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Garden planning - feedback appreciated

(28 Posts)
toomuchtooold Wed 10-Feb-16 16:20:57

We bought this place last March but for various reasons didn't get anything done in it at all last year. It is a bit of a monster - about 360 sq m, a lot of it sloped, with a blooming rockery and lots of mature bushes. Most of it is a bit overgrown, lawn is all away to hell and I've spent the last couple of weeks cutting back all the bushes. There's also a bit of slope where lots of stones and topsoil have been dumped... on the bright side (literally) it's almost all south facing, it's decent loamy soil (acidic in one section, neutral in the other).
This will be easier with pictures won't it. OK pic 1 is my pH neutral slope with stones all over the picture is facing east and my garden extends to just before that big tree. It's open to next door's field and I'm thinking a hawthorn/buckthorn hedge to separate us and also to protect the slope from the east wind. Then on the slope itself, autumn fruiting raspberries - any suggestions? On that fence on the left, was going to grow some hops. Possibly a bay tree at the gate in that fence.

Right, second pic is the same terrace as in the first pic but looking south now. There will be a fence round the terrace eventually as it is about a 1.5m drop. I was going to grow a honeysuckle (suggestions? I was thinking Japonica, but basically something evergreen and not incredibly toxic is what I need) up the wall below the terrace and eventually over the fence. And then some herbs in pots on the terrace.

Apologies for the rubbishness of the third photo, this is a massive crazy overgrown rockery below the house. I was thinking to plant it with lavender, rosemary, thyme, oregano etc - I can chuck a bunch of lime on it if it's too acid for lavender.
There's a whole other big massive bit with elders and rhododendrons and an overgrown lawn but I'm just going to try and keep that below knee height this year grin

What do you think? What would you do?

shovetheholly Thu 11-Feb-16 08:42:52

Wow, you have quite a slope there by the looks of things!

I'm finding it hard to imagine your site as a whole from the pictures - could you draw us a quick sketch plan and post it? Doesn't need to be to scale or anything, but some sense of how large each area is would help loads!

I would be wary about putting too much stuff in before you've worked out the logistics of gardening on such a steep area. I think one of the major things to think about is how you travel up and down such a steep area. Are you going to terrace it, levelling certain bits and making others more steep? Or cut in areas with steps through a slope? My garden is far less dramatically sloped than yours, and it is still quite difficult to weed and tend some of the steeper beds.

This is the kind of challenging site where a garden designer could really make a massive difference!

toomuchtooold Thu 11-Feb-16 12:07:07

The only designer will be me with some string and a few notions... I'm going to just try and move into it gently, most if it will just be keeping it tidy this year.

That said... I hope that plan is legible... on the left hand side is the slope I pictured earlier. I want to put in a hawthorn/buckthorn hedge down the left hand side to fence us off from the field, and then at right angles to that one or two rows of rasps and possibly blackberries, with the rest of that hill being left alone this year. I think fruit bushes in rows might be OK without any terracing as such - then just some steps down it at the side.
The fence at the top of the hill I was going to grow some hops up, DPs idea, I think he fancies himself making need once. Then to the right of that is a wee terrace with a steep drop, I was going to plant a climbing vine up that to try and train it right over the terrace fence.
Then out front of the house is that hideous rockery - there is already some lavender on there (ancient and woody so coming out) but I was thinking also oregano, thyme, sage etc - it's in full south facing sun all day.

Other two pictures are the slopey bit from the north east (bottom left hand) corner of the garden, and the amazing rockery. Thank you very much, the 1980s!

shovetheholly Thu 11-Feb-16 13:06:36

OK, I think I get your site now!

Some thoughts:

- yes to a hedge along that side, that should work fine in terms of growth. However, you say that you're looking for shelter from fierce winds. If the ground slopes down to the border, and you're really looking for a shelter belt, think about the height that you will need to protect you further up the slope. It may be that larger shrubs are needed, it may not - depending on the height difference.

- Raspberries have to be supported. You usually do this in rows, with wires between posts. This will be difficult to achieve on a steep slope! Have a careful look to see if you can get the posts more or less level with one another if you put them perpendicular to the intended hedge - my guess is that it may be tricky but that could just be the angle on the photo!

- Hops look great in the summer, not so much in the winter! You might want something evergreen and ornamental up that fence too?

- I definitely think you can sort out that rockery. But you will need to get out all those weeds and improve the soil to make sure it's fairly free-draining for herbs (if it's not already so, adding horticultural grit will make a huge difference). Once it's friable, however, it will want to roll esp if it rains heavily, so it'll be important to get some new rocks on there and some plants that will establish quite quickly. There are some lovely ideas for planting slopes and rockeries on Pinterest.

