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New House, new garden, new to gardening - lessons to learn!!

Can't see anywhere to just say hi and introduce myself, so first post is here.

I'll be asking a lot of questions. This is our first proper garden that is close to being ours when it new n house purchase goes through. And we've got a humdinger too. The whole area is widely limestone outcrops but I'm not sure what this garden has. It's steep with almost complete tree cover. Great for our kid with all the little paths, hiding and seating spots around it. Decent size too, possibly way too big to manage as a formal read immaculate garden considering we're active with our son and other activities n out and about.

First job when we get the keys, probably for me before I do anything with the house but that might not work out as I plan, is to cut things back. This is expected to be in January. I believe winter is best time to cut trees and shrubs back. Whatever the case it's been empty property for a while and garden is overgrown. I need to cut low growing plants back as there's a kind of ground spreading vine like plant that's a major trip hazard on the paths. Strim and hack to tidy up. In the future we'd like to open a few places up for the sun, sitting, BBQ, etc. Perhaps spots like mini clearings to grow a little veg and fruit. I'm thinking a few shade tolerant plants like raspberry. If gooseberry plants grow well in shade or edge of tree cover then I'll be very happy.

Anyway, if anyone wants to suggest what to do to a tree and large shrub covered, steeply sloping garden I'm open to suggestions. I'm thinking garden versions of British native forest plants. Lesser periwinkle,  primrose (is it primula vulgaris??) for example. Bloodroot I heard too. Lots of white flowered woodland plants so the blue periwinkle, lesser for less vigorous spread, might be good.

Any fruit trees work in shade?

As I said, we've got an interesting first garden. Not many start off with the twin difficulties of steep slope and complete tree cover!! Ideas are low for me. I also would like tool advice? I'm a kind of half newbie. I've grown up with keen gardeners and very knowledgeable ones. My Grandad (dad's side) was of the old school with all those little tips and tricks that get lost in time. My dad used to live in his garden when not working or out and about. I grew up not needing to ask where he was. Apparently there's a big commercial growing link with a great or double great granddad running some nurseries of some kind. It's in the blood but I've never had a garden before. Plus I've forgotten more about gardening than some people ever learn. As a kid I got nerdy about it and used to be able to give Latin names for plants, not now. I need help now with the details.


  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,231
    Hello Joe,

    Welcome to the forum.

    And welcome to gardening. I’ve been gardening for sixty odd years and I’m still learning, so don’t worry.

    Steep slope? Got it. Who in Derbyshire hasn’t?

    Limestone? Got it in parts. White Peak/Dark Peak boundary.

    Firstly, don’t be in a rush to change what is there. Begin first on the house renovation/improvements and when it’s time for a brew take a little walk around and make notes. What is there is there because it likes it. You could go introducing new plants and find that they don’t want to play.

    Limestone is very difficult, partly because the pH is wrong for a lot of plants, but also because it doesn’t hold water. Very dry a lot of the time. Those trees will be helping to hold the water on the surface because of their roots and because of their shade. Because it doesn’t hold water, it doesn’t hold nutrients. Very poor soil on limestone slopes. Just take a walk in the White Peak in summer - the grass is barely up to your ankles. Not many luxuriant gardens of Eden grow on limestone.

    Secondly, you have yourself a little nature reserve there. Start chopping stuff down or tearing stuff up, especially in the early spring, and you will be depriving birds and other wildlife from finding nesting sites. Tradition has it that the birds choose their partners on St Valentine’s Day. Put up some bird feeders and a trail cam and see who is visiting your garden when your back is turned. You will be amazed. Take away the cover and they’ll move away and leave you on your todd.

    Anyway, there you are.😁

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 6,935
    Welcome to the forum  :)
    I agree with @pansyface, don't go charging in chopping things back, no matter how tempting it might be. Apart from the wildlife aspect,  there may be plant treasures lurking in the undergrowth. 
    The best thing to do would to be to post photos (not too many !), just to give forum members an idea of what you're dealing with, one section at a time. I'd also advise dividing it into small sections to deal with one bit at a time. Start from the back door so that when you look out of the window, you can see progress being made, and l'm assuming you'd want easy access to a washing line, bins etc.
    As for tools, a spade, fork, secateurs, hand fork, trowel,  loppers, and possibly a mattock spring to mind.
    Sounds like it's going to be fun !

  • So true about animals. Due to current timescales for purchases to go through, 10 weeks they reckon, it'll probably be the new year early on for the move. I think if I get a move on I could clear the house end in January. It's a funny garden with a fence cutting the garden in half to two thirds. The top half is simply natural with path to the back gate and a local footpath. I think working up from the bottom in January, mostly cutting growth back from the paths should not stop wildlife.

