Easy-Care Gardening for Parents (and Great-Grandparents)

The following post was written by my Nana who I had NO IDEA had plans to write this post until this very one arrived in my inbox late last night. Thank you for your help, Nana, and thank you as always, for sharing your wit and wisdom. xo
When Rebecca said she might not blog much this week because she’s working in New York, I decided I would knock out a quickie blog for her. (Since I am a garden writer, gardening is my topic.)
Here’s the scoop: When it comes to gardening, busy young folks like you have a lot in common with people who have grown families like me: Easy-care is where it’s at! For example, I no longer have the time or strength to cover every inch of ground in my large garden with plants that will pop a flower on top of every stem year round. That’s just not me any more. And young moms and dads might have the strength, but they don’t have the time. So how does one promote garden charm and romance without a pouring a bunch of time (not to mention water) down the drain? Here are a few solutions. But first, a caveat: I live in Southern California. All the ideas below use plants that grow well here, but you can follow the same basic ideas and just switch in easy and spectacular plants that grow well in your climate.
 • Choose easy-care, but spectacular permanent plants and plant in big drifts. For me it’s wisteria above on pergolas and great drifts of clivia below. (They bloom at the same time.)
 • Plant the right plants in the right places. Plants in wrong places always get sick and sick plants take time. Here in Southern California, azaleas like facing north. These old one’s of mine are on a drip system. They only need food twice a year, just after bloom and again in late September. But Mandevilla ‘Alice du Pont’ loves facing east. That’s why I planted it facing east at Rebecca’s house.
 • If there is room, have two patios. A warm sheltered one for winter and a cool breezy one for summer. You don’t need to water a patio. Years ago I had a lot of flowers in these spaces but not any longer. Yet charm remains.
 • Paint your old wooden garden furniture. What is 50-plus-years-old-stuff for me might be garage sale stuff for you. As you have seen in Rebecca’s photos, outdoor rooms with loads of places to sit are fun spaces for family fun. Make it colorful. Painted furniture can take the place of flowers.
IMG_0724-2 furniture before painting
6844852360_f88338051d_b ...and after 6844853282_a4a53f8650_b-1
 • Grow a few veggies. Kids love the fun of growing a few things they can pick and eat. These photos show my grandchildren years ago picking my veggies at harvest time.
Now I grow a few veggies in a raised bed. It’s easier!
CoolCrops_009 CoolCrops_014
 • Go up in the air. In small gardens climbing plants save space while adding charm. In big gardens, climbing plants add romance and excitement while taking up a lot of space you would otherwise be watering, fertilizing and fussing over. By the way, a long-reach, cut-and-hold pruner makes pruning quick and easy. It only takes a few minutes to cut back the twiners on wisteria all summer long as they sprout, back to two buds. This makes for more flowers the following year.
pat's wisteria & clivia & fountain
 • Cover bare ground with mulch. This preserves moisture, cuts down on weeds, and protects your home from dogs and animals tracking in earth on feet and paws. When growing vegetables in the ground, I use two varieties of mulch. A smooth type around the plants and a rough shredded type for the paths. That way the shredded wood doesn’t get mixed into soil when I replant. (Mixing un-rotted mulch into soil is a no-no, since it robs nitrogen in order to rot and this can starve your plants, turning leaves yellow or even—heaven forbid—killing them.)
 • Use garden space for family art projects. These multi-media murals were fun for my family, friends, and me to create. (My garden murals led to a far larger project in my town with many volunteers all working together.) In cold-winter climates paint will have to take the place of objects that ice and freezing temperatures would remove from the walls.
You can also garden sculptures as a way to inject artistic accents into your landscape design.
Sculpture can survive outdoors year-round and last for centuries. Multi-media murals and garden sculptures are not quick or easy to create but once constructed or installed they demand no care. Art in the garden needs no fertilizer, pruning, pest-control or irrigation. 
With these ideas in mind, have FUN in your garden! That’s the whole idea!
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For more on Nana's spectacular garden go here, here and here. For more Nanawesome gardening tutorials go here, here and here. Visit Nana's blog, here, check out her books, here and watch her attack orchids with her hoe, here. WE LOVE YOU, NANA! Thank you so much again for this post! 


Amy | 10:19 AM

I've been reading GGC for a while , but my first comment is on one of Nana's posts because she speaks to my nature lover's heart. She's created such a magical looking outdoor family room. Thanks for the post, Nana!

Christina | 8:01 PM

Such a lovely post! I don't have a garden but reading this post has made me long for one!

vv | 9:12 PM

Nana you are amazing! Ive been reading GGC for several years now but also have never commented (maybe once?) but how amazing was this post?! My grandma is an INCREDIBLE gardener and you've made me miss her dearly. What I would give for a tiny balconette here in NYC to grow some herbs on. Any advice for plants that are
great for us indoor bound plant lovers? Our apt windows face south east if that helps :)