Main­te­nance mind­set


Laid-back gar­den­ing is a mat­ter of mind­ful­ness, says land­scape de­signer Tr­ish Bartleet, who re­ally en­joys the phys­i­cal­ity of get­ting out into her own back­yard be­fore sit­ting down with a nice cold beer, job well done. Here she shares her philoso­phies…

Get the bal­ance right: An easy-go­ing ap­proach to gar­den­ing is all very well, but if you’re too hands-off the aes­thet­ics will suf­fer. For eas­ier main­te­nance, the trick is to bal­ance some once-a-year tasks with on-go­ing main­te­nance. “Plants add an­other di­men­sion: they need reg­u­lar at­ten­tion.”

Sched­ule it: Un­less you’re keen to dig, prune, weed and feed, you’ll need a gen­tle re­minder of must-do an­nual tasks. Cre­ate a to-do di­ary that’s a sea­sonal prompt. “Just hav­ing a sched­ule takes the stress away and gives you some per­spec­tive about how lit­tle of your time you ac­tu­ally spend on out­door main­te­nance.” For ex­am­ple, once a year (usu­ally in spring) you’ll need to scrub and wa­ter-blast paving, decks and stairs. Feed the gar­den once a year. Aer­ate the lawn once a year.

Rules for pools: Tr­ish isn’t a fan of pool cov­ers – she says it’s like hid­ing an as­set. “Pools throw such beau­ti­ful light and re­flec­tion into a house and add to the am­bi­ence of the out­door and in­door spa­ces,” she says. A cover, she points out, col­lects just as much dirt and leaf mat­ter so you may as well clear those out of the pool. Pro­tect your in­vest­ment and build the cost of reg­u­lar main­te­nance (clean­ing and ser­vic­ing) into the house­hold run­ning ex­penses. Darker coloured pools and sur­rounds show much less dirt. In­ves­ti­gate bio pools, which have a more nat­u­ral ap­pear­ance that melds into the sur­round­ing land­scape.

Amass the troops: Bona fide plants are your in-house army against the en­emy forces of weeds. One species planted en masse (rather than mixed plant­ing) makes gar­den­ing eas­ier be­cause ev­ery plant will be per­form­ing in the same way at the same time and the sheer vol­ume will pro­vide cover so the weeds can­not in­fil­trate. “If there’s no light get­ting to the soil, the weeds can’t grow. The trac­tor seat plant – Ligu­laria reni­formis – with its broad leaves is a real trooper.” At a lower level, clipped star jas­mine works well as a weed-sup­press­ing ground cover.

Bust­ing the myths: Bromeli­ads aren’t low care. Sure, they’re pretty bul­let­proof but once the par­ent pups, if you don’t re­move the orig­i­nal plant they soon start look­ing tatty. Even the beloved cab­bage tree seems to drops its leaves ev­ery few sec­onds (and pick­ing them up can be­come te­dious). Bet­ter by far to use a plant where the leaves fall and rot nat­u­rally into the ground. Suc­cu­lents are the ideal ex­am­ple and mondo grass only needs a very oc­ca­sional comb­ing with your fin­gers to get rid of the dead leaves. Don’t yawn over the lawn: In cli­mates that are hu­mid with lots of rain, lawns are of­ten blan­keted with weeds as soon as you turn your back. Again Tr­ish hasn’t got good news for the truly lack­adaisi­cal gar­dener. Main­te­nance is crit­i­cal so be vig­i­lant – once a week scout out any weeds or they’ll mul­ti­ply faster than rab­bits. Get Jim in to mow, and timetable a yearly date with the pitch­fork to cre­ate aer­a­tion (along with a top-dress­ing rou­tine) to im­prove drainage. Think ar­ti­fi­cial grass is the an­swer? “Maybe in some sit­u­a­tions, but with fake lawn you have to vac­uum up the leaves as they don’t de­com­pose nat­u­rally and, over time, soil will build up on the sur­face where weeds can grow.”

Mon­i­tor your mind­set: When you com­pare how long you spend ren­o­vat­ing, dec­o­rat­ing and clean­ing the in­side of your home, main­tain­ing the gar­den takes very lit­tle time pro­por­tion­ately. And it gives so much plea­sure: as New Zealan­ders we live, play and en­ter­tain beyond the French doors.

It’s an in­vest­ment: As Ki­wis, we tend to feel that it’s cheat­ing to get peo­ple in to gar­den, but with­out the will to learn or the time to do it, you’re des­tined to fail – and some­times that can be costly. Hir­ing an ex­pert’s ser­vices is a nec­es­sary cost to main­tain your in­vest­ment: many peo­ple fall in love with and buy a house be­cause they are won over by a spec­tac­u­lar out­door area. >

THIS PAGE Get the bal­ance right be­tween hard land­scap­ing and plant­ing, says Tr­ish Bartleet; in this gar­den she de­signed, Alpine Mix peb­bles me­an­der past rusted steel beds soft­ened by feath­ery plants such as the coral-tipped Rus­selia eq­ui­seti­formis.

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