Okay, I haven't found a way to COMPLETELY fuhggedaboud it.
But, there are a lot of ways to ALMOST completely forget about it! Of course, there is the obvious: HIRE IT DONE! And there is no shame in hiring it done if you choose to do so.
If, however, you choose to do the labor yourself, there are ways to minimize that labor and still get that Palace of Versailles look.
You may be thinking, "some mulch, right?" But I actually cannot recommend mulch like wood chips, etc. for a few reasons.
It holds water OUT!
That's right, OUT! Many times I've seen professionally done landscapes with droughted plants even though automatic sprinklers were running. When I braved the "rain" to check this out, I found that the water was running right off the top of the mulch. And when I put my hand through the chips, I found the dirt underneath was as dry as any desert!
Young plants can't compete.
When first planted in mulch, plants look okay and maybe even beautiful. But when the first hard rain comes, it drives the mulch into the little valleys made when planting the young plants. The plants which looked so wonderful the day before are often covered up! Even if a person manages to move the mulch back to its original position, the plants are usually damaged and will NOT make a full recovery.
And if less mulch is used in the first place, it won't keep out the weeds.
It's a great place for insects to hide.
It may look like mulch is doing something good when you see a lot of spiders living there. But, like all animals, spiders go where the FOOD is! In this case, that FOOD is harmful insects that are living in the mulch. The spiders get some of them, but others are hiding in the mulch during the day--and feeding on YOUR PLANTS at night!
Slugs and snails also love mulch because it keeps the sun from beating on their moist bodies during the day.
SO WHAT DO I DO?!?
For the conservation of water, a soaker hose is the best way to go if you plant those plants which require watering.
As for mulch, unless you have a drip irrigation system (a soaker hose) underneath the mulch, and established plants that don't mind losing a couple of inches of stem length to the mulch settling, which are not bothered by insects, FUHGEDDEDABOUD MULCH!
THE WAY that really works goes by one name:
Avoiding Gardening Work
The Preen Page
Compost and other Basics
The Obligatory Rose Page