Maintenance cannot be avoided, but it can be minimised. Even the simplest design will fail to perform if a maintenance programme is not implemented.
Complex designs usually require more maintenance so avoid unnecessary detail. Limit the number of plants species and create well-defined planted areas that are well filled and closely planted.
Lawns require a lot of maintenance, therefore eliminate, reduce the area of, or take a more inventive approach to creating a lawn. Do you live in an area for instance where it may be possible to have a clover lawn? This will flower and provide food for insect life. Is a chamomile appropriate for your area, giving you a scented lawn, especially when you walk on it? That being said a lawn area consisting of only one species of plant may not be the best solution to your low maintenance garden. If you are prepared to live with a slightly more informal lawn then you should research suppliers of native grass and wildflower lawn mixes in your area.
Using containers can also help to reduce the maintenance workload, especially if they are located on a hard landscaped area such as a terrace. The containers themselves, what they contain and the way in which you arranged them should be decided using the design principles set out here in Principles of Garden Design
Using herbaceous perennials is also a good way of establishing a good high-flowering plant population in your garden. Some of these may need a bit of cutting back in the late autumn or winter and the beds may need to be kept weed free in spring. On balance once the herbaceous material is established it is a relatively trouble free way to have re-occurring spring, summer and autumn colour in your garden. A little bit of early spring flowering bulb planting carried out in autumn can augment the spring season and herald the full glory of the summer herbaceous season.
Creating a rock garden can be a useful way or reducing garden maintenance. However you do need to be careful to select the correct plants for this environment. It is also important when selecting and arranging rocks to ensure that you create a really natural effect. The typical rock garden should generally look as if it occurred naturally in your chosen location. It should look as if it were always there, waiting for you to come along and help it along.
It is a good idea before beginning work on your rock garden to take a trip into the hills to see how nature organises rocks and their associated, naturally occurring planting. Then simply copy what you see, adapting to suit your circumstances and location as you go along.
Using plastic or metal edging systems on lawns and planting beds creates sharp clean lines and reduces maintenance requirements. Check outlets in your area for suppliers of this product as brand names and systems differ from area to area.
Tip: Ensure that walkways, driveways and patio surfaces that are adjacent to planted areas are above the level of these areas. This will allow surface water will flow onto soft landscape areas.