Slow-growing shrubs create low-maintenance garden; backyard is full of perennials

slow-growing low-maintenance garden
Slow-growing evergreens look great now and won’t get much bigger. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
There are many places where birds can find water in this garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Barb Ciesla and her husband Henry had a front yard with a line of yew bushes straight across the front.

She wanted something more interesting and decided to redo the entire front.

“I’m 60 years old and I don’t want to do it all again,” Ciesla said. “I don’t want to have to redo it in five years because things got too big. I wanted things that grow very slowly.”

She spent the entire winter researching and came up with a list of shrubs that will stay small. One is a dwarf hinoki cypress called ‘Nana Gracilis’ that is two feet tall. In 30 or 40 years, she said, it will be only four feet tall.

Other shrubs that she used include dwarf Sawara cypress ‘Cream Ball’, dwarf Sawara cypress ‘White Pygmy’ and a dwarf cypress ‘Golden Pincushion’.

The Cieslas installed the plants in 2012, which had an extremely dry summer.

“I watered and watered,” she said. “I didn’t lose one plant.”

In the photo at the beginning of this article, you can see a few other plants mixed in with the dwarf evergreens, including hosta ‘Hush Puppies’. This is a low-maintenance garden, but not a no-maintenance garden. The hostas will need to be divided soon, Ciesla noted.

I visited the Cieslas’ garden at 93 Field Ave., Lancaster, during the Lancaster Garden Walk. Some of the gardens on the walk featured artwork in the gardens or musicians performing. The Cieslas displayed their own work– Barb’s oil paintings and Henry’s photographs. She is a member of the Twin Village Art Society and sells her work at shows. The intention was to display the art among the flowers, but because of the rain, the artwork was moved to the safety of the covered patio.

Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
When the rain slowed to a drizzle, Barb Ciesla was able to display one of her oil paintings among her flowers. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
The petals range from pink to orange on this ‘Disneyland’ rose. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Unlike the front yard, the backyard is full of fast-growing perennials and annuals and grasses and vegetables.

A peach tree, given to Henry by his stepfather, is the focal point of one bed. The fruit is very sweet. They get enough peaches to eat themselves, share and make jelly.

Ciesla loves birds and makes sure they have water. In addition to a couple of fountains, she has shallow bird baths set on the ground throughout her garden.

Ciesla mixes vegetables into her flower gardens. Your eye is caught by so many flowers, you might not notice the bean and rhubarb and tomato plants. Flowers also take up space in her vegetable garden, but that’s not as deliberate.

“The cosmos came up last year on its own,” Ciesla said. “I just can’t dig things up and throw them away once they start growing.”

As you can imagine, she shares many plants every year.

Upcoming garden walks:

Garden Walk Buffalo 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 26 and 27

Black Rock & Riverside Tour of Gardens on Saturday, August 2 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. for the daytime walk and  8-10 p.m. for the Starry Night Garden Tour

perennial garden with pear tree in Lancaster NY
A peach tree is the focal point for this garden. Notice the shallow bird bath at the base of the tree, slightly to the right. A pot of fuchsia is hung from the tree to add more color to the garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
veggies in flower garden
You may not notice the bean and tomato plants off to the right in this colorful garden. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

8 Comments on “Slow-growing shrubs create low-maintenance garden; backyard is full of perennials

  1. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the weather will be more cooperative next year for the artists– It’s such a delightful idea.

  2. Thanks for visiting the Lancaster Garden Walk. You picked a wonderful garden and excellent artist.
    We received many great comments about adding artists to the gardens. The weather hasn’t cooperated the last two years, but we will continue with the artists next year. We also hope that we can get the Lancaster music academy to get involved as well Perhaps I’ll see you at the Buffalo Garden Walk.

  3. I visited this garden and it is an Interesting mix of shrubs, flowers, vegetables, herbs and miniatures. Very pretty. Barb was a delightful, interesting and knowledgable hostess for her garden!

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