I'm always looking for ways to make gardening easier.
Over the years, we've gone from spending countless hours in the hot sun weeding, digging and planting, to limiting our garden work to early morning or after dinner, and even then taking frequent breaks. We do less digging, find better ways to control weeds and add fewer new plants to the garden each season.
As we get older, what we want from our gardens has changed as well. The landscape is evolving from all those high-maintenance blooming plants we tended to all summer to lower maintenance trees and shrubs. The vegetable garden has gotten smaller and the amount we preserve for the winter grows less and less each year.
While we aren't yet ready to give up our garden completely, we make adjustments to the amount of work it takes to maintain the gardens that still make us happy to spend time in our backyards.
To make gardening easier, we find ourselves choosing different plants. Xeriscaping, a practice most often used in the southwest where water is scarce, is defined as growing plants that require the least amount of water for conservation. But I like to think of it as growing plants based on their needs. I've altered my own version of xeriscaping to our little area of the world because not counting this year, we aren't often concerned with the conservation of water.
Once during a particularly heavy storm, I mentioned to a friend in California that we had nearly three inches of rainfall in an hour.
''That is the amount we get in a year,'' she said.
While I don't want to be living in the middle of a desert, I have learned to appreciate the amount of precipitation we get in northeast Ohio.
So my own version of xeriscaping means that if I have a particularly wet area in the yard, which I do, then that is the place to put water loving plants, such as bald cypress and willow trees, fothergilla, inkberry (Ilex glabra), or sweetspire (Itea virginica).
I could put in some water loving perennials, and I already have wild Joe Pye Weed growing nearby, but I there are also perennials such as cardinal flower, astible and Ligularia stenocephala, ''The Rocket.'' Where the sun gives way to shade closer to the tree line are the ferns, many of which were there before I came here. Even in the driest of summers, this area at the back of the property has pockets of moisture due to low-lying areas near the river.
Our property slopes, from the high, drier sections of the yard to those lower lying wet patches. The dry areas are closer to the house, where the water runs downhill and are perfect for plants that don't need much moisture.
Since the drainage is good in these higher landscapes, my choices are greater, but as I mentioned earlier, we are looking to cut down on high maintenance plants, so many of the perennials requiring attention each season are being replaced by low maintenance, colorful conifers and shrubs.
The areas are still peppered with perennials that need attention, including autumn sedum that needs cut back each month until mid-July when it is left to set flowers for September, or the creeping phlox (moss rose) that grows over the stones lining the fish pond. There is Lady's Mantle and daylilies of several shades of orange and yellow and a lovely goatsbeard with high white plumes in spring.
Those areas over the years have been home to tall stands of hollyhocks, beebalm, and the shortlived but just as lovely, butterfly bush (Buddleia), as well as Shasta daisies, coneflower, colorful yarrows and fragrant lavender.
I often miss those plants and think of bringing them back to the garden, but then I remember the thinning, weeding, mulching, dividing, insect invasions and powdery mildew.
I haven't stopped gardening, in fact, each year we still spend quite a bit of time in the yard, although not as much as 20 or even 30 years ago. Even as our garden habits have changed, gardens themselves are ever-changing.