How does pruning fit into a true low maintenance landscape?
This question came to me driving through a parking lot when I saw these carefully pruned “muffin top” shrubs.
A landscape contractor was paid to handle maintenance and did a quick job with electric pruners to make this shape. What is sad is that these are yaupons, evergreen shrubs in the holly family. They have naturally low mounding shapes even without pruning. Not only that! This particular species of yaupon has been bred by plant nurseries to grow very slowly. It’s naturally low maintenance as well as pleasantly formed.
When thinking about your aging-in-place yard and your desire for low maintenance, pruning should be questioned.
Will you prune? Or will you hire someone to prune? If you use a landscaper or gardener of some kind, how much effort is needed to train this person to prune your yard well?
You may not have thought of it this way, but the most obvious form of pruning is cutting the lawn. Then there is edging, deadheading flowers for repeat bloom, pruning flowering shrubs at the right time before or after bloom, trimming non-flowering shrubs, and keeping trees healthy.
Let’s look at three examples of different yards that demand different amounts of pruning.
This yard requires substantial lawn pruning to keep the smooth surface, plus trimming of the shrubs to keep them in those rounded shapes. This may be the first thing you see in your mind's eye when you think low maintenance. But is it an Elderyarding® design? Will it support you as you age in place? This may be a good solution for your early aging years, but what will keep you visually nourished if you are housebound?
Here's a different yard, still traditional, but with more happening to delight the person who lives here. Yes, there's still that lawn to be mowed, but the shrubs are pruned a bit more loosely. In fact, the shrubs in both flowerbeds and hedge might be allowed to soften into more natural shapes - less pruning - while still keeping the lovely look and feel. Notice the white and red contrasts, which will continue to attract the homeowners as sight diminishes. There will be pruning required to manage floral displays, from the hanging basket to the lawn container and the bedding plants in the curve around the porch.
Here's example #3. Notice there is no lawn here, so the weekly maintenance is quite different. The container plants at the front of the walk and in the baskets on the porch railing will need occasional hand pruning to deadhead flowers once they are fading. The masses of plants in the raised beds along the walk may or may not need much care. If the grass is evergreen, pruning to control its spread could be limited to yearly trims. If the other plants are perennial flowers that bloom at different times, they may need to be divided every few year-round interest as the seasons change.
So think about the perfect pruning solution - and remember the lawn - when you envision the perfect low-maintenance yard to sustain you as you age in place.