Before & After

New planting design to reduce maintenance requirements


Changing an existing labour-intensive planting scheme with lots of colour to a low-maintenance composition that still provides year-round colour can be a challenge, but it can be done! Select evergreen plants with colourful foliage, use ground covers to suppress the weeds and replace seasonal bedding plants with a more permanent arrangement of tough shrubs that flower for long periods.




This garden, filled with an interesting mix of bedding plants, roses and evergreen shrubs, belongs to a local church and is looked after by volunteers. It is colourful and pretty, but too labour intensive. Three pots in the center used to be effective in pulling the scene together by creating an attractive focal point. Unfortunately, the two that are left after an encounter with vandals, do not form a sufficiently strong contrast with the surrounding garden to have the same impact. Simplifying the garden bed by reducing the variety of plants is a step in the right direction. Next, a new focal point needs to be created, for example by removing the two remaining pots and using plants with strong shapes and bold foliage instead.




The drawing shows an example where Phormium 'Dark Delight' is used as a textural and colour contrast with the surrounding plants. Phormium 'Chocomint', a flax with chocolate brown leaves and fresh green leaf margins, is another suitable candidate.

To make the garden less labour-intensive, and to further intensify the focality, the bedding plants have been substituted by evergreen ground-covering plants. The brown foliage on the left belongs to Coprosma 'Black Cloud', a tough ground-cover that will need some pruning to keep it low to the ground. On the right Coprosma acerosa 'Hawera' lifts the scene with a splash of bright green.

Additional planting is required to strengthen the year-round structure of the composition. This can be done with plants that naturally grow into a round shape or are clipped to form balls of different sizes. Buxus sempervirens (English box) lends itself perfectly for that purpose and would tie in with the box hedge next to the parking spaces. Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf ball' could also be used here, but grows faster than Buxus sempervirens and thus will need more frequent pruning. 

The existing red roses (Rosa 'Flower Carpet red') provide colour for most of the season. They are quite resilient and don't need as much looking after as many other roses. A small patch of Calendula officinalis links the scene with the plantings along the car park. More links can be created by repeating the combination of flaxes and ball-shaped shrubs elsewhere in the grounds.