    Obviously I plan on habitat piles tucked away. Bundles of cut branches make for a good habitat pile. Both shelter and source of food through the bugs it collects. I used to volunteer with a conservation charity and this was common practice with woodland rejuvenation. When land reclamation is caused it by tree planting they often over plant so 20 years later on we went in and felled a lot and cleared undergrowth. Love the long handled (Yorkie) billhook for that. Might look at getting one instead of an electric strimmer, brush cutter.

    I'm thinking that any introduction of new plants would be garden versions of natural, British plants. Round here Ransomes and primroses are quite naturally found. I'm thinking lesser periwinkle for its ground cover but not too vigorous. Not sure of pH and whether that would take. A bit of googling of plants I think. Certainly like the idea of British native species or their close relatives/garden versions for undeplanting what's there if possible.

    Thing is I want to make it useable hence the immediacy of my work schedule for cutting back.

    Definitely a going to get a wildlife cam. Think I need to get back in and look for signs of wildlife trails through the garden.
  • Mattocks or pick? Perhaps a wrecking bar of decent length too. I found them useful with conservation work I used to do.

    The idea I had was work from rear patio up and down the path network clearing out the growth over the path. Then between paths I'm thinking of not doing as much. I don't know what's there and TBH there could be native plants that legally in the countryside you can't dig up or pick. I know in private gardens they're fair game but not in my opinion. Native species are a blessing you work around.

    BTW there's an amazing plant life in this neck of the woods including IIRC one of very few lady slipper orchids in the country about 4 miles away. It got stolen by orchid thieves but they later found out it wasn't completely taken and it came back. The nearest village had volunteers guarding it 24/7 while flowering each year apparently.

    I don't think wait and see what's there won't completely work but I reckon it I only clear out the paths I doubt I'll take that much out. Afterall it's only grown out from the borders and there should be enough left there.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,231
    edited 18 October
     Perhaps a wrecking bar of decent length too. I found them useful with conservation work I used to do. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

    Eh, er, ahum......
    Sorry. 😁
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Great for various levering and moving rocks out of the way and breaking up hard, rocky ground. Afterall they're simply long, heavy, metal bars with the newer ones having rather sharp ends for cutting roots too. I've got a feeling i might have the ground that's a bit too rocky in places for a spade or forks. I've been given/offloaded an old border forks from my dad which shows clearly what happens when the grounds too rocky. Middle tine is right out of shape. I've used picks and Mattocks before but sometimes the bar got the job done when they couldn't. Probably get both though. Can't have the work stopped by not having the tool for the job right?
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 2,591
    The "ground spreading vine like plant" could be ivy. If it is, you'll not kill it by pulling away what's encroaching on the paths. It's probably heading up the trees as well. Post some pictures after you've moved in and I'm sure you'll get plenty more advice and plant IDs, if you need them.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 17,231

    I laughed because I used to do conservation work. I used to conserve rare books. The philosophy was to conserve, i.e. keep, as much of the original stuff as you could.

    The opposite of conservation work was restoration work. Restoration could involve ripping off a mouldy old cover and pasting together bits of pages, as the result was to make the book function like a new one, not be what the original maker gave you.

    The juxtaposition of “wrecking” and “conservation” in one sentence just seemed hilarious to me.

    The right tool is always good, joe.

    I’ve known a few right tools in my time.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 6,246
    Welcome, Joe!   :)

    I'd second the desire for photos, please, to help us give you sound advice - and I'd also second the idea of taking things slowly, so you don't hack away at something in the winter (when it's hard to do proper identification of deciduous trees and shrubs) and regret it once growth starts in spring.  Clearing paths, and obvious hazards to little ones like trailing brambles, is a different matter, of course.  

    It's so exciting, taking on a new garden.  We did that a year ago and I've scarcely made a dent yet in what needs doing, but it's all good...   :)
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 7,064
    edited 18 October
    I will join the chorus. The advice is always to wait a year or more before doing any work. Get to know the soil, sun movements, water flow, which plants you have. Pour your ethusiasm into research and communing with your land. Raze nothing, build nothing, buy nothing. Enjoy the lack of work. Talk to your neighbours who can tell you about the earth, the ph, the drainage and rain patterns, the advantages and disadvantages of the area, the things that love or hate to grow locally. They can hopefully tell you about local resources - places to hire tools, tree surgeons, places to get manure, compost, bark, gravel.

    It sounds like you have a wonderful wildlife haven. Manicuring was never going to help that.

    Where abouts in the country are you? If you want regular advice here, it's very useful to add your location in your settings - as you can see others have done.

    Enjoy and best wishes with a peaceful winter in the new house.
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