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Ideas for planting a new front garden raised bed

A96A96 Posts: 2

Looking for recommendations for a 'small' tree to plant in a new raised bed. This is on the road edge of the property so quite exposed to everything and is on a busy main road. The bed itself is brick and will be about 50cm deep above ground - the back of the bed is the garden wall and stands higher (if you see what I mean?)

Classifying a tree as 'small' seems to mean up to 30' fully grown? Anyway I've looked at a magnolia but they seem to be too spreading to be accomodated in the position I have AND Acer 'Brilliantissimum' but that suggests a sheltered position is best. So thwarted again.

I'd like something with a special season of interest which isn't too wide and probably no more than 20' fully grown. Any ideas anyone?

I have walked along looking at the successes in other gardens nearby but they seem to be mainly hydrangeas!

The bed itself has yet to be filled and once weve broken up the base of sand and limestone that was once a block paved drive I intend to backfill with a short gravel layer and top soil but any recommendations for this also gratefully recieved.

Thanks image


  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,020

    Even small trees need plenty of root depth to seek out moisture and nutrients as well as anchor them and 50cms will be nowhere near enough.   You therefore need to look at trees that can cope in containers and that usually means dwarf conifers, fruit on dwarfing rootstocks, Japanese maples or topiarised yew and box or possible holly.

    If you are breaking up the sand and limestone at the base you shouldn't need gravel as well for drainage but the limestone means plants that need neutral or acid soil will not be happy so acers are out, as are magnolias, rhodos, azaleas and pieris.   There is usually also a certain amount of lime in brick mortar.......   Even if you fill your bed with ericaceous compost you will get alkalinity so I suggest you search for plants that don't care about soil type or tolerate lime.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,690

    Something like Amelanchier 'Ballerina' would be well under 20ft. There's a variety called 'Obelisk' which is upright growing but I like the other ones grown as multistems. There are also various small crab apples, some of which are also upright in habit, like Malus tschonoskii.

    If you break up the base and remove the hardcore, i think the tree will root through it and into the surrounding soil as needed. 

    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
  • An apple tree grown on dwarf root stock and trained against the wall in fan shape or a twisted hazel . Climbing rose maybe a bit old fashioned but if you walk past it dayly then one with heavy perfume is lovely and some will flower until Christmas. Hope this helps.

  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700

    If you can break up the base going further down a bit as WillDB suggests, this will help greatly for any tree growing there long term. You mentioned looking at Magnolia. If you are still interested in Magnolias, have you looked into Magnolia Grandiflora 'Little Gem'. This is the evergreen version and is quite compact. The leaves are quite large and over-powering, but this tree is far more able to cope in alkaline soils.

    But my recommendation is Crataegus Laevigata 'Paul's Scarlet' Double Crimson. The Midland Hawthorn. A tough tree and really the right size. Glossy lobed leaves that turn orange and yellow in autumn with red berries. In the spring time, double pink flowers just as the leaves emerge. Very striking and the sort of tree that sets the tone for the rest of the garden. Ideal for loose cottagey style gardens but also well suited in a more formal style. 

  • A96A96 Posts: 2

    Firstly my apologies for the delay in coming back to this. Despite asking to be notified of responses I didn't seem to get them but then I found them tucked away! Probably my fault.

    Thankyou so much for taking the time to come back to me with advice and suggestions.

    I was a little concerned about the limestone and mortar affecting the soil conditions and Obelixx has dealt with that beautifully thankyou.

    I may have misled you on the height of the wall behind which is only about 4' overall and not a full height wall but thanks anyway love a twisted hazel but I think it maybe too exposed.

    Thanks to WillDB and Borderline for the plant suggestions and planting advice. I am now off to look them up....must admit to liking the idea of the Midland Hawthorn living in Derbyshire as we do image

    kind regards


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