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Mahonia advice

(6 Posts)
rubybleu Sun 26-Feb-17 12:05:49

I'm a complete non-gardener but I want to plant a very low fuss garden in our communal front yard (4m x 2.5m). I live in a converted Victorian house over the lowest couple of floors, so the communal gardens are left to me. The garden is currently completely bare.

We have clay soil and a low brick fence facing onto a London street. I'm toying with planting a border/hedge of Mahonia Charity to provide screening, and a second row of hydrangeas and something else behind the mahonia which would look very pretty from my front window.

Does this sound like a sensible plan? I'm trying to find out how to space mahonia given they eventually grow quite wide - would three plants across the 4m be a good balance of quick screening v. eventual width?

What would I need to do to improve the soil before we plant? Do I need to get in a load of mulch? Should I stake the trees initially? I'm looking at buying the mahonia in 3L pots.

Many thanks for any advice you can give this clueless wannabe gardener!

shovetheholly Mon 27-Feb-17 07:50:25

OK, the easy bit first - improving the soil is easy. Dig it over, removing any weeds. If you are on clay, you may need to leave the clods a few weeks - the weather will help to break them down. Then dump on loads (and I mean loads) of compost and manure (and some grit if you are on heavy clay). This can just be put on the top of the soil and the worms will take it down for you. When you plant anything, it's worth putting a fair bit of compost + manure at the bottom of the hole too.

I'm not entirely sure about the idea of a 'hedge' of Mahonia- at its best, it's quite a shaggy, structural plant - and you want it to flower so that means not lopping it about too much. I do, however, totally understand your desire to keep this low-maintenance. How about a mixed border using almost exclusively shrubs that will mostly look after themselves, barring a bit of winter pruning? If you let us know where you are (roughly) and what conditions you have (aspect, weather etc) we can probably suggest some things that will more or less look after themselves.

rubybleu Tue 28-Feb-17 08:08:35

Thank you so much for your advice!

A "hedge" of shrubs sounds lovely. We're inner North London and the garden faces north-east. It's a quite sunny spot. I would call our garden fairly water logged, but our neighbour two doors up has loads of lavender and rosemary in her front garden that grows like crazy in summer.

We are quite inner city so not as cold as the suburbs.

How much time would I need to leave between placing manure/compost, and planting?

rubybleu Tue 28-Feb-17 08:09:15

Sorry, the garden faces south-east, not North-east!

PurpleWithRed Tue 28-Feb-17 08:30:57

My mahonia is currently smelling gorgeous but i agree with shove, it's not a great shape for hedging and for most of the year just sits there looking a bit threatening and spikey. personally for screening I love a pittosporum or two - they take to being shaped well and the leaves are dainty and well behaved, and there are dark ones and lighter ones. If you're a novice the much maligned forsythia is worth considering - grows easily anywhere, lovely yellow flowers in spring, and can be cut back hard after flowering to keep it in its place. Or what about a very classy yew hedge? I love a hudrangea paniculata, and daphne, and viburnum, ooh you've got me started now..... roses are happy in clay by the way.

You can plant immediately after mulching, or even before. But they used to say spend twice as much on the hole as the plant. If you're on poor draining clay be careful not to dig a nice well improved hole that becomes a kind of bucket in the soil and water logs your plants.

shovetheholly Tue 28-Feb-17 11:45:34

There are loads of lovely things for a south east border, seriously you are absolutely spoilt for choice. I would go for a mix of evergreens and deciduous. Cotinus (smoke bush) is a favourite of mine- great leaf colour and wonderful flowers, photinia is an evergreen with good colour (the variegated one is especially nice). Some flowering things to help butterflies and pollinators would be lovely too- viburnum opulus, small-leafed lilacs, ceanothus...

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