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Central Midwest Gardening: Cultivate Easygoing Plants

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

For a beautiful garden without a full-time commitment, consider hardy shrubs and undemanding perennials.

Peony ‘Roslette’ blooms in early spring.

By Marty Ross

One of these days I’m going to have more time. I’ve been saying this for so many years, I am convinced it must be true. When that day comes, you’ll find me in the garden. I’ll move plants 3 inches, if necessary, to get the placement just right. I’ll plant a million spring-blooming bulbs every fall. My vegetable garden will flourish. I’ll plant elaborate miniature trough gardens full of rare plants and keep a meticulous garden journal.

Just at present, however, time is what I don’t have. I deadhead the zinnias on my way from the front door to the car door. I prune the roses with hedge shears. There’s not much lawn in my garden, and what there is I can mow in about 15 minutes on a Saturday morning. The amazing thing is, this is a very effective horticultural strategy. My garden is full of tough, reliable plants that really do not need much attention, and it looks terrific. Here are some of my techniques:

Oakleaf hydrangea looks spectacular in bloom.
  • Shrubs come to the rescue of busy gardeners. I start with small specimens. They’re inexpensive and easy to plant. In my garden I grow handsome varieties of hydrangeas, viburnums, witch hazels, boxwoods and a few other shrubs.
  • Perennial plants come back year after year witout pampering. Peonies, hellebores, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, sedums, asters and hostas are beautiful and reliable in my garden and throughout the central Midwest. I grow them close together, so there’s not much room for weeds.
Bright-yellow daffodils bloom in March.
  • I love spring-blooming bulbs. Over the years I have planted lots of daffodils—usually a couple of dozen at a time. They add up.
  • Every time I dig a hole for a plant, I throw in a shovelful of compost. I’m improving the mineral-rich but heavy clay soil in my garden one hole at a time
‘Profusion’ zinnias bloom all summer and up until frost.
  • I keep the planter boxes on my front porch full of annual flowers and herbs. Each one is like a little cottage garden. They’re easy to care for as I come and go, and the hose is nearby.
  • I don’t use herbicides or pesticides. The birds and the good bugs seem to have the pests under control, and the weeds aren’t that bad. I pulled one or two just the other morning on my way out to pick up the newspaper. A little bit of gardening in my fuzzy slippers gets the job done, first thing.