Garden cliff help

I’ve been in this garden for a year, and I’m just trying to decide how to deal with the garden. As you can see very steep slope - it’s basically a cliff. For scale that plant support is 6 foot. Acidic soil on limestone, in summer gets some sun in afternoon.  Has anyone dealt with anything similar?  I think I’m going to try various plants and just see what takes, thinking I might use climbers as ground cover to scramble up but I’m worried that it won’t be enough to smother grass and it’ll just be even more difficult to control.  Any ideas?  I’m brainstorming. Thanks.  

Posts

  • PosyPosy Posts: 1,562
    Acidic on limestone? Are you sure? Looks like a fantastic challenge.
  • Hi Posy, yes it is acidic on lime. It’s unusual and near a small SSSI site with the same that has rare plants and butterflies because of it. Also my geologist mate has confirmed its limestone outcrops and everyone is growing magnolias and camellias. Weird eh?
  • PosyPosy Posts: 1,562
    Amazing! I love the stone, too. I'm sorry I can't suggest how to plant it - it's completely new to me! You may need something to retain the soil on that drop. I'm sure someone better than me will be along soon.
  • Keith92Keith92 Posts: 7
    Every problem is an opportunity as they say! I think this is a lovely spot and has huge potential. The stone wall is fabulous. As ever it depends a little on what kind of thing you like and how much work you want to do but I definitely would not rule out renovating it as a planted area just because of the gradient. One of the great things about this kind of layout is that you can see a lot of plants at eye level and really appreciate them. Hellebores for example tend to point their flowers downwards so look fantastic when they are raised up and you can walk along side them. 

    I had a similar part of our garden in this kind of condition a few years ago. There are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly the existing conifers are going to be a bit of a problem. They will be taking a lot of moisture / nutrition out of already quite dry soil and casting a bit of shade around. The smaller conifers are only going to get bigger and the larger ones will become huge. Secondly the slope is going to mean that the ground at the top is going to be drier than the ground at the bottom (not a bad thing as this does allow for varied planting). Thirdly, you would need to have some mixture of planting and perhaps other things to give the top soil structure or it will tend to get washed away. If you are planting this area up you will also need to thing about how you can access it for planting, weeding, watering and mulching without standing on plants or breaking your ankle!

    So my own suggestion would be to clear the whole the whole area bit by bit and dig out all the grass / weeds that have spread around. Personally I would take out the confers too. I would then incorporate some large-ish boulders (chances are there are some in there already) dotted around - a bit like the one in the centre of your photo. This allows little pockets of moisture for plants to get a hold. You could perhaps do a similar thing by staggering in sections of sleeper with retaining posts behind but that would take a while longer to blend in. The rocks would allow you somewhere to stand too if you are feeling agile. Once the plants start to bulk up and establish that helps to avoid soil erosion. The much more expensive option would be to add in sections of low terraced wall in the same style as the larger wall at the bottom but you are then talking about significant cost and labour. 

    Then I would incorporate a large amount of compost and manure (maybe a local farm or council green waste would be cheapest) as this soil is going to need a bit of attention to begin with. I wouldn't plant it up until you are absolutely sure you have got rid of all the weeds especially any nasties so don't rush. Then the fun bit would be to put in a mixture of plants depending on how much light / shade / moisture you get in different areas. Planting on a slope allows you to invert some of the usual 'rules' of gardening in that you can put taller plants further forward and smaller ones higher up if you like. You could add a mixture of heights / textures even  a smaller tree perhaps with a weeping habit or a more open habit to allow birds to come and go. Dont forget to include some clumps of smaller alpines or bulbs dotted around. I see some bergenia doing well there already and there are other low maintenance spreading plants like geraniums and epimediums that can cope with a bit of dry shade and will soon bulk up and keep the work down. It would take at least a year or two to start to build up but could look amazing.

    Good luck and please come back with a photo to show us how it turns out!
  • Keith92 this is brilliant advice and great to hear that it can be done.  Now just time, effort and money ; )
  • Keith92Keith92 Posts: 7
    Hopefully more of the first two of those things and less of the third! All the best. 
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