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My small garden needs colour!

Hi all,
My garden is so dull and this is the year to get it into shape! I'm stuck with the previous owner's hardscaping which means I don't have much planting space (or money for that matter!) but I want to add some colour and all year round interest. Underneath the topsoil it's clay (I'm new to this type of soil.) Plants need to be cat friendly (he eats things he shouldn't) and grandchildren friendly (one of them is allergic to bee/wasp stings.)
My ideas so far:
As you can see from the picture I have a nice small 'tree' and I would like the plants to be in scale to this so under 40cm (as indicated by the green line.) Where I've put no:1 I would like an evergreen, similar form and size to the rosemary (I'm hoping this will give balance?) Then where I've put no:2 I'm thinking a D.I.Y. solar fountain standing proud above the height of the flowers. I'm going to move the lavenders as they obscure the view of other plants.
I'd love to hear your ideas.
Also any advice on getting the green off the fence and cleaning dirty, uncared for Indian sandstone gratefully received!


  • delskidelski Posts: 274
    edited February 2021
    Welcome to the forum.
    Green fence - you can get some leave-on sprays that will remove (the colour) of the algae. It will come back after a couple of years though. My fence needs re-spraying with algae stuff and then re-painting. Wilko will sort me out for that.
    Sandstone - pressure washer will clean that up beautifully.
    I also like that tree you have - but if you lifted the canopy you could fit a greater variety of plants. It might even be a shrub that lends itself to cloud pruning. Could it be euonymus? Hard to see from the pic.
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,677
    How big is the patio area? If it was mine, and the patio is big enough for a table and chairs etc, I wouldn't bother with the lawn (pain in the bum lifting the mower up the steps for such a small area), but put in a circular path of stepping stones and fill the rest of the area with planting, lower in the front/centre and taller towards the edges/back.
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,735
    I would gravel the lawned area, as @JennyJ says it's very small.  That way you could have plants creeping from the border into the gravel.  You went get much growing immediately under the tree, due to well established roots, and it pulling up lots of water and nutrients.  Perhaps something like Cyclamen/Epimedium/Snowdrops would work, or ground cover such as Pachysandra or Vinca.  As you won't get much to grow directly under the tree, personally I wouldn't lift the canopy, as you will just be seeing more bare fence.  

    For colour, some of the Phormiums would work great in the border (Evening Glow, Platt's Black, Cream Delight), Abelia Kaleidoscope, Choisya Ternata, Physocarpus. Cotinus.  I would then fill in the gaps in between or in front of them with hardy Geraniums, Geum's or other smallish perennials.

    The fence is crying out for some climbers, two or three Clematis would add some colour, and soften it.
  • GrannyFlattGrannyFlatt Posts: 3
    edited February 2021
    Thanks Delski, I have pressure washed it before but I think I need a more powerful one and then something to seal/protect it afterwards. I'm hoping to unify the hardscaping as there's too many varieties in such a small space.
     I'll check Wilko for the algae remover.
    The tree is the only plant I really like in the garden, I'm trying to lift the foliage without ruining the shape.

    JennyJ the patio is big enough for a table and chairs. The little lawn makes me smile every time I mow it because it takes about 2 minutes to do whereas the lawn at my last house took ages because it was 100ft long. 

    Thanks for the plant ideas keenongreen, I'll check them out. The previous owner had planted climbers but they did not thrive so I'll replace them this year. I do screw cans to the fence with trailing plants in although I've removed them for the winte

  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,538
    Just a note re pressure washing and sandstone - use a circular brush attachment and be gentle - don’t get close with a naked jet spray as it can damage the surface and encourage yet more dirt and algae to collect in the pitted surface. It might take a few goes. If you use a cleaner, make sure it is alkaline, acid stone cleaners will dissolve the surface of the sandstone. Scrubbing with a very dilute solution of ammonia works. Try not to breathe the fumes and rinse well afterwards. Once clean, use a penetrating sealant suitable for sandstone. I use Lithofin cleaning and sealing products, they are excellent. Make sure you wear a protective mask, goggles and gloves whatever you use.
  • GrannyFlattGrannyFlatt Posts: 3
    edited February 2021
     Thanks Nollie. I did try scrubbing with thick bleach but it didn't work that well. I saw someone had used The Pink Stuff but not sure that was on Indian sandstone. Do you think the Lithofin will be better than the jet spray?
  • LTobyLToby Posts: 184
    Great seeing you in the forum, since you mentioned that you hang plants on your fence, a lovely cascading cat-friendly plant that likes both dappled light and shade is Lysimachia-congestiflora aka CreepingJenny with yellow green foliage and yellow flowers; cascading petunias and fuchsias are also non-toxic to cats, of course i assume that being a Cat-lover you know about the Catnip Nepeta, a semi-evergreen which cats love to play with. To add colours under or in-front of your tree are numerous colourful Heucheras, many are cat-friendly. Spotted White Rockrose aka Cistus monspeliensis is a lovely evergreen that is cat-friendly.
    Aberdeenshire, Scotland
  • If the algae on the fence are a persistent problem, you could try Cuprinol Shades on the fence panels. They have quite a lot of more sophisticated colours, and the good thing about them is that the fence lasts a lot longer and does not get algae. If you went for a really subtle, recessive colour it would be a very useful backdrop for your planting in front. 

    It probably won't be possible to move your lavenders without killing them, but you can plant other small plants in new spots, if you want, fairly inexpensively. As long as you are watchful, even quite small shrubs should develop well. I love the suggestions others have made so I'll just add my design ha'penn'orth: my feeling is that in the far corner where there is currently one of the lavender plants, you could add a tall and narrow shrub of some kind, to contrast with the rounded shapes either side. I would think of Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwoodii', something like that--you could keep it within bounds, eventually, by clipping. Something lightish in colour would be best. 
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 6,538
    Well you can do either or both, you can use a jet spray at a distance - just don’t be tempted to get too close as Indian sandstone is particularly soft - or as I say, better with a brush attachment.  For stubborn stains, Lithofin has a paste in a tube that you leave on for 10 minutes then rinse well, otherwise mop with their standard patio cleaner. I don’t know the pink stuff, but tried HG alkaline cleaner and that was useless!
  • LTobyLToby Posts: 184
    edited February 2021
    @GrannyFlatt Here are other cat-friendly plants 
    Cornus Alba 'Sibirica' (red twig dogwood) - evergreen, good in sunny and dappled light areas, deciduous but its twigs are lovely during Winter
    Cornus Alba 'Kesselringii' (dark twig dogwood) good in both sunny and dappled areas, with beautiful foliage that change colours from Spring to Winter, plus it has white beautiful berries, deciduous but its twigs are lovely during Winter
    Buddleja daviddii 'Santana' - has a reddish flower, likes any soil, and hardy, however deciduous; some buddleja cultivars have purple, white, blue and pink flowers


    Aberdeenshire, Scotland
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