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Awkward space behind wall - ideas please

Hello, we have an awkward space between two walls and we'd love some ideas. There was a leggy privet hedge there, planted by the previous owner. We've been in the house over two years and last year started gradually making over the garden. We planted a laurel hedge along the rest the wall, but thought it would be nice to do something more interesting in the corner at the very front, the first view guests have of our house. The mains water shut-off is behind the wall which we've laid two blocks around to create a barrier and have access to.
As newbie gardeners, we're not sure what are realistic plans. I love ornamental trees, but I'm not sure a tree would grow happily there. The only other idea we have is a raised bed. We'd love some inspiration. 🙏🏻


  • Do you mean just that enclosed end section surrounded by the wall with blue coping stones?

    Lovely house, by the way. Lucky guests!
  • @Cambridgerose12
    Yep, just in there. You might notice we have very small spotted japonicas planted along the rest of the wall towards the house. Hopefully in 5-6 years time that will be a thriving hedge. 
  • So here's what you could do:

    First of all, I think you need to remove the old stumps of the privets. Aucubas are tough and may be OK with them left in there, but you don't want to give your new tree honey fungus. Also, you'll need to get rid of other bits and pieces in there so the site is clear, and dig it over. 

    That being done, I shouldn't think you'd have any trouble putting a tree in there and I'd recommend using a bare-rooted whip, which might seem small but will very quickly put on new growth. 

    My immediate thought is also that you really need two, one each side of your entrance, for best design effect. A variety that sprang to mind is Liquidambar 'Slender Silhouette', but they're a bit pricey! There are lots of other things you could try there; I'd go for a pair of the same variety. For example, you could use a little crabapple (Malus), rowan (Sorbus) or hawthorn (Crataegus) for an informal effect, or flowering cherries--nothing is more cheerful than, say, the winter-flowering Prunus x subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea'. Ideally you want something that can be grown into a single-stemmed lollipop shape or a column.

    If you fancy something a bit more formal then even things like a columnar beech--Fagus sylvatica 'Dawyck'--would work well, or Acer griseum. 

    I'd be cautious about birches, whose roots tend to undermine things.

    Mail Order Trees are good for sourcing bare root trees, but given your location and the current situation you may have to look more locally.

    Wishing you lots of fun with the garden!
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 10,811
    I echo Cambridgerose's suggestions but one point to bear in mind is that you will not want to block the line of sight either left or right comidriving out of your drive which could be dangerous, so a small tree with a single trunk might be better.
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • Thanks guys. I really would love to plant a couple of trees, like the slender, lollipop style. I'm very pleased to hear that they would grow there. Thanks so much @Cambridgerose12 for detailing certain trees that would work. I like the idea of a Rowan as I've been researching trees to attract birds. I also love Cornus Kousa's, we planted one in the bed behind the wall on the right, a Klaudia, seen from the above view of the whole front garden (we dug those beds ourselves last spring so the plants haven't quite established yet).

    We looked into removing the privet stumps, but it would cost us a small fortune to have a digger come out. We spent a week last year digging up some roots around the back, it was back-breaking and for a lot less than those privet roots! We're hoping the Aucubas will hide the ugliness eventually, but I see we need to think about the health of any new trees going in.

    We will be digging and raking up the area, as indeed it does need a lot of prep work. We also have some ground elder which we've been treating by painting the leaves. 

    @Lizzie27 yes, good thinking! We're not too worried though as we're one of three houses down our lane, and we're in the middle, so very little traffick. But certainly something to consider.

    The other thing is that we get fierce winds as we're quite high up. I have to stake everything, and I'm kicking myself for not planting a hedge within the front wall to protect all my lovely shrubs and flowers that I planted last year. Trees will be a little bit of extra protection, even if it's just from one side. 

    @Cambridgerose12 could I fit two trees in that area, or would that be pushing it?

    Again, thanks both sooo much! 
  • Cornus kousa would be good in the long run, but you'd have to wait a long time for it to bush out into a tree-like shape, and the space at the bottom is quite narrow. Also, I don't know whether you know this already--apologies--but they get their leaves very late, so you would just have bare branches until late April or early May.

    I also think you probably wouldn't want two trees there, largely from a design point of view. It would get very crowded and the effect would be lost. 

    You're so right about the difficulty of clearing the soil--had you not already planted the hedge, I would have suggested hiring a mini-digger to run along the entire row. But your tree will almost certainly languish if the roots are left in that spot, whether because the soil will be poor or because of fungi eating the old roots (over the years) that then attack your new plant. My own horror story was of clearing an entire bed of solid clay of a rampageous weed whose roots ran two feet deep. I discovered muscles I never knew I had!
  • B3B3 Posts: 24,450
    I think a rowan would look good there.
    Are you sure that tree roots would be ok with the water pipes?
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • @B3 I think so, it's only a small section where the pipes are, but we'll look more closely when we attend to the area. 
  • @Cambridgerose12 thanks for your detailed follow-up reply. I'll be reading over everything you've said again when we finally get to work. You're right about the Cornus Kousa, we'd be waiting a long time for it to take shape and it would be to large for the area.

    I particularly like the idea of an Amelanchier Alnifolia ‘Obelisk’ or 'Rainbow Pillar'. I'm unsure at the moment what the differences are between the two, but will do some more research. I think either of those would have the desired shape and effect.

    I think it's a great idea to have a tree either side of the gate, however, the side I've been talking about comes out further than the other wall (see pic). I'd have to plant the tree close to the gate so that it would be in line with the one on the other side. I thought I could then add a slightly raised bed in the nook of the wall and plant a small colourful shrub. I've added a pic which hopefully explains what I mean. Just wondering if you think that would work? Really appreciate your thoughts, thanks again for taking the time to advise me. 
  • To remove the stumps try one of these

    Lots of vids on you tube. You just make a tripod with some 3x2, attach some chain and jack away.
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