One of the books that I am most looking forward to this year is The New Low-Maintenance Garden. I love working in my garden, but I also love cooking, movies, teasing the cats, knitting, bike rides, dancing... and on and on. So the idea of a low-maintenance garden is a "have your garden and eat it too" best case scenario to me. Plus the book is gorgeous! Here's an excerpt from Val's introduction, where she explains how she came around to the low-maintenance garden ideal.
The Simplified Garden: A New Low-Maintenance Manifesto
"Gardening, like everything else worthwhile in life except maybe love, comes down to time and resources. Our passion for plants and nature too often obscures this basic truth. But we ignore the time and resource part of the equation at our peril.
The idea for a fresh take on a simplified, low-maintenance garden came directly from my own years of intensely gardening an overplanted quarter-acre hillside. All the weeding, grooming, watering, mulching, and mowing finally wore me out. As a horticultural librarian and weekly garden columnist for the Seattle Times, I used my garden as my laboratory. For many years my enthusiasm for digging, planting, and caring for all I’d created was boundless. And then one day it wasn’t.
The spring I felt more jaded than enthused when I looked at flats of beguiling baby annuals waiting to be potted up, I realized with a sinking heart that while my passion for plants and gardens was perpetual, my inclination to spend most waking moments working outdoors was not.
And then my husband resigned as yard boy. After thirty years of marriage, he’d run out of patience helping me with something he was never much interested in. As middle-age crises go, it wasn’t too bad. He simply told me, again and again until I heard him, that he was going to spend his weekends bike riding and kayaking rather than hauling buckets of mulch up the stairs, mucking out the pond, and carting away excess biomass. Greg now claims it took four years before I heard him say he was through toiling in the garden. Out of kindness, he kept working during the time it took to sink into my consciousness that I no longer had a crew. When I finally did understand that I was on my own caring for these thousands of plants, I belatedly realized that while I loved my garden, I too craved a little downtime, more spaces in my life to read a novel, go to a movie, or browse a museum without feeling guilty about time away from endless garden chores. It was time for a new low-maintenance garden intervention.
I set a new goal, one that seemed nearly impossible at the outset of my gardening odyssey. I wanted to be able to look out my window and see more than just work waiting for me out there. I wanted to enjoy my garden, not just labor in it. Was it possible to grow the flowers that I love—I came to gardening originally because of a passion for flower arranging—plus berries, vegetables, herbs, and lettuces without again creating a garden that ceaselessly called for more care than I had time or energy to give it?"
Chani West-Foyle, Marketing Associate