Yard and garden tips for busy urbanites

While gardening still ranks as one of the top ten most popular U.S. hobbies, it takes time, and many Portlanders face long commutes or lead busy lives that require thoughtful planning and careful plant choices. How to create a low-maintenance, attractive yard or garden so you still have time remaining for other hobbies and leisure activities is a topic we’ll explore here.

Many easy-care plants to choose from

Whether your yard is bare, or already established with plants and vegetation, here are some low-maintenance shrub species to consider. Evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium parvifolium) is very robust and ever-reliable. There’s also Red-flowering currant, an attractive plant that's a magnet for hummingbirds, and snowberry, featuring tiny bell-like flowers in spring and white berries in winter. By the way, these are native plants helpful for pollinators and the environment.

You might also like to try Hairy manzanita (Arcostaphylos), including kinnikinnick, a charming ground cover featuring small white or pink flowers in the spring. False solomon seal, a perennial (i.e., a plant that lives for more than two years), has arching green leaves and clusters of fragrant small flowers in the spring, and is another winner. Choose a partially shady spot for this interesting plant.

Other easy-care plant choices: Oceanspray, with its foamy white flower clusters, the sweetly fragrant Nootka Rose, Thimbleberry, and Yarrow. For a low-maintenance plant with summer color, try the lovely, long-blooming Meadow Checkermallow. Other choices: goldenrod, a late summer bloomer, and tall Oregon grape, an early blooming sun-lover. Note: some of these plants are most easily obtained at native plant nurseries.

Rosemary and lavender are both easy to grow and attractive; butterflies frequent them often, so feel free to include them in your yard or garden. Ceanothus (“Blue Blossom”) is another nice alternative.

Additional plant selections that don’t require much water: California poppy, Golden Aster, Wallflower and Yellow Lupine. For those seeking attractive, low-maintenance containerized plants for the yard or patio, consider native plants or succulents.

by: CYNTHIA ORLANDO - Red flowering currant is a showy and attractive deciduous northwest shrub that's easy to grow and establish.

Tree choices

How about easy-care tree choices? If your yard or garden has ample room for a new tree to grow to maturity – meaning, both above, and below ground - here's a few possibilities.

For a yard with lots of room, consider Willamette Valley Ponderosa Pine or Bigleaf Maple. Oregon crab apple, Armstrong maple (Acer rubrum) and Mountain Ash are some good tree choices for medium-sized yards.

For smaller yards and landscapes, excellent flowering tree choices are Snowbell (Styrax japonicas) and Cherry (Prunus sargentii), while Aspen (Populus tremuloids) is a mountain species adapted to heat and drought, and makes another nice low-maintenance option. It also features lovely color display in the fall.

Consider ideas for low-maintenance lawn replacements

Other easy-care ways to enhance the landscape (while improving the local ecosystem): consider ground covers or eco-lawn varieties that reduce or eliminate mowing, irrigation, and chemicals. "Fleur de Lawn" is an herbaceous, flowering lawn alternative and a longtime favorite in the northwest; based on trial research at Oregon State University, you can find it online.

Reducing or eliminating the amount of lawn in your yard or garden is a good first step to enhancing the ecosystem services your landscape provides and will pay you back in the long-term with less maintenance. You can also replace lawn with native plants, such as those discussed in this article.

While rearranging your yard with new plant choices may initially seem time-consuming, keep in mind wise plant choices will save you time and return many benefits to your home and neighborhood in the long-term.

For more information:

Low water-care plants:

Native plants:

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Cynthia Orlando has a degree in forest management and is a certified arborist with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

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