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Garden makeovers: enjoy it more; obsess over it less

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

New gardeners tend to be a bit obsessive about their lawns and landscapes. Like the French and the English who copied their style, evergreen shrubs must be controlled into boxes and balls. If we have one plant on this side of the walkway, symmetry demands a repeat on the other. Expansive lawns must be immaculate, perfectly groomed and weed-free. That works pretty well if you’re Louis XIV or King George with an army of serfs to do your bidding.

If you don’t have an army of cheap laborers, here are some ideas on how you can make your garden anew so you can become a place of respite rather than another seemingly endless to-do list to keep your blood pressure on boil.

The trendy thing to do in landscape design is to create “garden rooms” that are an extension of your home. Done well, a landscape designed in this manner will give you years of enjoyment. Think about how you will use the space and remember that great designs aren’t just about shrubs, trees and lawns.

Hardscape such as pavers or stone patios, decks, walkways and retaining walls make great low-maintenance gathering places for people. Link the patio or deck to the house with walkways. Add that cool, new outdoor cooking station and you, both literally and figuratively, will be cooking with gas. (How’s that for an early 20th century reference?)

Once you have the basics of the design in place, it’s time to add the little things that will make your new garden the envy of the neighborhood. The sound of water draws all kinds of critters, including people. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate. Find a large container you like, get a prefabricated basin and a pump, and you can have a unique water feature that won’t break the bank or create heavy workloads. Add low-voltage landscape lighting to highlight interesting trees, provide a bit of extra security and make your new garden space useful even after the sun goes down.

Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge into a major garden room upgrade, there are some simple and relatively inexpensive things you can do to make your garden more enjoyable:

1) Prepare the soil well by mixing organic materials like compost with the existing soil. Choose well-adapted plants and place them properly—sun, shade, wet, dry, etc. If you need help with that, give us a call at the Cooperative Extension office in Bolivia at 253-2610.

2) Choose reliable perennials like daylilies, salvias, phlox and hellebores that will return each season with a colorful show.

3) Unless you have kids who need a large lawn on which to play, reduce your turf areas to shorten the time spent mowing, fertilizing and controlling weeds, diseases and insects.

4) Stroll through your garden several times each week. Pull a weed. Prune a stray branch. A few minutes well spent will prevent the need for many hours of rescue work once things get out of hand.

Instead of exercising maximum control over your plants, make the right choices and let them become what they want to be. You can spend less time with those hedge trimmers and more time sacked out in the hammock.