Most every spring I write a piece about simplifying garden chores to achieve maximum effect in design and color with minimum effort in terms of planting, weeding and especially bending and kneeling for us folk who are “getting better” each year as they say now about active, mature adults.

But, a lot happens to a property in decades of living with it, much of it not good, and that sometimes throws a monkey wrench into landscaping simplification.

How naïve I was as a young homeowner thinking that every tree, shrub and bulb I discovered on my property, as well as all that I plopped there over the years, would continue to grow and prosper during their lifetimes and mine.

Oh, my, how the landscape that embraces my historic property has changed over the years thanks to pestilence, severe winters, and especially Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, transforming my shaded Shangri-La into a very sunny property just in the past few years, requiring an entirely different landscaping plan.

That unforgiving sun demands that little things grow into big things, be they cultivated or wild, and that requires a lot of work to either encourage growth or eliminate it. That would be fine if I were willing, which I am not, and had the time, which I don’t.

After the tree service people removed 14 felled trees from Hurricane Irene, then another nine from Hurricane Sandy, my property, which had been a gorgeous shaded glen, suddenly looked like a war zone, and I was thousands of dollars poorer from the experience. Deranged visions of newspaper headlines danced in my head, like “Neighbors Complain that Home Guru Blacktops Entire Property.” At first I was grateful that none of the trees had hit the house, but I didn’t know where to start with suddenly moving from shade gardening to that of bright sunlight.

Years ago, the spreading limbs of two-century old sugar maples required only broad swaths of pachysandra below. And in the sunny areas of the property, enthusiastic gardener that I was at the time, I planted beds of annuals and perennials in every inch of space that had access to the sun. Now, suddenly, there was too much access to the sun and I had no drive to plant much at all. But it taught me some lessons in garden simplification that I pass on here.

Where a giant maple had once been, centered on my front lawn, I seeded grass and bordered it with the pachysandra that had been under the tree to create a soft transition to the wooded area beyond.

I replaced all of the annual beds with either hardy perennials or daylilies, or better yet, vinca, where I don’t have to do anything at all.

And for flowers that require less planting time, I’ve turned to container gardening! Since my attack by Mother Nature, I’ve created a more architectural garden by collecting urns – in iron, aluminum that looks like iron, in concrete and clay – and have interspersed them in key spots throughout the property: on either side at the entrance to my driveway, three on my patio, at the entrance to my front door and at several locations in my back yard. To make them really carefree, I plant three geraniums in each urn, usually in pink and one white, my favorite combination. Geraniums are the hardiest plant under the sun and surrounding them, I plant white and pink petunias, the kind which hang over the edge, and then I mulch them to better retain water. The nicest thing of all about container gardening is that I don’t have to bend over or kneel down to plant them!

Also, I’ve added three teak benches in those areas of the yard that are still shaded so that I can sit and enjoy the new vistas of lawn and color that I’ve created in containers as focus points.

To guard against the need for constant weed-pulling during the summer, I ask my young buddy John Fitzpatrick of Fitz Landscaping to drop me off a truck of “clean” wood chips at the far edge of my wooded property and when I feel like some physical exercise, instead of going to the gym, I take my pitch fork and coat every bed of perennials and all around my hosta with a thick layer of chips to keep the weeds at bay all season long.

If you’d like John to do the same for you, call him at 914-618-1549. At the same time, you might ask him to give you an estimate for your other landscaping needs. You’ll find that his pricing and total landscaping services are very good.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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