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Low Maintenance Garden Design – Tips and ideas for creating your perfect garden

Last updated on January 24th, 2022

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Low maintenance garden ideas

We all want the most beautiful inspiring gardens like the ones we see on ‘Gardeners World’ or when we visit impressive stately home gardens on our days out, but very few people have the enthusiasm or the time to pull it off. After all, most large inspiring gardens you see either have a large team of full-time gardeners or the owners of such gardens are very knowledgeable, artistic and most importantly have lots of spare time to build and maintain such a spectacular garden.

A low-maintenance garden design does not mean you need to have a fully paved garden with not much going on within it. With some careful consideration, you can decide exactly what you want from your garden. Low maintenance could simply mean having a smaller simple lawn, with straight paved paths and low maintenance plants, such as evergreen shrubs and conifers that don’t grow too tall and require no pruning.

Why might a person consider creating a low maintenance garden?

  • Lack of time to maintain the garden.
  • Lack of knowledge to properly look after different types of plants.
  • When disabled and unable to undertake all essential gardening jobs.
  • Simply wanting to enjoy your garden with the least amount of work possible.
  • A non-gardener.

Garden design priority list

It is best to create a priority list so you can note down exactly what you want from your garden. Perhaps you want a lawn for your children to play on and a small vegetable patch so they can learn to grow their own food. However, you might not want to maintain a manicured lawn and look after flowerbeds with more high-maintenance shrubs.

How to go about designing a low maintenance garden that meets a priority list

In this instance (taken from above), you might go for a formal lawn with straight edges to make cutting quick and easy and go for a hard-wearing lawn grass that takes less care. You could even go a step further and choose a lawnmower with a wider cutting area and edging shears that collect the grass clippings.

low maintenance garden ideas for a simple inspiring design.

Design by Outer Space Garden Design

You might then choose to install a small vegetable patch close to the house for growing vegetables and then plant beds and borders with low maintenance evergreen shrubs so that there are little fallen leaves to collect in the Autumn. Mulch the soil with bark or chippings to suppress weeds.

You could then create paths with a patterned imprinted concentrate that is available in many stunning designs. This helps to stop weeds coming up, rather than the alternative of laying flags and paving that would need regular weeding between them. Finally, you might opt for a real-looking aluminium fence that is now becoming a popular choice. They have a look of real wood but do not need painting every year.

As you can see, you can quickly create a low-maintenance garden with a little planning.

Ideas for creating a low maintenance garden

Choose low maintenance plants

This is one of the most important aspects because if you choose wrong it could leave you with yearly and in some cases, monthly jobs you could do without. When selecting evergreen plants, take into consideration their eventual sizes. Try to choose shrubs that don’t grow too big so that they will not require regular pruning. If you choose evergreen plants there will be very little fallen leaves to collect and very little cutting back to do, saving you essential time. Some shrubs, such as Vinca ‘Major’ are ground spreading shrubs and will help to suppress weeds as well as provide a backdrop of green and brightly coloured flowers in the summer.

Low maintenance shrubs also include (check eventual sizes against your intended area before planting any plant):

Other evergreen plants include conifers and these range from smaller, low growing varieties such as Juniperus ‘Blue Carpet’ to larger varieties, so choose wisely and research the best conifer for your position. Conifers can be useful for creating a low maintenance screen but opt for varieties that only grow to around 7ft, e.g, the Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ for easy trimming and avoid varieties such as Leylandii that grow very quickly and require regular pruning.

Create a low maintenance lawn

You can create a lawn that requires little maintenance and can still be a feature within your garden. Choose hard-wearing lawn turf that requires less care and have straight edges as opposed to curved edges that are harder to cut. Think about using lawn edging, this can reduce the need to go around the lawn with edging shears.

Another idea would be to let the grass grow long and not cut it between the months of March and September and maybe just mow narrow pathways through the grass as a feature and sow some wildflower seed over it to give it a splash of colour. This approach will also attract wildlife into the garden. You would then only need to cut it at the start of the season and the end of the season.

Consider artificial grass, with many suppliers now you can get some very good quality artificial grass and although the original outlay can be more expensive it can give you a carefree lawn for many years to come.

Use a lawnmower with a wider cut and consider not collecting grass cuttings. By not collecting the grass cuttings it adds nutrients back into the lawn and helps feed the lawn removing the need for feeding.

Garden design ideas low maintenance – borders

We have talked about planting low-maintenance shrubs and conifers, but try adding mulch, bark or stone onto the borders. Be sure to use groundcover fabric underneath the mulch that will help to suppress any weeds and keep the soil damp, reducing the need for much frequent watering. There are many types of mulch you could use, but the most common are bark chippings and coloured stone. Other mulches include rubber chippings and glass chippings which are both very effective.

Consider planting a slower-growing hedge rather than a fence that will require painting every year and maintenance to keep it looking good. Hedges do need clipping but with slower-growing hedging plants available this may only need doing once a year.

Things you should consider NOT doing if you wish to keep your garden as low maintenance as possible.

When creating a low maintenance garden there are a few things you might want to avoid unless they are specifically on your priority list. These include the following:

  • Avoid planting bedding plants such as petunia, lobelia, antirrhinums, marigolds and cosmos because they need regular watering and feeding. They are also seasonal and need planting every Spring. If you have bedding plants on your priority list try doing a little research and go for plants that don’t require as much care and watering, opting instead for bedding such as begonias, busy lizzies and geraniums.
  • Avoid planting lots of tubs and planters as they do require regular watering and feeding, almost daily in summer. If you do opt for planters try to choose larger planters that will hold the moisture and plants that are ideal for dry conditions.
  • Avoid fast-growing hedging plants such as Leylandii and Laurels and opt for more slower growing cultivars such as Photinia ‘Red Robin’ and Buxus.
  • Avoid having a pond with expensive fish that require lots of care and filtration systems and instead opt for more of a bog pond that can be left untreated and attract the local wildlife.
  • Avoid large areas of decking that require painting yearly.
  • Avoid shrubs that require lots of pruning and perennials that require cleaning up and cutting back in Autumn.

We have posted a few pictures below from around the web to show what a low maintenance garden can look like.

Garden design ideas low maintenance, easy to maintain buxus balls, simple yet effective design

Image credits

japanese inspired modern stone garden

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Mulched borders and low maintenance plants

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Gravel and patio design

Image credit: Shropshire Garden Design

low maintenance raised bed

Image credit: Shropshire Garden Design

If you are in need of garden screening ideas for your low maintenance garden, read our guide on garden screening here.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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