It might just be the angles on the pictures, but it looks as though quite a bit of levelling could be done to help sort out some of the slopes, and to turn your flat(ish) area into something properly flat? It might well be worth the inconvenience and investment of time/money to do early on with something like a mini-digger.

toomuchtooold Thu 11-Feb-16 20:36:35

Thanks very much for the advice, that's really helpful. I'm thinking autumn fruiting raspberries so that I don't have to keep canes supported through the winter but will need support through the summer... perhaps I'll keep the rasps to the top of the slope bit, it's flat for about 2m. Then blueberry bushes below.

I will have a look at the state of the rockery soil once it's cleared. Luckily I think it is now in such a bad state that I can just clear the lot. Sadly it is almost impossible to get any decent weedkiller here so it'll be !e, some boiling water and a trowel...

That's a good idea on the levelling. It would be really cool to once get the main bit of the garden levelled so we can use it a bit more. Currently the only bit of the garden that is totally level is the north west corner and my girls have bagged that with a ginormous trampoline...

Right, am now off to pinterest to look at rockeries...

One last q - do you know off hand any good climbers with nice smelling flowers and no bloody toxic berries? I would love to get a honeysuckle on that terrace but my younger DD, god love her, I know that at 4 she should be old enough to know better but we had a near miss with a yew berry in the autumn so I want to be a bit cautious...

shovetheholly Fri 12-Feb-16 14:21:20

What way does your terrace face?

I would put in at least a couple so that you get an evergreen one and a flowering one and perhaps something with winter interest.

If you have sun, I would suggest a combination of a rose, trachylospermum jasminoides (smells lovely AND is evergreen), and maybe something like a winter jasmine. I think all of those are safe and they give you pretty strong year-round interest.

toomuchtooold Fri 12-Feb-16 16:38:53

The high bit is south facing but a bit shady as there's a couple of big cypresses in front of it. I'll look those ones up! MIL is a super-enthusiastic rose grower so she will be only too happy to recommend something. Alternatively I could try and grow from a cutting of the massive climbing rose on the house. Hrm.

Thanks for the pinterest rec as well - the rockeries on there look awesome! This is the first time I've felt the slightest bit enthusiastic about the rockery smile.

shovetheholly Mon 15-Feb-16 12:03:02

The very word 'rockery' conjures up awful pictures from the 1970s doesn't it? But they can be truly, truly lovely! If you think of it as a 'bank', it may help!! grin

toomuchtooold Mon 15-Feb-16 22:33:23

It's covered in hyacinths and heather - it was built in 1983 apparently but it and the house (colour scheme in every room was brown, it had fake oak beams in the kitchen) owe a great deal to the preceding decade grin

We ordered a rose - Georgia something or other, from David Austin, a big yellow climber. I've also ordered some blueberry bushes which are coming tomorrow, erk! There is a massive clump of could grass exactly where one of the bushes is going so I have a bit of digging to do... then we have a couple of little fig trees coming but the ground for them is more or less ready. Then I am really, truly not going to buy anything else till spring. 13 days to go grin

shovetheholly Wed 17-Feb-16 13:40:51

I just picked this up on Twitter - thought it might help you!

Kr1stina Wed 17-Feb-16 17:50:06

If it were my garden I would force myself to not even LOOK at plants . And sort out the engineering problem first.

Draw up a proper plan. Consider shelter, access, soil condition .

toomuchtooold Thu 18-Feb-16 06:21:14

You're probably right Kristina but having just (more or less) finished the house, my DH will have a nervous breakdown if any more tradesmen turn up at the house! I am largely leaving the big garden alone this year - it's a gentler slope (2-3 degrees) and would be the easiest to change. The slope pictured would be very hard to change as it's steeper and is also probably subject to a planning decision to protect the view. It's pretty acidic so I reckon some blueberry bushes will not go amiss.

Thanks for the link holly! I am away to clear the rockery this morning.

DoreenLethal Thu 18-Feb-16 07:46:41

What I would do this year:

Yes, you can plant up your rockery with Mediterranean herbs.

I'd remove the bush and cypresses that are in the first couple of pics. They add nothing and the big bush obscures your view of your garden which makes planning anything really hard.

Sort out your lawn - take off high bits, fill in low bits, dig out weeds and reseed to freshen it up.

Climbing roses need something to climb up - so you need to put in your permanent structures before the plants. Eg pergola.

Seating, where are you going to enjoy this garden from?

Terraces, even if you just flatten some paths, put some bricks up to retain the soil and plant the slope up you will need to get to the areas without slipping over. So on your fruit beds, you need a level path in between [ideally] so that you can access the fruit to harvest and prune.

