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Ideas for border planting please

(6 Posts)
MrsDOnofrio Tue 26-Apr-16 12:15:18

We have a semi-circular border at the front of our bungalow that has been neglected and has been home to creeping buttercup, dandelions and other weeds. We dug everything up a month ago and cleared it as best we could and are looking for some planting suggestions.

The soil is heavy, claggy clay, the border faces S/SW and is 4.5 metres long and just shy of 3 metres deep at the widest part. Taste-wise, I'm a real mix - I love both modern and traditional cottage gardens but am keen to encourage wildlife too. I also love grasses and the original plan was to plant some of these with verbena bonariensis through (I love these as well). The other end of the front garden, against the footpath, had a row of leylandii until recently. These have had extensive surgery recently to leave only the trunks at 4 feet high and the plan is to wind garden string around them and grow ivy, clematis and honeysuckle along them (also love ivy). As this will look quite cottage-gardeny, I thought the two areas would look odd together so then decided to scatter an annual and perennial seed mixture but having weeded this morning, I don't think flower seeds would stand a chance. Now reverting back to covering the area with a membrane and planting through it. As it is a bungalow, we don't want anything too tall as we need to see out the windows.

I'm a student nurse so don't have a great deal of free time and DH has almost no interest in gardening so ideally I'm looking for something relatively easy to maintain and relatively cheap. I joined the secret gardening club having read about it on here but as an inexperienced gardener I'm worried about making planting mistakes. Hoping you might be able to make some suggestions.

Mant thanks.

MrsDOnofrio Tue 26-Apr-16 12:16:05

Many thanks, not mant!

shovetheholly Tue 26-Apr-16 13:39:42

That's a very nice sized bed! Clay and south-facing is decent to have for anything that doesn't like very, very free drained soil. You have a LOT of plants you can choose from!

I would start by improving the soil with loads of compost, then plant in some shrubs at the back,a mix of evergreen and flowering ones. What you choose depends a bit on the colours you like - a south-facing garden on clay can take an awful lot of different things! Personally, one of the things I'd put in is a cotinus, or smoke bush: lovely foliage colour, lovely in flower. Viburnums should also like your soil. Choose things that can be kept lower so as not to obscure your view (but you might want one or two that you allow to get just a bit taller, for variation). Have a look round your neighbourhood - if you see something growing on a similar aspect, then chances are it'll grow well for you. Shrubs are great because most of them need minimal maintenance but really provide some colour and form.

Then I'd put other mid height stuff in front - grasses and verbena is a lovely combination (check out calamgrostis karl foerster), then perhaps lower things (geraniums in whatever colour you favour? summer bulbs? japanese anemones?) Rather than using membrane, I would buy lots of sun-loving ground cover plants from secret gardening club and whack them in. You might have to weed a bit after the start, but after one or two growing seasons, your plants should be filling most of the bare soil, seriously cutting down on the work you need to do (whereas with membrane, things tend to germinate on or through it over time, plus the soil underneath goes really manky).

MrsDOnofrio Wed 27-Apr-16 16:26:08

Thanks for your response shove. Hadn't really considered shrubs - now researching them. Also didn't give much thought to the soil under a membrane. Much to consider. Off to google now.


Liara Wed 27-Apr-16 20:08:38

I agree with shove, but have to point out that the cotinus I planted three years ago has barely grown an inch, so while it will hopefully be lovely eventually, it can take its own sweet time getting established!

I would also consider putting a rose, one of the nice shrubby ones rather than a tea rose is my preference.

LikeASoulWithoutAMind Wed 27-Apr-16 23:30:07

I agree if you want low maintenance then you need to fill up some of that space with shrubs. And yy to digging in lots of compost (composted bark is also good for breaking up clay soil) before planting anything - it will really help the soil and really widen your choice of plants.

Other shrubs you might want to think about - potentilla (often yellow but there is a nice white one - not the most exciting shrub ever but flowers for ages) and hebe. Also perhaps berberis (I had a lovely purply red one) and choisya (there's a dark green version and another one with yellow leaves - both are very attractive)

Two borders I had that worked really well:

1. Purple, yellow/lime green, white: Choisya ternata Sundance (yellow leaves), euphorbia characias, small black grasses, grape hyacinths, alliums, white campanula, alchemilla mollis, white perennial geraniums, purple perennial geraniums. Snowdrops. I had a fence to grow jasmine and purple clematis up too.

2. Pinks, purples, whites: (this was around a window) purply red berberis (I actually had a eucalyptus and an amelanchier at the sides of the window - eucalyptus was pruned very hard every spring to keep it small though) White potentilla. White hebe. Pale pink perennial geraniums. Burgundy geraniums. Burgundy heuchera. Snowdrops. White tulips, Queen of the Night tulips. Pale grasses. Purple clematis up the house wall on wires. Sedums would also work with this lot I think.

Probably some more plants in there I have forgotten too grin I think the first one was lower maintenance but even allowing for having several of each of the smaller plants (this always looks better btw) I don't think that's nearly enough to fill your big bed.

You can also put lots of mulch down between plants until they fill the gaps. That will also feed your soil.

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