New gardener daunted by empty flower bed

Hello everyone! I've just moved into my new home and finally have a garden but after clearing all the rubbish and rotten shed (8 skips!) and doing the hard landscaping I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed about what to put in my raised flower bed. The garden is South East facing, and the flower bed is 1metre wide by 15 metres long (West facing) alongside a fence and overlooked by a 30 metre high London plane tree at the bottom of the garden so it's relatively shady - I've uploaded a photo.

I have a toddler and a baby so I'm looking for non-poisonous hardy low maintenance evergreen plants and shrubs that will grow fast to cover the rather orange coloured fence and will also survive being hit by frisbees, light sabres and footballs. I'm not sure what type of soil it is - does this matter?

Can anyone please suggest some shrubs and plants that might work?

Would you recommend going to a local garden centre (I'm in South London) or should I order online? I'm on a budget but would like to get planting in March.image

Sorry if these questions are  a bit stupid but I never had a garden before so I'm at the bottom of a very steep learning curve. Any advice gratefully received!


  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 1,290

    First impressions are, the border may not be wide enough to allow a shrub to grow, and if you did, you may find yourself having to prune it back often to control its size. 

  • Oh wow look at all that lovely clear space image

    I’m tempted to say hebe, loads of different varieties and you can pretty much get a rainbow going on. Rhododendrons are nice  if you have acid soil, both of those types will withstand small children and are low maintenance. 

    What you can do is divide off two squares in that bed and have them for the children, reserve one of them for baby and put strawberry plants in it for now. Let the toddler pick some seeds that can be sown direct (instructions are on the back of the packet) and let them simply scatter them in. They can then watch them grow and later on in the season pick flowers that can go on display in the house image

  • MrsGlazeMrsGlaze EssexPosts: 59

    If you'd like a bit of height and colour, you could use an arch or obelisk in the flower bed with some vigorous climbers like clematis or jasmine to help screen the fence.  Garden products can be sought online at a reasonable price, but i like visiting our local garden centre where i head straight for the 'managers clearance' section to find a bargain! Your garden is looking lovely, i think having a section of the raised bed for your children to plant in like Learnincurve suggested would be wonderful. All the best with your new garden ☺

  • I like the other ideas like a jasmine, rhododendron etc. Once you have a few cornerstones like that in place, do the rest of the plants need to be evergreen? Personally I'd want to fill a border like that with lots of Spring flowering bulbs, e.g. tulips, daffodils etc. I love crocuses too, but you'd need to top up the bed with more soil first otherwise you won't see them.

    Hardy geraniums are another good, low maintenance plant to consider and they have a lot of variety. Generally they're summer flowering so provide interest when the bulbs have finished. Geranium Rozanne has blue flowers which are in bloom for a particularly long time (May to October ish). They can tolerate partial shade although are better in sun. Geranium phaeum are better in heavy shade, but I don't think that's what you have.

    The Viola Sorbet series come in lots of colours too and they should be shade tolerant and flower for a long time. They're like pansies.

    For a little winter interest (Dec-Mar) I like cyclamen coum, eg half a dozen plants grown in a bunch in a spot that's visible from inside and close to the house (delicate flowers).

    Once you have some evergreen plants and a few plants that are going to look good at different times of the year you can use that as a base to build. At least, that's my theory, but I'm just making it up as I go along.

    If you're starting to get into gardening, RHS membership might be good - Wisley isn't far away and is a great way to see different plants and ideas.

  • RHS do these absolutly enormous encyclopaedias.

    Every edition past 2000 is *exactly* the same but for the cover as they did a big update with keys and symbols then. Latest editions are £30  but a 2002 edition will £3 on eBay/amazon or £2 in your local charity shop. 

  • Papi JoPapi Jo Brittany, France Posts: 862

    A very important question to ask yourself before planting anything is that of the ownership of that fence. Is it yours or the neighbours' or shared? Since the planting area is quite narrow, you cannot/shouldn't plant any shrub that you wouldn't be able to control later on!

    There is no such thing as a maintenance-free plant or landscape.
    The Renegade Gardener (Don Engebretson)

  • Firefly0Firefly0 Posts: 276

    You have have a very intriguing path. The fence won't stay very orange for very long, I wouldn't have thought.

    "Non-poisonous, hardy, low maintenance, evergreen plants and shrubs that will grow fast, on a budget".

    You give a specific brief, which is useful. I agree that full scale shrubs might struggle in a bed only a metre wide, esp if you want height.

    Last edited: 23 February 2018 10:55:04

  • Firefly0Firefly0 Posts: 276

    Maybe a choisya / viburnum? Trellising might be useful on the fence (but not so cheap). You could put a fast growing , early flowering, evergreen clematis over it, like Clematis armandii, that you don't have to prune annually.  All have sweet smelling flowers, are evergreen, hardy, low maintenance and non-poisonous (as far as I can see). There are great varieties of all three out there with different qualities, leaf types and flower shapes.

    I would agree about a geranium like Rozanne, which is pretty hard to kill. Not evergreen though. A hardy, shrub, evergreen fuchsia might be good too  - they go from white to mad colours. Also perennial (small) borage - you can eat the flowers, the bees love it and is good for the soil. Also perennial sweet peas (good for the soil) and a vigorous, (evergreen) climbing hydrangea for the fence. Perennial Baltic parsley is great - like cow parsley / queen Anne's lace. Tall and beautiful and beloved of pollinators.

    I hope that helps gives some potential ideas...

    Last edited: 23 February 2018 11:23:30

  • madpenguinmadpenguin Posts: 709

    If you are on a budget try plants from supermarkets,they usually have quite a lot.You can also pick up trays of plants at places like B&Q.Look in the cheap rack and you can pick up some bargains.Beg,stael or borrow from friends and neighbours as well! You also don't need to do everything at once.Maybe a couple of shrubs and perennials that will grow over the years and fill in with annual seeds.Just let it develop at its own pace and enjoy!

    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • I don't know which part of South London you live in, but if you can get to Cooling's Nursery in Knockholt they have a fantastic sale on until 28th February. Many shrubs and structural plants at half price and lots of different perennials 4 for £10 most of which are grown on site. They also have the usual bedding plants,plug plants etc.

  • Firefly0Firefly0 Posts: 276

    A certain online auction site can offer great deals. I'd recommend lots self seeders like foxgloves and ox eye daisies that perpetuate themselves over the years. And plants like celandine and snowdrops that amass and spread each year.

  • +1 for plants that like to self-seed etc, but be careful with foxgloves because they're supposed to be poisonous - otherwise I would have offered some of mine! I'm in South London and have about 100 self-seeded little plants at the moment.

    Out of the Spring flowering bulbs (snowdrops, crocuses, native bluebells, tulips and daffodils), I've found crocuses to be the happiest to settle in multiply in a ~3 year timeframe. Bluebells will take over given half a chance but IME they take longer to settle in. I've found snowdrops to be fussy as we lost a lot that I planted last year (possibly because of poor drainage), but once they're happy they should spread easily.

  • It's not south east London more east London but I have had amazing bargains at Colombia road flower market. 

    I have stained my orange fences dark green and it has made such a difference.

    Are you near an aldi or lidl  .really cheap plants and garden supplies, morrisons and wilko are really good too

    Check that the things you plant are not poisonous  (like foxgloves ) and not prickly. .maybe avoid roses...

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