This seems like a simple subject, but it is still quite difficult to report something meaningful about it and also to give future-oriented planting advice.


In an earlier article ' Can plants be maintenance-friendly? This topic has already been discussed in general. In this article, we dig a little deeper. Because what is maintenance-friendly and what is maintenance-friendly planting at a time when the climate is changing drastically, the weather systems are moving, temperatures are rising on average and we have to learn to deal with water differently. Also in the garden. Then the advice has to change with it. It's not that hard to give past planting recipes based on arguments such as 'No time for the garden', 'Don't feel like gardening', 'No green fingers'. Such convenience recipes have been around for a long time and in abundance, including the advice to use artificial grass, for example, because that saves a lot of work (is the suggestion). Some of that advice will remain useful for a while, but the course of the circumstances in an outdoor garden and throughout the year is no longer as certain and calendar-fixed as it has been for many tens or even hundreds of years. And we have no certainty about how they will develop further. It is indeed still getting warmer – even in winter – but meteorologists are also taking into account the possibility that our winters could suddenly become a lot harsher again. That would cause massive death among (garden) plants. Especially because now there is a tendency to use increasingly 'softer' species in our gardens, because we already have the climate as it was much more southerly half a century ago.(similar to the climate then prevailing near the Loire in central France) .

A maintenance-friendly garden is increasingly also a sustainable, green garden. With an eye for nature including animal life. Healthy for yourself, for your children, for the microclimate in your home.Future-oriented.


In many cases, our often postage stamp-sized gardens are used exclusively as living or (in fact)'wellness' space approached. There is nothing wrong with that in itself, but it does mean that the average view of gardens is increasingly focused on convenience, design, conviviality, relaxation and representation. Plants are often only part of this as enhancers of the desired effect. A truly focused interest in plants as living fellow creatures in what we call a garden is sometimes hard to find. Plants are in many cases and in the eyes of many 'disposable things' from mass production that you don't need to know much about. They are beautiful or not, difficult or easy, and when they are no longer beautiful or become difficult, you throw them away like you throw away the emptied plastic plate on which you deposited your bbq bite. (That plastic use will also change due to new legislation.)It is striking how strong gardening programs on TV have also become cooking shows. That's saying something. Such are the developments.
Due to this changing view of gardens and garden plants, the information provided in books, magazines, on the internet and on plant labels is also increasingly reduced to a minimum. Then it seems that the recommended plants will always do well almost everywhere. But it isn't, it wasn't, and it won't be. If suggestions are made about combinations with other plants, this often refers to border-like compositions, in which the flowering colors and sizes of plants in particular are decisive. It is not about how the whole functions, but almost exclusively about the effect and that should preferably also be as consistent as possible.
In that sense, it is not surprising that the information given with a plant is almost always only about that one plant, while we should know - and should also be pointed out - that a well-functioning, low-maintenance garden is much more is a collection of individual plants. If it's no more than that, a garden planting cannot function properly and can hardly be maintenance-friendly!

A few catchphrases:

  • Fewer rocks, more plants, healthy soil.
  • Let nature do the work.
  • Less yard work means more time to really look at it and have a good time.
  • More greenery dampens the temperature rise, absorbs flooding better.


A garden and its plants form a complicated unity, although it may not seem that way. This has already been discussed in the previous article mentioned above. Nature functions (also in a garden) in a layered structure. It starts with a sometimes still lifeless soil in which billions of living creatures settle: microbes, fungi, etc. Very special substances are also created: enzymes and other proteins. Many thousands of species of algae, mosses and lichens settle on the soil, which produce organic building materials in their green parts and release acids and other substances into the soil. Also, between and above it appear the first herbaceous (non-wooden)larger plants, including pioneer plants, such as the evening primroses, and with them also the insect life that plays a major role in the reproduction of all seed plants. Then perennial perennials, shrubs, trees and climbing plants establish themselves. And all this works together, exchanges materials, communicates with each other, ensures a balanced distribution of light and shadow, moisture and leveling the temperature development in the whole. In addition to insects, snails, etc., all possible other animal species are also attracted to such a world. Small mammals, amphibians, birds, if there is water: fish, etc. If we want the vegetation in a garden to function properly, that is also the case in order to make it a success. Plants, animals, soil life, material things and circumstances constantly react to each other in such a system. It is a living process with living plants and animals, conversion of light into matter, and matter into life, endless series of chemical and process reactions, intended to sustain and develop itself. Evolution. This also happens in a garden that we put together if we do it right. Even if we only understand a fraction of it. A maintenance-friendly garden takes care of itself with a minimum of intervention. Have faith in that system. What humans do is often just a highly simplified, primitive form of what nature does. Nature is infinitely more versatile than anything we can imagine. So why should we argue with that. For example, why should we go digging to 'improve' the soil when nature itself already wants to do it? Why should we spray every day as a balanced,

