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Tired/mishmash border revamp

I first planted this border up about 5 years ago and during that time it has gone under many guises!  Please excuse the belfast sink, that's for another project.


I have decided that come autumn I am need to make some changes.  Basically in the hope that I can finally create a border I can be pleased with.  I want to focus on getting the structure right - I think that's the mistake I've made previously and why planting never looks right.  The only 2 plants that are currently in there I want to keep are the Cotinus in the right hand corner and the Cornus (C. alternifolia argentea)  at the left hand side of the picture. I also want to incorporate my new Hydrangea Phantom into this border.  This is a rough sketch of size.  The border faces s/sw and is reasonably sunny, enough to keep the Cotinus foliage dark purple anyway.  But I also get away with growing some shade loving plants - although I suspect that's more to do with me living in Scotland rather than anything else!


I am after help with siting the shrubs.  Am I expecting too much to get all 3 shrubs growing happily together in this border?  Or is it feasible?   I have only been gardening for a short 6 years and as I've discovered my failures are visualising borders when they come to maturity.  I am at the stage now I am either having to find plants new homes or bin then.  The Cornus will still be moveable. I moved it there temporarily last autumn to make room for the pond but doubt the Cotinus is, since it's been there since I first planted this area out.  I expect to have to move many of the perennials, especially the Kirengeshoma planted in front of the Mahonia.

Please, can someone with better vision than me help me get my shrubs sorted out once and for all.  I've added a couple of more pictures for reference.  I should also add I am happy to loose the Mahonia and Euonymus growing against the fence. They just don't do it for me, especially the Euonymus!





A frustrated learner gardener needs your help! image  Thank you.


  • LynLyn Posts: 22,868

    Your garden is lovely, will you turn your sink into one of these 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • AngieRAngieR Posts: 347

    My miniature garden already in this pot needs decanting Lyn.  The large pot has cracked and won't last another winter!  But yes, a similar idea.


  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700

    Like a lot of what other gardeners face, you simply want a lot of plants in a small space. Impulse buys or things that you think may not get to that size suddenly creep up on you in a few years' time. Sometimes, you have to leave space for shrubs to grow. It's better to plant herbaceous plants in gaps until the soil and area is covered by the shrub.

    To create space, you can prune some shrubs to create a space below and they can grow taller. For intstant, the Cotinus can be large if left unpruned and grow into a tree. You could prune off the base branches to encourage height, which is what I think the border needs. It creates a more maturer look and I think height at the back of the border will create a more bigger contrast for middling and lower spreading shaped shrubs/plants.

    If you want to re-plan again, always think about general leaf shape and size of leaves. Type of shape and mix deciduous with evergreens. Right now, you can experiment with pruning the shrubs into different forms. Your border looks very natural, so perhaps enhance that with pruning off certain branches to create a more 'looser' look rather than pruning back in a way that causes shrubs to form a round dome effect which may suit some settings, but in a smaller border, can make shrubs seem like solid blocks and un-relaxing. 

    I'm not sure what type of Euonymus you have but don't be in a rush to pull stuff out. Think about moving it to the front part of border if it's hidden. Colours and leaf forms that are very different creates layers and interest too.

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,904

    I think the main problem as it is is only the big 'heavy' shrub in the middle, which is making the whole bed a bit 2 dimensional. If you moved that one out, the cotinus would be more visible and you could make more of the ferns with some lower planting deeper into the bed in the centre.

    The cornus is a lovely shrub/tree and deserves a little breathing space so it stands out and isn't lost in amongst other shrubs. It could if it's happy be as wide as the whole space to the sink. Personally I'd prefer it where it is rather than move it back so it become part of the backdrop. They have a lovely shape image. So you don't necessarily need to do much to make it look more cohesive.

    The complication is getting the hydrangea in there as well, because there's not really room when they are all fully grown The cotinus can be pruned into a small multi-stemmed tree - they can get 4m tall or more - so the hydrangea basically sits under it if you plant it next to it now. You would need to be planning for the long term though as it'll take a few years for that plan to begin to emerge.

    There are other options image including moving the cornus to be a small feature tree somewhere else if you have room.

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
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