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It’s possible to have beauty without the beastly work

Gardening not your thing? Experts offer some easy tips
By: Gloria Young, Home & Garden
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For some, gardening is a passion. They relish the challenge of nurturing new sprouts and coddling reluctant bloomers. But for others, it’s just a chore. Luckily for the reluctant gardener, there are plenty of plants and products to make dealing with nature easy. At Yamasaki Nursery in Auburn, manager Jeff Arnold said he sees lots of people who want to do just the minimum to spruce up the yard. His advice to save time and energy is container gardening. “It’s easy and simple, and very clean,” he said. “It doesn’t require a lot of work. There are a lot of things you can do in containers that you couldn’t do a few years ago.” These days, you can even grow blueberries in containers, he said. For real wow factor, Arnold recommends dwarf container citrus. “Half an oak barrel is a great container for citrus,” he said. Colorful perennials also work well — consider verbena, lantana, Gerber daises and salvia. “Those are very common plants you can get at any nursery,” Arnold said. For even less work, choose pre-planted containers in a mix of perennials and annuals. “They’re eclectic, fun and one of a kind,” Arnold said. “You can set them on the front porch or deck. You have that pop of color and instant attraction in the yard. They’ll continue to grow year after year. As they fill in, they become more significant in the landscape.” But that doesn’t ensure against coming home with some high-maintenance choices. That’s where the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars list comes in handy. “(The all-stars) fit the bill perfectly (for easy gardening) — drought tolerant and very durable,” Master Gardener Patricia (Trish) Grenfell said in an e-mail. “This list came out about two years ago and now it is the ‘in’ thing in gardening. Nurseries are stocking up on them.” The all-stars list — at http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/arboretum_all_stars.aspx — allows users to search by plant name, type, size and sun exposure. For instance, if you want a California native perennial of medium size that takes part shade, the list brings up serpentine columbine, blue grama grass, California fuchsia and Lillian’s Pink Coral Bells. On a broader scale, rethinking the lawn can not only cut down on weeding and mowing, but can save water, too. The solution? Groundcover. One of the newest products on the market is Stepables — a small groundcover that’s hardy enough to endure trampling. “It’s a great lawn replacement,” Arnold said. “It’s great for those areas where you want to put something down to blanket it and cover the weeds, but don’t want something you have to mow.” There are about 60 variants of Stepables — some that grow to 4 or 5 inches tall; others that hug the ground. They come in levels of hardiness to withstand light, moderate or heavy foot traffic. Aesthetics wise, the selections span multiple cover and texture choices and varied sun and shade tolerances. “There are some beautiful mosses and things that flower,” Arnold said. Once you plant them, they’re there to stay and they’ll continue to spread, he said. The plants are available in 4-inch and 8-inch containers. They come with specific planting instructions including how many inches apart to plant and what the spread will be. At Avantgarden in Auburn, employee Jan Mendez said fertilizing plants can be a real pain, so she suggests time-release granules. “They last four to six months,” she said. “You put them on in the spring and you’re done. It’s one of my favorite things. It’s not the perfect solution, but for the lazy gardener, it is a good idea.” Mendez also suggests using a “planting for looks” approach for window boxes and borders. Just set a grouping of small pots of flowers or plants into a decorative basket, add a ribbon, and it will carry through the season with just simply watering. Then when the season changes, take the pots out, put the plants in the ground and replace them with new seasonal choices, she said.