Your garden is an extension of yourself. Of how you think and live.


Okay, maintenance friendly. It is often suggested that this can be done in many ways, but that is disappointing. There are dozens of types of garden design possible. So garden styles. Not all of them are maintenance-friendly. Let's stick to those garden styles for a while. Many of these stem from garden ideas from past centuries. Those were the garden ideas of the rich, where work often didn't matter. Staff enough. 'Ordinary people' could not afford a garden. Many of these garden styles are often mainly about shapes: sleek classical, landscape, Asian. Also about uses: the ornamental garden, the garden to impress, the emotional or atmospheric garden, the rock garden, water garden, utility garden (which also includes the cottage garden)etc. etc. Plants are in many cases just decoration. That they are living beings is secondary. Sometimes even difficult and idiosyncratic. Then we force them into shapes we like: spheres, blocks, topiary trees, hedges (possibly on legs) , a lawn like a billiard cloth; in short, a lot of pruning forms or topiari, wickerwork, espaliers, etc. That is an enormous amount of work, because it is unnatural for the plants. Of course they resist, because they have their own blueprint of what they want to look like. Not exactly maintenance or plant friendly.

This compulsion to form can also be seen from the great attention that is paid to the 'hard materials' that are used in many types of garden (and the way in which they are applied) . In many cases these require much larger investments than the 'livestock' that also has to be made in between. The planting is then adapted to shape and purpose (and the available budget). That is not always wrong, however. At the time, the famous plant expert Horst Koehler introduced spacious, austerely designed 'plant beds' in which a wealth of plants was allowed to grow, and the renowned landscape architect Piet Oudolf also makes beautiful plant compositions within fixed, austere forms. As long as such plant communities can be themselves and maintain themselves as much as possible, it can be quite maintenance-friendly.

There is also a garden form that is mainly focused on plants and has its origins mainly in 17th century Europe: that is the garden of the plant collector. Beautiful species (preferably exotics) are brought together there. Such a garden often consists of a colorful collection of solitary plants. In large, an arboretum is such a kind of garden.

And then there is also a third (European)form: the garden based on practical ideas from horticulture. Such a garden is immediately recognizable, you still see them often, by the fact that the plants are all separate with open, bare ground around it. We call it a pollen-polletje garden. This phenomenon dates back to a time when pesticides were not yet in vogue and growers were afraid of all kinds of contaminants. Plants and animals that could affect life were made impossible as much as possible. So around the plants that were desired, only completely bare soil was tolerated. Not a blade of 'weeds' was allowed to grow there. Result: a lot of work to keep it that way. Handbooks have been written about this way of gardening. It is the predominant type of garden from the 19th and 20th centuries. Such a garden is often a combination of the aforementioned garden forms. Very laborious, because weeds never get tired. The same goes for moss growth. That is hardly tolerated, while the thousands of species of mosses(and lichens) are beautiful, fascinating plants. But how many garden enthusiasts have a good moss guide at home? The Japanese do. They love mosses! But we won't talk about Asian garden forms here, because that involves completely different aspects, including the influence and manipulation of natural energies.

A wonderful way to maintain a low maintenance garden is the perma culture method.
The soil is left alone as much as possible and perennial, often lignified plants are far in the majority. These plants are therefore allowed to grow according to their natural forms. The perma culture is widely used in food production (vegetables and fruits) without pesticides and fertilizers.


