Magazine article Sunset

Your Easiest Garden Ever: Fresh Ways to Combine No-Fuss Shrubs, Perennials, and Grasses

Magazine article Sunset

Your Easiest Garden Ever: Fresh Ways to Combine No-Fuss Shrubs, Perennials, and Grasses

Article excerpt

As Sunset garden editors, we love getting in the dirt--the planting and digging, even the pruning and weeding. But sometimes we want to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach. That was the impetus behind our newest book, the Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings. It's full of projects and tips for landscaping with water-wise plants that practically take care of themselves. Here are some of our favorite ideas from the book--try plantings that suit your region, then enjoy (and ignore) them all year long.

(1) USE STAR-POWER SHRUBS

Tough shrubs bring color to this border in Sunset's Test Garden in Menlo Park, California. The plants, which thrive on little summer water and require no irrigation in winter, include variegated Cistus corbariensis 'Little Miss Sunshine', flecked with white blooms; bronze-tinged Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'; and red-tinged Nandina domestica 'Obsession', fringed with cool blue fescue (Festuca glauca 'Beyond Blue'). Across the path, a plum-hued Loropetalum chinense 'Purple Pixie' grows beside lime Carex oshimensis 'Everillo' and potted 'Lemon-Lime' nandinas.

(2) EMBRACE REPETITION

Low-water plants with strong silhouettes often look their best in multiples. Here, fanlike Mexican tree ocotillos (Fouquieria macdougalii) serve as a backdrop for equally spaced agaves (Agave 'Blue Glow') and low chartreuse Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'. DESIGN: Daniel Nolan; floragrubb.com.

(3) CREATE A DESERT IN A BOWL

For a patio table centerpiece, fill a straight-sided ceramic bowl--this one is about 11 inches in diameter and 4 1/2 inches deep--with fast-draining cactus mix, then loosely arrange little barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and tuck clusters of tiny white-spined thimble cactus (Mammillaria gracilis) around them. Finish with a mulch of black pebbles. DESIGN: Lauren Dunec Hoang.

(4) BUILD A STUMPER!

With its mossy tree stumps and fern-covered logs, this Vashon Island, Washington, garden (opposite) looks like it was lifted intact from a Northwest rain forest. But it's a stumpery--similar to a rock garden, but built with tree parts. Owners Pat and Walt Riehl brought in madrone and Douglas fir stumps from construction sites on the island, which fern expert Martin Rickard placed among existing trees. Then they added tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica), spotted may apple (Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'), and Tolmiea menziesii. …

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