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Poor Soil

A year or so ago I posted questions about my clay soil and the small border I have on top of a 3 foot retaining wall (from the top of the wall the border abuts the adjoining field which is now a new development site, soil heavy clay). In the end I dug most of the wall out and incorporated loads of compost and JI etc but one end of the wall was just too stony to dig very deep at all. I have cranesbills /alchemilla/ salvias etc growing along and they are great but the clematis I planted all along are not happy and 2 are not growing at all. To be fair when Betty Corning (planted in the better end of  the wall with some good soil east facing) arrived last year in hot weather she was nearly dead in her pot, so I guess she is going to take a while to recover. Princess Diana (also in the better end of the wall, east facing)  is not really looking very happy and the flowers are not at all as I expected, small, odd colouring.  Samaritan Jo and the Vagabond are at the part of the wall I couldn't dig very deep almost south facing (it's a bit angled).  I know Samaritan Jo  is supposed to be short ( 4 -5 foot) but not stunted! She did flower for a month but is not looking at all happy. And The Vagabond is just sitting there at about foot tall doing nothing at all. I have a very small garden and I need plants that earn their keep. These clems are supposed to be giving me a magnificent display.

So do I just need to be patient, or are these plants just in the wrong place? I did plant a lonicera between Betty and Di and that seems to be romping away. I did agonise over whether to have clems or roses but went for clems as roses, like loniceras can be prone to diseases/rusts/blackspot etc and need some kind of spraying and I hate using chemicals. However, from what I have been reading about roses on the GW forum, it looks like in poor soil they may have done better, but I would have said the soil along the Betty/Di part of the wall wasn't that bad. Any ideas? Do I dig out the Vagabond and maybe try something like the rose - Open Arms and remain patient with the others and see what they do next year? 
Any other ideas for climbers on poor soil? I know a montana would probably do OK but I want something with a longer season. My shed wall has a winter jasmine, giving me nothing in the summer except green leaves but months of bright yellow flowers through the winter. 
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  • BobFlannigonBobFlannigon Posts: 619
    I think there are a lot of factors beyond just "poor soil", for example how dry (or wet) is the soil, how often do you water them, how much sunlight does it get, how exposed is it etc.
    If it's stony and no longer excessively clay, perhaps it's too dry?  Clematis like their feet to be cool, is that happening?
  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,228
    Clematis like their roots in shade and their tops in sun. They are quite thirsty plants, too, but don't like to stand in waterlogged soil! So you need to check that you are providing these things if they are to grow well. The soil can be improved with lots of muck - rotted cow or stable is best - put onto MOIST soil. I hope they pick up soon!
  • kc.sdickc.sdic Posts: 91
    I think there are a lot of factors beyond just "poor soil", for example how dry (or wet) is the soil, how often do you water them, how much sunlight does it get, how exposed is it etc.
    If it's stony and no longer excessively clay, perhaps it's too dry?  Clematis like their feet to be cool, is that happening?
    Hi Bob - thanks for your response. The cranesbills provide cover/shade and I give the clems  a good watering once a week but I do wonder if in this weather they have been getting too dry as my Arabella's have had powdery mildew. I am usually good with clems in my previous gardens which is why I kind of put this down to soil. I had Arabellas on really heavy clay as ground cover in my last house and they were never watered and never got  mildew. I actually thought the conditions I gave them at the old house was tantamount to abuse, but they seems to positively thrive on it! :O)
  • kc.sdickc.sdic Posts: 91
    Posy said:
    Clematis like their roots in shade and their tops in sun. They are quite thirsty plants, too, but don't like to stand in waterlogged soil! So you need to check that you are providing these things if they are to grow well. The soil can be improved with lots of muck - rotted cow or stable is best - put onto MOIST soil. I hope they pick up soon!
    Thanks for that Posy.  As I say I did try improve the soil on the east side but couldn't get a spade very deep on the southish side. So I think I only have two options, get someone in to try to dig some decent holes to provide the clems with some decent earth (which is going to be costly and no easy as its not at ground level,  or grow something that doesn't mind pretty stony/clay soil, which is where I was going with the climbing/rambling rose idea. There was a thread in the Forum which showed some pretty dreadful soil that a rose was going to be planted in and people replied saying they had planted in worse!! So I was just wondering if I would be best to go in that direction, and then of course there is the Q of whether some roses take abuse better than others!? Ah the joys of gardening! ;o)
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,037
    I have Princess Di and she is very disappointing. A rather weak grower I have found. 
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 31,671
    I had Di in my last house and she was stunning year after year. Kate is in this one and is not as I'd hoped. A bit wishy washy in colour.
    Devon.
  • GrumpymumGrumpymum Oxfordshire Posts: 76
    I used to have Di and also have stony clay soil too. I sometimes find plants sit there looking sulky for a season before getting going, but once they do they usually perform pretty well. Di performed well for years for me once she got going.
  • kc.sdickc.sdic Posts: 91
    Grumpymum said:
    I used to have Di and also have stony clay soil too. I sometimes find plants sit there looking sulky for a season before getting going, but once they do they usually perform pretty well. Di performed well for years for me once she got going.
    Thanks - So might be worth being patient. The problem with Di is that the flowers look really small not at all like I expected, so whist I could practice patience with Sam Jo and The Vagabond, Di at present looks underwhelming, which is a shame. 
  • BijdezeeBijdezee BPosts: 1,484
    edited July 2019
    My Betty corning had a bit of a shock being removed from the light acidic sandy soil (in high summer too!) into a clay soil where we live now. It wasn't so big or floriferous the next year but after that it got going and is back to its rambling self and flowering well . I would like it to go towards the right but it always goes left lol, can't have everything. 
  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 2,118
    Get a pickaxe. Not necessarily a full size one, I have a small hand-held one, with the handle 40cm or something like that. I have stony sandy soil and I couldn't do any serious gardening without it.
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