous shrubs to pick from which will add low maintenance textual contrast and colour. Use solid, reliable evergreens like Osmanthus, Choisya, Sarcococca, Myrtus, and Viburnum along with elegant deciduous species like Sambuca and Deutzia. The semi-evergreen, Abelia x grandiflora, is an invaluable stalwart too in the garden, providing shape and form as well as beautiful pink flowers all summer long followed by colourful red calyces well into autumn and a sweet fragrance to boot.


5. Ornamental grasses

Intersperse shrubs with the arching, graceful forms of ornamental grasses like Stipa, Miscanthus, Deschampsia and Melica. These will look gorgeous well into the winter and only require a quick chop back in early Spring before they rise again in the summer to provide a long season of wafting wonder. They will also work beautifully against the more dense forms of the evergreen shrubs.


6. Perennials

Then for good measure, use unfussy perennials to provide colour, contrast and ground cover. You can’t really beat hardy Geraniums for this: they flower for ages, need very little attention and there is a whole host of varieties to pick from depending on whether you need them for shade, sun or somewhere in between. Erigeron karvinskianus is another favourite, easy perennial for a long period of summer flowering. These pretty little pinky-white daisy-like flowers last from June right through to October.  They spread quickly to create neat mounds or low hedging, grow in almost anything as long as it’s sunny and best of all seem almost to benefit from a bit of neglect! If they are looking a bit out of control by the end of autumn, a quick chop of the lankier stems back will sort them out easily.



Geranium 'Rozanne'



7. Bulbs

Finally, bulbs! Throw in a sprinkling of bulbs to your borders and, if you select your varieties carefully, you can have a year round successional display of beautiful blooms in your low maintenance garden. From winter snowdrops and early spring daffodils through late spring alliums, camassia and tulips, mid-late summer nerine and crocosmia and right through to autumn cyclamen, colchicum and crocus, there is something for every season.

Erigeron karvinskianus

Erigeron karvinskianus




small garden ideas



Lewis, garden designer in Bradford, Yorkshire

(click on his name to view his full profile and shortlist him for your garden design project)


Meadow planting

Lawns are well known to be high-maintenance, with a nearly year-round schedule of mowing, fertilising, aerating, raking and so on. Rather than the go-to replacements of hard landscaping or artificial turf, meadow planting is a great alternative for a low maintenance garden. There are some excellent meadow turf products are available now, which require only the same amount of ground preparation as lawn turf, and give instant results. 

Pictorial MeadowsPM Turf range is specifically designed to succeed on average garden soil and gives an ever-evolving display over many months. The appearance combines the wildness of a meadow with the exuberance of a traditional herbaceous planting scheme.  A simple, annual cut and clear regime is usually all that is necessary to keep it looking good once it’s established. Replacing some areas of lawn with meadow turf will mean much less time spent mowing, with the additional benefits of a long-flowering, pollinator-friendly display.  


The PM Turf products from Pictorial Meadows provide an instant effect, and the different seed mixes mean the aesthetics can be matched according to the surrounding buildings and other areas of planting. Maintenance in comparison to a lawn or a more regimented planting scheme is significantly reduced.


meadow planting

meadow planting

meadow planting



Sarah, garden designer in Hackney, London E5

(click on her name to view her full profile and shortlist her for your garden design project)

Swap the lawn for raised beds and planters

Lawns are undoubtedly the most labour intensive part of a garden.  With weekly mowing throughout the Summer and regular maintenance in Spring & Autumn why not consider a no lawn garden? Paving, gravel or setts balanced with planting pockets or containers can be an effective low maintenance alternative. Raised beds are great for low maintenance gardens. The height of the beds means no kneeling and bending and they can also double as seating in a garden, saving valuable floor space.


low maintenance garden
low maintenance garden



Alan, garden designer in Cotswold, Gloucestershire

(click on his name to view his full profile and shortlist him for your garden design project)

Mulch to reduce weed growth

If there was one thing I would suggest to any client to reduce maintenance requirements it is to mulch! We have gone into gardens where clients have said that the weeds seem to spring up before their eyes. After giving an initial blitz to remove everything we can see, a rich layer of mushroom compost or finely composted bark is spread to a decent depth (10cm).

How does this work?
It covers the bare soil and any weed seeds preventing them from germinating, it activates the soil meaning that seeds are broken down by the insects and bacteria present in a living soil environment and also it feeds the plants/shrubs and trees that are planted, helping them to out compete and crowd out the unwanted weeds. Do this every autumn to ensure your garden is a weed reduced zone.



Tim, garden designer near Edinburgh

(click on his name to view his full profile and shortlist him for your garden design project)


Let it grow

If you don’t hoe your soil, in that random carpet of tiny green seedlings that emerge all over your garden, there could be wealth of opportunity that nature has provided for you.

If you can learn to identify a few common naturally self seeding plants that you like while they are only very small, you can get beautiful displays year after year by just leaving them to grow, and taking out everything you don’t like or don’t recognise.

In this border below I’ve left the Forget-me-nots and the Honesty to fill out a beautiful display with the Spring Bulbs

low maintenance garden ideas

low maintenance garden



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  1.  Meadow planting, and how it can be part of a low maintenance garden.

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