The necessary practical matters were already mentioned in the aforementioned article. Here we mention a few more points. It is often thought that complete tiling of a plot is the easiest in terms of maintenance. It is true that tiles are more convenient than cobblestones, cobblestones etc., but tiles also require maintenance and if you choose tiles that absorb moisture from the substrate, your 'garden' can become quite slippery as such tiles quickly become algae. And it is difficult for rainwater to sink through such a fairly closed surface. Other solutions are needed for this, especially now that the rain showers we experience are getting heavier. Moreover, a 'garden' with only tiles has no atmosphere. No one feels comfortable there. Live plants must be added. Even if it's just something. That is something we can learn from the Japanese in situations where there is very little space. Japanese always have green around them. The same article also discusses the different planting groups with which garden plants are composed.


In the gardening business there is a tendency to want to make things easy for the consumer. So everything is simplified to fairly generally applicable lists of plants 'that do it all the time and everywhere'. Even successful border plantings, complete with planting schedule and the necessary plants, are offered. It does not matter whether you are going to garden on clay, sandy soil or peat, according to the providers. It is often recommended to 'improve' your soil before planting by mixing in a thick layer of compost or black garden soil. That is of course very useful commercially, but you will then be gardening in a 'tray of soil' that differs greatly from the natural environment and subsoil. That 'improvement' is also not much and can sometimes wash out quite quickly to the subsoil. Only a naturally occurring cultivation layer with a rich soil life and a lot of humus reaches a kind of balanced stage that remains. Humus is a very special substance that slowly arises as the effect of a rich soil life. Humus retains water and binds minerals, so that the soil dries out less quickly and the plant roots always find moisture and food. Humus species that arise in different soil types are surprisingly similar. Compost and garden soil are not humus. There are substances that stimulate the formation of a healthy soil and thus of healthy growing plants. Very interesting, for example, is the so that the soil dries out less quickly and the plant roots always find moisture and food. Humus species that arise in different soil types are surprisingly similar. Compost and garden soil are not humus. There are substances that stimulate the formation of a healthy soil and thus of healthy growing plants. Very interesting, for example, is the so that the soil dries out less quickly and the plant roots always find moisture and food. Humus species that arise in different soil types are surprisingly similar. Compost and garden soil are not humus. There are substances that stimulate the formation of a healthy soil and thus of healthy growing plants. Very interesting, for example, is theEM technology that works with certain compositions of micro-organisms. This technology is increasingly being used to grow fruit and vegetables (including strawberries) on a large scale, without pesticides.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance planting, you will undoubtedly be confronted with very general plant lists such as:

  • Shrubs/shrubs : Butterfly bush, Hibiscus, shrub ivy, hydrangea and lilac.
  • Perennials : Lavender, hollyhock, ball thistle, Heuchera, liverwort, aster, Helleborus, Brunnera, all kinds of ornamental grasses (including Luzula) , non-invasive bamboo (Fargesia) , rock plants (Sedum and the like) , ferns.
  • Ground Covers: Garden Geranium, Euonymus, Pachysandra, Man's Ear, Creeping Campanula Species, Lady's Mantle, Lady's Woodruff, Vinca (the small one: V. minor) .
  • Climbing plants : Ivy, climbing hydrangea, blackberry.
  • Bulbous plants : Crocuses, snowdrops and other species that are allowed to naturalize.

So you should actually start from plants that are suitable for the natural soil situation in your garden. This was very common a few decades ago, but has been somewhat forgotten due to the massification of cultivation. The choice of plants can then result in major differences with the plants in the list above and similar lists. It is therefore impossible to name the top 10 low-maintenance garden plants, because that choice strongly depends on the soil in which they have to grow. It is much better to first look at your soil and determine what kind of soil it is, then look in the area around your garden to see which plants are doing well – that can lead to very pleasant walks and contacts – and then find a grower or supplier who specializes in the right plants for your type of garden soil. Such breeders exist. Addresses can be obtained from and through De Tuinen van Appeltern.