And sorry Shove but Rasps don't actually need tying in. Tying in was about tying them in horizontally to break bud along the top of the stem but has evolved into tying in vertically; I have never tied mine in on my windy heavy clay allotment in the Midlands and have heavy crops each year. Because they get blown about by the wind the stems get thicker and if they start to lean [full of fruit] onto the path area I just trim them back.

toomuchtooold Thu 18-Feb-16 08:02:34

Thanks Doreen! The big bush isn't ours, that's a vacant plot of land. Our bit stops at the fence and now has a very new hedge planted in it.

I never thought about taking out the cypresses! They aren't really adding anything, are they? And they block the view across the river. I'm wondering if they were put in for privacy reasons or something as they block the view from our terrace to the houses below but actually we are so high above them it doesn't matter.

Re. rasps I thought I might get away with not tying in because I'm going to put in autumn fruiting ones so can cut them back before winter. It's not that windy here in the summer IIRC. But you're right I will need some sort of pathway. And I need steps from the gate into the nest of the garden, which the paths need to be level with.

shovetheholly Thu 18-Feb-16 08:28:41

Oooh, I didn't know that about raspberries! Thanks Doreen!

DoreenLethal Thu 18-Feb-16 08:29:51

My summer ones are not tied in either.

shovetheholly Thu 18-Feb-16 08:35:31

I was in York at the weekend, and someone was using raspberries as a hedge! They had bent them over and over in half-hoops, a bit like a wonderfully untidy and wild version of the Sissinghurst roses. I don't know how well they would crop, though, as clearly they weren't cutting them back each year?? But it does prove your point that they can be grown in far more imaginative ways than my tied-in rows! grin

DoreenLethal Thu 18-Feb-16 16:50:21

Yes, I have grown Gley Coe in the Sissinghurst Method; it went a bit crazy that year. Glen Coe are the purple ones that don't send up suckers but the crown splits every few years so you have to dig it up and separate them.

I did cut down the old growth, as it sends up 3 ish more fresh stems whilst the old stems are fruiting. But the stems that grew from the main stems were up to 6 ft long themselves.

DoreenLethal Thu 18-Feb-16 20:24:46

OP - Big Ideas Small Spaces on Iplayer. On now. A garden similar to yours.

toomuchtooold Fri 19-Feb-16 07:40:33

Damn, missed it! Some IP address fiddling for me this afternoon I think (we can't get iplayer normally as not in the UK - like a proper xenophobic expat I have a massive satellite dish and freesat player, listen to Radio 2 on the computer and get our British friends to bring Punjana tea and calpol whenever they visit)

shovetheholly Fri 19-Feb-16 16:25:51

Doreen - so lemme check I've understood this: you plant it, bend over the stems, but take out the second year canes after they've fruited just as you would a straight plant? I might give this a go! I've got a boundary that I don't have anything on at the moment, and I can eat rasps for Britain grin Also, I'm thinking my tied-in ones look kind of boring now!!

toomuch - you may not have the same tea, but I bet you get better weather! looks out at yet more rain

DoreenLethal Fri 19-Feb-16 16:51:50

Yes exactly. Bend over ALL canes, but when one has finished fruiting, take it back to the ground.

toomuchtooold Fri 19-Feb-16 17:21:09

But it was snowing today holly! No, it's very good weather for growing though once it warms up - they grow grapes for wine not far from here.

Kr1stina Sat 20-Feb-16 15:00:39

Can I just say how much I love the gardening threads on MN. this is how they go :

Poster A - my plant has a problem and I'm thinking of trying X
Poster B - yes I know that's recomended but I've had some modest success in growing it in Y conditions
Poster A - really , that fascinating , please tell me how ? How do I feed/ prune it ?
Poster B - long helpful explanation complete with links and photos
Poster C - more helpul information
Poster D - I've always had that problem , poster A, I'm so pleased you started this thread
Poster A - thank you so much everyone , that's been very helpful

< love > < kisses >

Rest of Mumsnet

Poster A - my child has a problem and I'm thinking of trying X
Poster B - only a bad and negligent mother could think that , I feel sorry for your child
Poster A - how dare you assume that I'm a woman , Mumsnet is full of gender stereotypes , you feminnazis
Poster C - have you tried love bombing?
Poster D - I what your child is doing is totally normal and you are over reacting
Poster E - is this your PFB < head tilt >
Poster F - why are you on Mumsnet ? Take your child to A and E RIGHT NOW
Poster G - if I was your neighbour I'd call social services on you .

< Poster A hits head off key board >

DoreenLethal Sat 20-Feb-16 17:55:52

Ha ha - so right!

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