Forum home Garden design

Which plants?

We have a small plot of grass at the front of the house. Next Tuesday, the old dead shrubs are being pulled up and the ground will be levelled. I want to create a border up the side (not high fence or wall separating my house from next door) of the garden towards the house and then along the front under the front room window.
Garden faces west. I don't want anything thats going to climb as theres wires and things out the front of the house for internet etc or anything thats going to be too big. What kind of plants can I put out there? I'll be filling the boarders with bought soil because I can't dig whats already there (too much work for my hands and back). Thinking of a English/Country garden look.


  • Any chance you could post a photo, @chriscavell0683? It would help in visualising it.
  • If you’re filling the borders with bought soil does that mean they are raised beds and how deep will they raised beds? Amasking as they do drain more quickly so may influence our suggestions. Also how wide will the beds be?
     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
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,797
    edited February 2021
    Beware of raising the soil level too high and breaching the Damp Course of the house wall. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • chriscavell0683chriscavell0683 Posts: 48
    edited February 2021
    Sort of raised beds but no bottom to them other than the soil which I cant dig.
    Depth of the wood is about 10cm. I'm thinking of going 6cm to 8cm max.
    Width around 40cm. 
    Our damp coursing is 150mm from the floor so weve got some clearance

  • Are you planning to replace all the lawn with a border, @chriscavell0683? It would be a good decision in terms of maintenance, as perennials, once established, don't require as much regular maintenance as a lawn. This looks like an exciting project.

    In your shoes, the first thing I'd think about would be adding some shrubs along the outer perimeter of your garden that would screen the cars beyond. They will also make a nice backdrop for a bed of perennials inside. There are lots you could choose from, but ideally you don't want something that will become too massive. You'd need a mixture of deciduous and evergreen shrubs, and you could aim at things that will add flowers when your perennials are hibernating overwinter. Plants like Viburnum x bodnantense, Osmanthus, Physocarpus, Berberis, Philadelphus, Weigela--especially the variegated forms--will give you a mix of textures and some flowers. If you can, keep the large evergreen shrub with pink flowers, which I presume is a Camellia. If it is, then you obviously have acid soil.

    In terms of planting in the central area, depending on your budget, you could go for inexpensive perennials, even some grown from seed. For best effect, you'll again want to mix up your textures and have feathery things offset by more solid plants. I would suggest moving from taller plants at the back (where the shrubs would be), with lower ones as you come towards the front of the house. You look to have a nice open site there where lots of things will flourish, particularly in new topsoil.

    Some of the really traditional cottage garden plants don't offer as much in terms of flower power and health as some more recently fashionable plants, so I'm going to recommend some really good stalwart performers. But every garden is different and (disclaimer) you will almost certainly find some of the things you plant don't do well, no matter how much effort you put in. The vast majority will thrive though, don't worry, providing they're properly watered in their first season or two.

    Tall perennials: 
    Asters, now divided into millions of new genera. 'Little Carlow' is a good doer, also 'Dark Lady'. Old Court Nurseries have a good selection:
    Sanguisorba. 'Pink Elephant' and 'Blackthorn' are good tall forms. You could have something like Achillea 'Gold Plate' in front of this. 
    Anemone x hybrida, especially 'Honorine Jobert' and 'Queen Charlotte'

    Medium perennials:
    Persicaria amplexicaule in all its forms is a long-flowering plant. It has similar spiky flowers to the Sanguisorba, so don't plant them too close together. 
    Aster pyrenaeus 'Lutetia', Aster x frikartii
    [You could also have some self-seeded poppies in here.]
    Campanulas such as persicifolia
    Ageratina altissima 'Chocolate'
    Salvia 'Mainacht'
    Day lilies (Hemerocallis)
    Centranthus ruber, though you need to watch out that this doesn't become a nuisance
    Hardy Chrysanthemums for October, which would look nice against the autumn colour of a Berberis
    Geraniums--the long-flowering new sorts are best, including 'Rozanne', 'Lilac Ice', 'Pink Penny', 'Sirak', 'Dreamland'. But you could also go for some of the big and bold magenta ones like 'Patricia' or 'Dragon Heart'. A more traditional cottage garden plant is Geranium pratense, which is gorgeous, but only flowers quite briefly.
    Lychnis coronaria

    Front perennials:
    Alchemilla mollis, Bergenia and Sedum spectabile are all widely available and would give you a solid effect to balance the more airy, taller perennials.
    Campanula glomerata makes a nice carpet, as do pinks, which are a very traditional cottage garden plant.
    Another good plant for the front is Geranium x cantabrigiense, or else Geranium sanguineum 'Elke'.
    Shorter forms of Nepeta like 'Walker's Low' are also good and long-flowering.

    Among seed-grown things, you could look at sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis), poppies (Papaver somniferum, P. rhoeas), honesty (Lunaria annua), toadflax, lupins, perhaps foxgloves if you have a bit of shade.

    Simple rules for planting: put the tallest at the back (from your viewpoint); mix up your textures (strongly vertical plants next to rounded ones--you can put them in place in their pots, then move them around until you're happy). Buy in odd numbers (3, 5, 7 small plants of the same variety, e.g., except where the individual plants become very large, like Persicaria) and plant each variety together in a cluster to fill a rounded area; water well, allow to become a bit dry, then water well again, rather than in dribs and drabs every day. Before planting, ideally you'd want to make notes on the height and spread of each variety you choose (though in real life plants don't always conform to those). Oh, and don't forget, you can add bulbs in the autumn...

    You can look at quite a lot of these here:
  • Thank you for all the info @Cambridgerose12 , I'll re read it properly later on (when the kiddo is in bed and i have some peace lol)
    I hadn't thought too much about the lawn to be honest. I might have a look at some ideas online now though. 
    The "border" between our house and next door is only about three bricks high so I wouldn't want to go too high there incase it starts to encroach on their garden. 
    You've given me lots to think about lol
  • TMI :smiley:

    Well, you can always use some of the above medium or small plants in the bed under the window, but it's very small, so it will be hard to get a really successful cottage garden effect, especially as the soil will be quite dry so close to the house. Centranthus, Crocosmia and Hemerocallis would be your best bet...
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,160
    That's a really lovely camellia you've got in front and I would be tempted to plant a few more or even a few azealas/rhodas along the front boundary. Down the side between your neighbours and yourself, I would keep it simple and low maintenance, perhaps some small rose bushes or hebes, nothing that would grow too big and need constant pruning. Then you could concentrate your English cottage garden look along the front of the house, perhaps making the bed at least 1 metre wide to accommodate a few more plants of different heights and widths. You would have to ensure that everything you plant is happy in acid soil, even if you put new topsoil on top.   
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • Thanks @Lizzie27 it was here when we bought the house. I'll confess that we just leave her to do her thing and never had any problems, we quickly trim on the pavement side so that everyone can get past but thats it lol.
Sign In or Register to comment.