If you’ve moved to a house with an established garden, take at least a year to get to know it before making any changes. Some of the plants may be a bit of a mystery, but most good garden centers would be happy to identify them if you take along a sample of leaves and/or flowers. Aim simply to keep the garden under control during this period, cutting the lawn to keep it trim and healthy and keeping weeds at bay.
Never be too hasty to condemn a plant. That dull shrub may produce a mass of exotic flowers next month. That tangled old apple tree could be properly pruned and soon become a beautiful and productive feature. Both would take years or even decades to replace. So give all plants a year’s grace period and if, after that, there is any that you truly dislike, then take them out.
These guidelines apply equally well to your own long-established garden. An excellent and popular way of “previewing” changes is to take a photograph, usually from an upstairs window, enlarge it, then use sheets of clear acetate and erasable markers (from, the art supply store) to mark your proposed changes. By superimposing them over the photograph, you’ll be able to see quite clearly how they’re going to affect the design of the garden. Keep in mind that a garden is never static – it is an ever evolving creation.
Ideas for low-maintenance
Weeds in paving cracks are a real nuisance, so in addition to making sure that joints in paths and paving are well grouted, lay a down a sheet of plastic or landscaping fabric before paving, so that even the most determined weed can’t get a foothold.
Incorporating plenty of shrubs and ground-cover plants into your design, and planting as densely as you can will cut out light from the soil and discourage weeds to a remarkable extent. Paved areas will eventually become dirty, and while you can wash them down with path and patio cleaner, it can be a chore on large expanses. It is much easier and quicker to rent a high-pressure jet washer (more fun, too).