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Taming and replacing brambles

Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453
Hi All

We have a stony slope in the garden which has got lots of very established bramble plants on it.  There are also self-seeded ash trees, mostly about 8-15' tall, plus a fair few of those tall white daisy-like flowers, and various other weeds. Last year I put some London Pride in and it's a long way from taking over but is managing to hold its own.
Last year I cut the brambles back as they'd been left far too long and were a real jungle, and this week I've spent a couple of days cutting back last year's growth and digging out as much of the biggest plants as I can. I realise you can't easily dig out brambles anyway, but now my dear OH says he wants to leave the brambles as they help hold the slope together. Personally I hate the damn things because their rampant growth means they demand attention otherwise they take over the world and stop us getting to our caravan which is parked at the bottom of the slope. We have a ridiculously big garden and I don't have the time or inclination for this annual prickly chore, made all the more perilous by having to scale a loose stony slope with cutting gear in hand.
We don't ever use the fruit, although there's never very much of it, but a bit of research this morning revealed that the fruit grows on last year's wood, so since I chopped it all back last year there won't be anything this year.
My aim therefore is to tame some of the brambles and kill off as many of the rest as I can, and replace them with something that needs rubbish soil and has an extensive route system but isn't a thug. Oh, and it needs to grow quickly, need little to no attention, look pretty and smell nice too! (clearly I'm in lockdown delirium as no such plant exists)
The slope faces west but is partly shaded by the caravan after about midday.

So if I let some of the plants grow this year, I believe I need to let some side shoots grow because that's where the fruit is, so my aim is to allow a couple of side shoots on some plants and then take off the growing tips.  Will that work? These things chuck out main stems up to 30' long when unchecked, which just then root further along the slope, which I really don't want, so if I'm not going to use the fruit am I simply better to keep cutting it down to the ground and leave the roots to hold the slope together?

Any thoughts for a replacement that I can shove in, water a couple of times and then forget? Or is the whole endeavour just blackberry pie in the sky and I might just as well tell dear OH that it's his problem and he needs to get some thornproof gloves?

This was the slope two days into cutting it back last year.....


And this is it this morning...looking back at the above pic I can see it was nowhere near as bad this time around


Grateful as ever for any thoughts, thanks
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Posts

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,196
    It looks like an ideal wildlife habitat to me.

    Or it did..
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,172
    Get rid of the brambles and you’ll have a soil erosion problem on your hands unless you spend money on some geotextile matting or similar to hold the bank in place for a few years while you establish something else equally tenacious and rampant to hold the soil in place. 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453
    pansyface said:
    It looks like an ideal wildlife habitat to me.

    Or it did..
    We're not short on wildlife or habitat here, so that's not a particular concern. For me it was an eyesore that also made it difficult getting past, so I am/was hopeful that something else could grow there and make an equally good habitat without thorns and rampant growth, but maybe not.
  • Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453
    Get rid of the brambles and you’ll have a soil erosion problem on your hands unless you spend money on some geotextile matting or similar to hold the bank in place for a few years while you establish something else equally tenacious and rampant to hold the soil in place. 
    The soil isn't open to the elements at all as it has a 4-6" layer of stones on top of it, most of them at least 3" around, so I thought it would be less susceptible to erosion anyway.  There are a couple of big pine trees growing nearby so it is relatively sheltered from direct rain, and because of the camber of the road, the rain doesn't tend to run down the slope from the road, which also helps. But maybe it doesn't.  I don't know much about soil erosion really.
  • TopbirdTopbird Mid SuffolkPosts: 7,580
    Vinca seems to thrive in my bone dry, partially shaded, very poor (under huge ash tree) soil and it throws down roots wherever it touches the soil. Left to it's own devices it forms quite dense, evergreen ground cover with lots of roots. Pretty spring flowers (no scent). Even if it needs cutting back it's not thorny.

    Same thing with various coloured Lamiums and woodruff.


    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453
    @Topbird, that's more like what I'm after, thanks 😊
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,391
    Alchemilla mollis may do well there too and has very, very tough roots which will help.  Self-seeds if it is happy.
    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453
    Thanks @BobTheGardener, the name rings a bell so maybe it's one of those plants on my list to one day look up! 
    Just to reassure anyone about wildlife habitat, these are just some of the areas that are left for that purpose. The bottom pic has a rampant but not very flowering honeysuckle on it, plus geraniums and aquilegias, lots of herb Robert and assorted weeds. The felled tree is waiting for end of lockdown to be planked to make garden furniture, with odd bits placed round the garden to rot and make bug nests 

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,291
    edited April 2020
    Looks very similar gradient to my bank and I use Vinca Major too.
    I also have Cotoneaster horizontalis which covers a fair bit of the bank and protects it from the weather.  It does need the odd branch pruning off from time to time, when it gets over enthusiastic, but it gives pretty flowers in early summer which the bees love, berries in autumn for the birds and is currently being used as a nest site by the blackbird I believe :)
    The other thing I have you may not want as it is thorny, which is the ground cover rose 'Max Graf'. It grows behind and into the cotoneaster and covers some ground, but is much better behaved than brambles and looks lovely when covered in pink roses. It has been there for years and I can't remember ever having pruned it. Was thinking about doing it this year, as there is a bit of dead wood on the stem ends, but then there's the birds' nests so... not till August anyway!
  • Stephanie newish gardenerStephanie newish gardener Aberdeenshire/Moray coastPosts: 453
    Looks very similar gradient to my bank and I use Vinca Major too.
    One other thing I have you may not want as it is thorny, which is the ground cover rose 'Max Graf'. It grows behind and into the cotoneaster and covers some ground, but is much better behaved than brambles and looks lovely when covered in pink roses. It has been there for years and I can't remember ever having pruned it. Was thinking about doing it this year, as there is a bit of dead wood on the stem ends, but then there's the birds' nests so... not till August anyway!



    I'd be happy with a rose because presumably it at least has flowers. Even when left alone these brambles don't flower much, they just seem intent on spreading further along the slope and onto the lawn. Have decided for now to concentrate on digging out the newest brambles at the bottom of the slope, but will be looking into vinca and others this evening 🙂
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