Go Green or Go Granite




It's spring, and that means it's time to think about your yard. Author Diane Kelley offers up some garden advice for the not so plant savvy, or homeowners with busy schedules.

Landscaping doesn’t have to mean high maintenance. By using combinations of hardy plants with hardscape, you can have a stunning and easy-to-care-for yard.

There is nothing more beautiful than a well-planned garden, one that provides color and interest all year long. Some of the most ambitious gardens can take many hours of maintenance, and unless you have a full-time gardening staff, you may be spending so much time in the garden people will mistake you for a garden gnome.

One of the most fool-proof ways to create a beautiful, maintenance-free yard is to use stone. You won’t have to worry about frost or floods; all you’ll need to know is when to flip the burgers. The ideal outdoor living area is a combination of both green space and hardscape.

Hardscape is also the perfect way to showcase your low-maintenance plants. Matthew Birse, owner of Stratham Hill Stone, offers a multitude of natural stone options to create an amazing outdoor room.

There are also many affordable options of manufactured Kit Stone that can cut your material and labor costs in half.

According to Birse, the most popular way right now to decorate your yard is to bring the inside outdoors.

The biggest things are outdoor kitchens, fully stocked with grills, spits, barbecues and bars. Other features are outdoor fireplaces framed by pergolas and seating areas so comfortable they would rival any indoor living room.

To add color and texture to your hardscape, Stratham Circle Nursery offers a full array of hardy, low-maintenance plants.

Manager David Wilson shared his recommendations for creating carefree color in your garden, all season long:

“For flowers, perennials are the best way to go. They are the most resilient and require minimal attention. You only need to fertilize and compost once a year. There’s no dead-heading required and, at the end of the season, just cut them down to the ground.”

Once the plants are established with a healthy root system, watering is not a huge maintenance issue, but hydration is a critical factor in the beginning for all plants.

Low-maintenance perennial flowers and their seasons

Early Spring: Poppies explode onto the scene.

Summer to Fall: Daylilies are available in a variety of colors.

June and July: Astilbe make a showing.

July and August: Anenomes

Late Summer to early fall: Hibiscus This is a tropical hybrid in vivid colors; one particular variety has such big flowers it is known as Dinner Plate Hibiscus.

Trees

Japanese maples provide color with their deep mahogany leaves, and the Bradford Pear hybrid, “Chanticleer,” flowers from April through fall. It is a clean tree that produces a drupe, a small sort of berry, which is the classical ornamental fruit.

Ornamental Grasses

Keeping these standing through the winter protects the root stalk and the plant inside. When covered with ice crystals, they are particularly beautiful. Cut them down to a foot high in May to make way for new growth.

Groundcover

One of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive items in your landscaping could be your lawn. If you prefer softness to stone, you can still have the green on the ground without having to gas up the lawn mower.

For Shade: Vinca (Periwinkle), Pachysandra, European Ginger (big oval glossy leaves) and Bunch Berry (in the Dogwood family with a white flower the size of a half dollar) are good choices.

For Sun: Choose these low-to-the-ground evergreens: Carpet Juniper — Blue Rug, Bar Harbor and Blue Pacific and the Green Japanese Garden Juniper. Then there is the Bearberry, which grows all over Cape Cod. In the fall it has little red berries and the leaves turn from green to mahogany.

For walkways and stepping stones: Creeping Thyme is available in a variety of types and colors. There is no cutting required, and it bounces right back when you step on it.

Groundcovers are also a wonderful solution to prevent soil erosion. Another great plant to keep your ground underfoot during the heavy rains is the Fragrant Sumac. It sends suckers beneath the ground, which serves to anchor the soil. It grows about two feet tall, is very aromatic, has green leaves in the summer and in the fall has berries with brilliant red and orange foliage.

Garden smart with low-maintenance selections for beauty you can actually enjoy. NH

Seacoast resident and designer Diane Kelley is the owner of DK Interiors.

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