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Shrub & grasses suggestion

I live in Edinburgh & have a south facing mixed shrub & perennials border. It is backed by a large leylandii hedge(inherited!). The soil is heavy clay but can get very dry presumably because of the trees. I would like ideas for low maintenance shrubs & grasses to provide structure and ideally year round interest to the border. Thank you!


  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,081
    Hi @jackie638 A perennial problem, pardon the pun  ;)
    Unless the border is in the path of the rain, it can be difficult. What you need are plants/shrubs which are happy with variable conditions, unless you want to spend some time adding lots of organic matter to the ground. That's the best solution, but isn't always practical.
    Anything you do plant will need lots of watering until established anyway, but here's a few suggestions which will cope with almost anything. Many are common, but that's for a good reason  :)
    Potentillas, Spireas, Hypericum, Mahonia, Holly [Ilex], Genista [Broom], and Weigela will all be fine. 
    Grasses like Hackenochloa will also be fine. I've just dug out a clump for my sister who is just outside Edinburgh. Miscanthus will also do well. Neither are evergreen, although I think there are a few Miscanthus which might be. Long time since I grew any. They're both different heights, so will work well with repeat planting too.
    The most important thing is to add some rotted manure to each hole, water really well, and keep watered until established. A mulch of bark or similar, will also help, as it retains that moisture.
    Because of the circumstances just now, it might be difficult to source plants though.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thank you! Some great suggestions. I love the look of Hackenochloa. Do you think Dogwood would be ok too? I have tried improving the soil structure with farmyard manure & mulch with bark, it is getting better. Hardly any worms though....
  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 Posts: 883
    Dogwoods prefer moist soil so might struggle but if they are a favourite, it’s always worth trying as you could put them elsewhere is they really don’t take.
    Re grasses we have established Hakonechloa under a very large cherry laurel (Very dry and shaded) plus Liriope muscari, Uncinia rubra and Carex Everest - these aren’t true grasses but all have grass like foliage and are evergreen plus Liriope has lovely blue flowers in late summer (there’s also a white flowered version and one with variegated leaves)
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
    East facing, top of a hill clay-loam, cultivated for centuries (7 years by me). Birmingham
  • Thank you. I’ll take a look at the grasses. I want to put some shrubs in the border so that there is still some structure & interest when the herbaceous plants are dormant. Any ideas?
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,081
    The Carexes generally like moist conditions, but I've had Carex Evergold in a container, in the past, so as long as you get them well enough watered until established, they'll work. Ditto the dogwood, as already said. 
    Plenty of organic matter regularly added will also help, because all the planting will take up more water. Some things may not survive, but that's how it is.

    I mentioned lots of shrubs in my first post @jackie638 :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thanks Fairygirl, I somehow missed a paragraph for your post. The potentillas look lovely.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,081
    No probs @jackie638:)
    It depends on whether you want a colour co-ordinated look too. I like the white or creamy Potentillas, and they're good with white Spireas, as they're great for shadier sites too. I don't like the pink ones, but it all comes down to personal taste.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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