A Garden Design Expert on Ground Covers, Lower Maintenance, and “Mean-Spirited” Garden Steps

Video by Steve Aitken. Edited by Christine Alexander.

If you had a few minutes to talk with an award-winning garden designer, what would you ask? Our editor at large, Steve Aitken, was fortunate enough to get some time with Ann-Marie Powell, a multiaward-winning garden designer from the UK.

The first topic they discussed is something every gardener is interested in: good ground covers. Ann-Marie recommends several options for sun and shade, but she reveals that she doesn’t really think of ground covers the way you might. She does not see them only as low-growing creepers but more as masses that provide low structure for other showier plants throughout the year.

Much discussion of garden design seems to start from a landscape that is a blank slate. Since most gardeners already have some kind of design, Steve and Ann-Marie discuss why ensuring proper structure should be a focus for those seeking to improve their existing gardens. This structure can come in the form of perennials as well as shrubs and trees.

No one likes to spend too much time laboring in the garden (especially Steve), so the conversation turns to ways to design a garden so that it isn’t as much work. Other than using low-maintenance plants, is there something we can do with plant placement or bed shape and layout that will save us some sweat? And because Ann-Marie can’t come to all of our gardens to offer advice, Steve asks her about the one thing she would recommend fixing in almost any garden. Being generous, Ann-Marie has two suggestions on that topic.

So check out the discussion and discover why “escapee” plants can help your design, how to avoid creating steps that are “mean-spirited,” and why garden design is similar no matter what continent you are on.


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