Get to know your plants as you get to know people and animals. Plants show how they are doing in many ways. They constantly tell a lot about the condition of a garden. Always take the time to look closely at your plants. Then you become more and more 'own' with your garden.


If you really want to create a responsible low-maintenance garden, you will have to look at the whole. Plants are not independent living beings, they can (almost) always only live and survive in conjunction with other plants (and many more living beings such as soil life) . They can't live without each other. Just think of the pollination by insects or the wind (even via water) that seed plants need to be able to form fruits and seeds at all. This is the case in one form or another with all wild seed plants.
That changes when people get involved and are no longer satisfied with how nature has designed things: that flower is nice, but could be a bit bigger, or we want it with triple the number (or much more)see petals; that leaf or flower may well have a different color; from plants that grow large, we make dwarf forms or we force them into a certain form, etc. Something that comes naturally in nature and is passed on to posterity, then becomes work. Because those plants don't want to change on their own. They are forced to be something other than their DNA indicates. So they lose their ability to produce seed, or, if their flowers are still fertile, the seed produces offspring that are very similar to the wild form and we don't want that. So what do we do: we are going to propagate those unnatural (but we think more beautiful) plants vegetatively to maintain the desired properties. That means that plants are cut, grafted, torn(the latter in the case of perennials) or we take cells from mother plants and grow new specimens from them (in vitro) in test tubes. There are very complicated propagation methods (for example, in the production of F1 hybrids) that have to produce large numbers of almost exactly equal plants. All work, prior to your work in the garden!

The latest method for changing living beings (including plants) is the so-called 'Crispr Cas' technique in which pieces of DNA are replaced. In this way, plants are created that really change their blueprint. This does not mean, however, that such a hereditary change is also passed on to the offspring without further consequences.

The start of many garden plants is therefore not exactly low-maintenance. In addition, if we 'improve' something about plants, this is often at the expense of other properties. In the past, every rose smelled. When it was possible to adapt many roses in such a way that they were much less susceptible to disease, that smell often turned out to be sacrificed. The plants became very healthy, but their flowers had little or no scent anymore. Something similar happened with freesias, wallflowers (Erysimum) etc. There are countless examples of the effects of human 'improvement work' on plants. When we 'improve' something, we often worsen something else. If nature does that itself and produces plants with a change in the DNA – which it does – such mutations are either vital or they disappear again. Nature is also constantly changing but at a much slower pace than what we do and always aiming for maximum survival. What does not meet, disappears. That is the basis of evolution in nature.


It has already been mentioned: we do not know how climate change will affect the planting of our Western European gardens. We will increasingly be confronted with severe weather: violent storms, enormous rain showers, longer dry periods and greater heat, flooding and water shortages. Possibly also suddenly harsher winters. The sea water level is rising. Rainwater will be discharged to the sea less and less via the sewers and surface waters, but will have to be absorbed by the soil as much as possible where it falls. So especially in green areas between buildings, such as gardens. This has major consequences for the layout and vegetation of our gardens. Our gardens will be more green (unpaved)must contain space. The old rule 1/3 stone, 2/3 green still applies and is now even extremely current. Perhaps even more than ever, because now also because of the water storage in the soil.

When we look around us and see which types of vegetation are very well prepared for such extremes, two plant systems (communities of plants) stand out:

  1. The natural vegetation in central Eastern Europe, central Russia and the Ural region
  2. The natural vegetation of the prairies in North America

Both areas are alternately exposed to longer periods of great heat and drought – interspersed with cloudbursts – and severe cold in winter. The native plants from those areas can certainly serve as models for the maintenance-friendly garden planting of the future. A future that has already begun.

There is already quite a lot of information available about prairie gardens. There are wonderful examples of this. But which plant species are the absolute top performers is still up for debate. Extensive experiments are still underway. Even less can be said about a list of cultivated (ornamental) crops from central Eastern Europe.


As soon as a plant is in the place where it grows best and comes into its own, there is no loss and you do not have to pay much extra care to it. You do not need to spray a plant that can withstand drought and a plant that covers the soil well prevents the necessary weeds. We have listed a number of plant suggestions for all kinds of situations and preferences.
See " Choosing the best plants for the best place "

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