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fast climbers and shrubs for clay soil and north / north west facing wall

Caro_GCaro_G Posts: 4
Hello all,

I need help with a tricky spot in my garden.
I moved to a garden flat on the coast in East Sussex. The car park and flats across the street overlook it. I am looking for climbers and shrubs to grow a privacy screen / wildlife hedge. The space is in light shade most of the day, tight (about 7m long and 3m deep including a path to access the whole length), and north / north west facing. This is not an area to spend time in, so I would like to make it as wildlife friendly (and wild) as possible. The garden is full of one type of hydrangea so I would like some variety.

Ideally, the plants would : 
- grow fast to reach 2.5m to 3m
- be resistant to coastal wind
- be wildlife friendly (food and / or shelter)
- evergreen or providing a twiggy screen in winter

So far, I have in mind firethorn, hawthorn and fothergilla major. Possibly chaenomeles japonica although it doesn't seem to grow very tall.
Would anyone have feedback on my choices or better alternatives to suggest ?

Cheers !


  • Fothergilla is lovely but notoriously fickle, so might not be ideal. For wildlife-friendly plants, you want a combination of shrubs that provide cover and ones that provide food in the form of berries and nuts. I cannot speak with authority about seaside gardens per se, but some fast-growing and beautiful shrubs that fall into these categories are as follows. Hopefully the seaside experts will be able to advise on which work:

    Crataegus (hawthorn) and blackthorn--both can be used for hedging.
    Cotoneaster--lots of good forms here, but check out Cotoneaster lacteus (evergreen) and C. franchetii (not evergreen, but could also be used in a hedge and has beautiful autumn colours).
    Hazel--there are some nice forms of common hazel, such as Corylus avellana 'Purpurea', which will carry nuts and also associate well with other hedging-type plants.
    Elder, especially the very ornamental form 'Eva' with dissected, purple leaves and pink flowers.
    Wild-type roses: although these will not grow low down in shade, you could use a specimen of Rosa pimpinellifolia or Rosa rugosa (which cope with seaside conditions) in your sunniest spot, or let a wild rose like Rosa arvensis, Rosa canina or Rosa rubiginosa scramble through your other shrubs.
    Ivy is also good to get established, particularly in a shady garden; it will provide nectar and then berries.

    Your best bet is probably to select just a small number of these shrubs and retain an open space, otherwise you risk it turning into an impenetrable thicket within a few years. 

  • Caro_GCaro_G Posts: 4
    Thank you so much for all these slecific suggestions and helpful advice. The combination of shade / North facing and clay soil proves a real challenge!
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,432
    Ever green honeysuckle,roses love the clay,rugosa get pretty tall 3 colours,loved butterfly and need, wonder if you live anywhere me
  • Caro_GCaro_G Posts: 4
  • FireFire Posts: 17,116
    edited April 2021

    Also buddleja for wildlife and speed of growth.

    Both plants can be cut back as hard as you want, shaped and can grow tall if desired. Both are tough as old boots, flower well and not fussy about soils.

  • Caro_GCaro_G Posts: 4
    Good to know, thank you! 
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