IntroductionWary readers may wonder what exactly I mean by the title's phrase "easy-to-grow." Anyone who has been stung by another gardener's insistence that triple-trench-digging an acre and a half is "easy" will recognize that facility is a relative concept. So I'd like to put it in context.My small backyard garden (16 by 10 feet/4.8 by 3 m) is a native plant meadow (though there are a few non-natives -- for example, a lilac bush, a concession to my partner, which seems only fair, since I've monopolized the rest of the garden!). Recently, I was asked to be part of a study to assess the amount of time and inputs (water, fertilizers, etc.) various types of gardens require. In addition to my native plant meadow, the survey looked at a typical lawn and a conventional flower garden, among other landscape styles. For the whole growing season, I kept a logbook itemizing exactly how much time I spent working in my garden -- that is, how much watering, fertilizing, weeding, mowing I did. I also kept track of exactly how much in the way of material inputs went in to the garden -- the survey people asked me to measure water by the bucketful, chemicals by the ounce, gas for the mower by the gallon, expenses by the nickel, and so on.I've always known that my garden was a low-maintenance project and that I spent far more time sitting on the patio than weeding on all fours, but when I tabulated the results of my season-long record-keeping, I was shocked to discover just how low maintenance it is. The grand total of time I spent on garden maintenance from the spring through to autumn: 3 hours and 15 minutes. Total. That includes weeding, watering, pruning, dead. heading, digging, dividing, transplanting... everything. When I say "easy-to-grow," I mean it quite literally.This is not to say that I couldn't have spent more time working in the garden had I chosen to. The lilac certainly would have benefited from being liberated from its native clematis vine (Clematis virginicina) shroud; by mid-summer, the vine had covered the shrub and I should have done some hacking. And had I done any weeding in early spring, I'm sure I could have trimmed back on my grand total of weeding time in mid-summer (45 minutes). And perhaps I should have watered the thirsty Joe-pye weed during the August drought. But other pleasures beckoned, and 3.25 hours of allround garden maintenance it was.There have been no dire consequences from my season of sloth. The Joe-pye weed perked up after a good rain. Underneath a billowy cloud of clematis flowers and seedheads at the end of the season, the lilac leaves looked green, a sure sign of life. And all the spent blossoms of the ironweed and cup plant that I didn't bother deadheading went to seed and fed the birds. In other words, not only did nature facilitate my laziness, but nature also redeemed it with reward, too.Perhaps this is one of the main lessons to be learned from the native plant garden. Nature is pretty much in control of things. Sure, the gardener can tinker away, as temperament and the need for soothing work-time in the garden demand, or the gardener can take low maintenance to the extreme outer reaches (as I seem to have done that summer), but at the end of the day the native plant garden continues ... on its own steam.Which explains my survey results in the "input" categories. Water? A total of 30 liters (about 8 gallons) directed exclusively at four seedlings I put in in the spring and needed to water until they got established. Other than that, the rain did my watering work -- even during a very dry summer. Gas? No lawn, so no endless mowing and no fossil fuel or electrical energy use. Fertilizers? The meadow plants don't need any. (Indeed, I wouldn't want my 10 foot/3 m-tall cup plant and 8 foot/2.4 m-talJohnson, Lorraine is the author of '100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants : For Canadian Gardeners', published 2005 under ISBN 9781552856574 and ISBN 1552856577.