For a low-maintenance landscape, include a natural garden as a feature in your yard. A natural garden consists of plants requiring similar cultural and climatic conditions that also benefit the environment. It requires much less maintenance than a lawn and generally does not need mowing, watering or fertilizing. No matter what the climate is in your location, you can add a vibrant natural garden in your landscape.
Installed in the home landscape to catch rainwater runoff and help it slowly seep into the ground, a rain garden is a shallow depression with small rocks or gravel lining the bottom. It is then surrounded by suitable plants that thrive in high moisture conditions, such as mountain mint (Pycnanthemum spp.), New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) and several species of aster (Aster dumosus, A. ericoides and A. novae-angliae). Shrubs that prefer wet conditions are often planted as well, such as Red or black chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia and A. melanocarpa, respectively) or wild clematis (Clematis virginiana).
Planted with native prairie wildflowers and grasses, as prairie garden should be situated in an area with full sun and well-drained soil. Prairie gardens are most often planted in a lawn area and replace what was previously planted for grass. It is therefore necessary to completely remove any existing vegetation, including lawn grass and its attendant weeds. Include prairie wildflowers such as meadow blazing star (Liatris pycnostachya), blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) and butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Ornamental prairie such as big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) are all good choices for prairie garden.
Ideally located on a natural slope or terrace, a rock garden is planted primarily with alpine plants and requires excellent drainage. The best effect is achieved by using a single type of rock in various sizes. The larger ones should be placed so that one-third of their height is buried. Position the rocks with spaces between them for the plant materials. Smaller rocks of the same variety should be used as mulch. Plants to include in a rock/alpine garden include varieties of the groundcover Ajuga reptans, including 'Atropurpurea' and 'Burgundy Glow.' Snowcap rockcress (Arabis caucasica), sea pink (Armeria maritima) and several varieties of campanula (Campanula carpatica, C. poscharskyana and C. rotundifolia) are all suitable for a rock garden.