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Border along our long drive; What to do?

Hi All

We're lucky (?) enough to have quite a long drive leading up to our house, about 80ft in length all told, with a border about 6 to 8 feet wide the whole way up. Half way up the drive the border is dominated by a large horse chestnut tree with a canopy spread of about, oooh, 30 or 40ft. The border runs north to south in a straight line and so the tree canopy casts quite a lot of shadow, almost complete shadow in fact, in a lot of the border area. Not to mention roots as thick as your leg.

At present the border is simply a mess, not un-pretty in a sort of rambling countryside way, but not to my liking and brambles are starting to dominate. We consulted a professional gardener who took one look at it and suggested industrial machinery to dig the whole thing out and start again but that sounds expensive and we don't have a lot of cash. What sort of thing should I be looking to plant that would do well in the shade, provide a combination of ground cover (weed control) interspersed with some structure for height and, perhaps even, some colour? Just really looking for suggestions from those in the know to help a keen, but inexperienced, gardener.


  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530

    Have you got spring bulbs in that border?  They will be happy under the tree because they'll have flowered before the tree opens its leaves.  Native bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) would be lovely, also wild primroses (Primula vulgaris). Take a walk in the country and see what grows naturally in the shade of big trees.  But don't take plants from the wild, it's illegal.

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    There are a lot of plants that do well in shade - shrubs - hollies, euonymus, amelanchier, berberis, cotoneaster etc. And quite a few perennials - alchemilla mollis, vinca major, geranium macro?, epimedium etc etc.. These 4 will also give you ground cover along with ivies. The internet is a great search engine to get lists you can use. If cost is a consideration, patience will be the key and if you have friends with any of these perennial plants you will be quids in because like me they dig out great bucketfuls of them every year.

    I think you may have to have a 10 year plan! Buy as many plants as you can afford the first year, keep them well tended and then divide each of them the second year and so on and so on. Just to make you aware that the rule of thumb for ground cover is 9 plants per square metre! 

    You could try planting a wild flower meadow in the sunnier areas.......And in the sunnier areas once you have cleared the ground, you could just sow annuals every year which would be a cheap option esp if you bought the seed in bulk. 

    But definitely dig the brambles out! 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
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  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,669

    Could we have a pic Ed, dont know about "quite" long, your average garden these days isnt that long. Chrissie|B, we were given a localy authoprity house with about 5th of an acre, which was overgrown completely, elderly lady living there, it was 6 weeks before we even walked down the garden you couldnt get down there, mostly brambles, lots of "stuff" which had all caved in on itself, I will try and look out some pics, we found a car bonnet, and loads of junk, there was no way you could get a car down the side of the house, the path was about 3 feet wide so goodness knows how it got there! The laughable thing was when we moved (it was tiny) the council said we had to leave the garden in the state we found it. I was made homeless by physco ex-husband, and had to take this place, but after being in emergency accomodation for a year, was greatfull, never minded the work.  We did it in a year, but that was having a new baby working full night nights, bad enough next doors bramles,bindweed etc now.

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  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,669

    We found what used to be a pond, little concrete paths going round i MIL said we should have left it as it was to see what came up, silly ******, we had kids,dogs, dug it up by hand first, then hired a rotavator, and laid turf it was 25 years ago, but I remember, it was a Tuesday, then I went off and worked a night shift, (I was 25 yeasrs younger!!)

  • Ed16Ed16 Posts: 2

    Firstly, thanks all for the contributions! Secondly, you've all made lots of points which I've found very informative and I'm going to mull over for a while together with any others than might come in subsequently. When I say mull over, what I mean is copy and pasting the latin names you refer to into Google to see what it is you’re talking about!

    chrissieB, you kind of hit the nail on the head. I've a full-time job, I travel quite a lot for it - 38 flights this year and counting image and have two pesky kids and a spaniel that eats flowers. My point is that time is really the problem here, actually money too; things aren't what they once were! In addition to the driveway border, I also have an actual garden which I enjoy working in. The driveway therefore is a considerable drain on an already limited amount of time and I suspect that the gardener we had around knew the volume of ongoing manual labour that would be involved were we to DIY it and hence suggested the nuclear option.

    The other thing is that this is a driveway right? I don't sit in my drive marvelling at the wonder of nature like I do my garden. I drive down it and then up it every day and sweep several tonnes of leaves off it every autumn. So if I embark upon a DIY project it could very easily be the end of me and my marriage. Also, while I’d like to think I’m a prime physical specimen, my wife would point out that the only two times I’ve been to the doctor in the last 3 years are because of a hurty back; the result of an ongoing "relationship" with several bay trees (but that’s another story).

    So I think for now I shall purposely enter a war of attrition with the driveway border; neither nature nor man willing to yield to the other, sporadic pockets of ground claimed and then lost, while at the same time getting a couple of quotes from the pros to do it properly. This may take some time....

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  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 7,004

    You could progressively sheet mulch it. Get a big bit of black plastic and a piece of old carpet the width of the bed by say 8 feet long. Strim an 8 foot section of the bed, put down the plastic covered with the carpet, leave it for at least 6 months while  driving past, sweeping leaves, attritioning, etc. Accumulate a quantity or suitable plants from car boots, local plant sales, friends, neighbours, seed packets, the back garden, etc. When enough time has passed and you have enough plants, Strim the next section along. Then lift the carpet and plastic, dig over the soil underneath (you'll very probably find the brambles are still there but easier to get at. Most other things will have given up. A few very persistent weeds like marestail and bindweed may not. You can apply your preferred treatment to what is left.)  and put the plastic and carpet back down on the newly strimmed bit. Mulch the cleared section with whatever good organic material you have available (if you've been composting those leaves you sweep up, for example). Plant your plant collection in artistic fashion.

    Rinse and repeat until you get to the end of the border. At that rate it'll take about 5 years, you may find after the first one that you think you can manage a double section next time to speed it up, but gardening is always best done slowly.

    It'll look amazing when you've finished. image

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • biofreakbiofreak Posts: 1,064

    We have a long drive too, flanked by a mowed bank on one side and a flat lawn area running along the hedge. I have turned the latter into a fruit bed with a row of raspberries then red and then blackcurrants which has worked well and can be mown on either side. The bank I have started to put shrubs and grasses along the top strimming the grass in between so maintaining the lawned look. I have put cowslips and rock roses plus some smaller ornamental grasses on the slope itself and will intersperse with bulbs in the Autumn -In theory this all sounds great, I just hope I can maintain the parklike look which I love!. - I have left the brambles in the hedge so that we can taste the blackberries and see if they are sweet enough to keep semi cultivated or whip them out to make more room for the sloes and hazels that are there already.

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