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Design a low-maintenance garden

As climate change wreaks havoc on gardens, with high temperatures and either low or high rainfall, designing a low-maintenance garden makes a lot of sense. Gravel paths and walkways allow for natural drainage and reduce the risk of flooding during the rainy season, while hardscapes and raised beds create a garden that is easy to maintain.

Brick walls and raised beds surround a flagstone entrance that is colourful and appealing. A fountain provides local wildlife such as birds and butterflies with a constant supply of water and cools the area on hot summer days. Water trickles down the side of a large pot into a rock bed into a collection area to be re-siphoned back into the fountain.





Features such as birdbaths or fountains are a perfect way to incorporate water as an element within your design. This landscaping style has increased in popularity within residential landscapes because it conserves water, while having a unique rustic appeal. If you do decide to use water in your design, use it sparingly to make a big impact.

Since lawn requires more water than any other area of a garden, replacing lawn with gravel and beds, or stone-paved areas, allows for planting of drought tolerant shrubs or varieties that require far less watering than lawn. Colourful perennials such as Penstemon 'electric blue' and Gaura Belleza 'white and pink' and ground covers like Dymondea Margaritae and Convolvulus Mauritanicus [ below clockwise from top left ] are low-maintenance and require infrequent soaks. Mediterranean plants like rosemary and thyme thrive under the hot sun and are ideal for mass plantings in beds and borders along pathways. Your local nursery or garden centre will be able to advise on the best plants suitable for sun or shade, and for spring, summer or winter displays.

If you do plan to remove lawn but have children or pets, design a small area with a hardy turf species that is drought tolerant, or you have the option of using artificial turf.

Discuss your garden design with a landscape designer or your local garden centre. They will be able to advise on the best plants or shrubs for your particular location, and to fit in with a specific design plan. Drought tolerant and hardy plants will ensure a low-maintenance garden this is full of colour and interest. Take a look at plant varieties such as New Zealand Flax, Spanish Lavender, Grasses and hardy perennials for their architectural form, texture and colour.

  Permeable gravel or pebbles can be used throughout a garden as an alternative to lawn or paving. Where water drainage is a problem, these materials allow water to drain away naturally and reduce the risk of water pooling or flooding a garden.

Putting down a gravel path is an affordable, simple and natural alternative to concrete or stone pavers and can be used to complement a formal or informal garden design. Where edging is not already in place you will need to add some form of border to keep the crushed rock in its place.

Plant indigenous or drought-tolerant flowering shrubs that attract birds and other wildlife and blend perfectly with the natural hardscape material. Soft colours take the edge off the starkness of rock and gravel beds and paths.

A couple of well-placed indigenous and deciduous trees can reduce the indoor temperature during the summer months and reduce air-conditioning costs. Place trees to provide maximum shade covering during the summer months, taking into consideration the full size of the tree once it reaches maturity and allowing for walls and / or swimming pool.


While rocks are certainly low-maintenance and can be used to create interesting features throughout a garden, they become so hot and bright in the sun that the landscaping can become unpleasant to live with. Minimise the use of rocks for beds or a water feature.

Turning an existing high-maintenance garden into a low-maintenance design doesn't necessarily mean ripping up and replacing the entire area. By working in stages you can create a low-maintenance garden that matches the style of a home - or your lifestyle.