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Japanese garden bed help required

Hi all - Hope we're all enjoying the sun! I was hoping some kind folk could help give their opinions on a garden design problem I'm having.

The end of my garden doesn't get a huge amount of sun (south facing garden with the house in the north end) and I've long neglected it. However after having a new kitchen extension we now look out on this area the most and I need to get it sorted! My intention is to make it into a japanese-themed space, and I already have some hostas, an acer, azalea and ferns that do quite well there. But there is a big wall & fence behind it all that I really want to screen out. As it doesn't get much sun keeping the wooden fence clean is hard (it's always green with algae) and it's love to create some depth by lining it with some sort of plant.

Initially I was considering bamboo, but after being steered away from non-clumping varieties and looking at clumping it seems that the options for shade-loving varieties that are still tall enough are thin and still can cause problems (I have a nosy neighbour on the other side and the last thing I need is rogue bamboo).

I'm having trouble thinking of some japanese alternatives and the best option I'm left with is going something just middle of the road such as laurel or privet as a neutral green background from which to make the japanese theme stand out (a nice lime green privet could work well there I'm thinking). I know it's not Japanese but perhaps I can also clip it sympathetically for at least a gentle nod towards that style.

Another option is to have some of the wall visible as I know there are some stone structures in japanese gardens, and to grow some ferns on a hanging planter half way up. No wrong or right answers I know, but I would just love to hear some other thoughts!

I've attached an image of the wall & bed in question (you can notice it's in shade at midday) - please excuse the state of everything, the whole garden has been a building site and it's both been almost inaccessible and sadly not a priority till recently! I'd be making the bed a lot deeper too. Thanks so much!!


  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,452
    We did a little Japanese area in a corner between a green house and fence. We've moved it now and I'm not sure where the pictures are from a year ago. To hide the fence, white hydrangeas,not the mop head  variety,happy in shade, definitely Japanese. Acer's. We put large bamboo in pots. That's the fence sorted. Ferns in hanging baskets,-kokedama, would fit the bill. If you don't have young children who are going  to trample on it,white shingle area,we made ,"dry river bed" from pebbles. Bought a stone Lion and Lantern. Hubby made a red bridge to go over the "river"
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,236
    If you don't mind a bit of pruning, you could use Lonicera nitida, and cloud prune it. That would grow fairly quickly, and would be far more attractive than laurel or privet. The golden ones grow quite happily in shadier positions too. Pyracantha can be treated like that too. 
    Laurel, in particular, will get massive and outgrow your border a bit too easily. Evergreen cotoneaster could be trained against it more easily to give a background. 
    You could also try painting the fence black or very dark green, so that it disappears a bit more. Then pick a couple of other suitable shrubs for the foreground. The Japanese azaleas are the obvious, but even something like an ornamental quince would be a nice spring shrub. Alternatively, a white Rhododendron would hide a fair bit of that fence. Many of them get to a good size fairly quickly with the right care. Cunningham's White is a good doer. The oak leaf Hydrangea is particularly good too - with beautiful autumn colouring, and would fit well in the space. They get to a good height as well with nice white panicles of flowers in later summer. White is great for shady aspects. They also have a good framework of branches when dormant. 
    If you want to keep the wall a bit more visible, you could get some wire supports on the fence and grow an early clematis along it, keeping it clear of the wall. That would allow you the room for your lower growing ferns and hostas etc. One grass that's really good is Hakonechloa. There are a few different varieties, but any of the brighter ones will be excellent with your ferns. Some subtle Hellebores for the understory would also look good there. 
    A couple of suitable statues can be added where appropriate too. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,245
    Just grow your bamboo in very large pots, or go for Fargesia murielae etc that are much less invasive. Agree re white hydrangea, a variety like H. paniculata 'Kyushu' would be good. (The paniculatas are Japanese). Don't forget camellias, a very traditional and symbolic Japanese plant, a white flowered form could work well. Miscanthus are also classically Japanese. The broader leaved types look more 'Japanese' to me.
  • ErgatesErgates Posts: 2,202
    I’ve seen flowering quince grown against walls and fences. Very traditional Japanese look. How about a fake moon window? It would look great with a mirror in it, but I’ve heard that can be dangerous for birds, who might try to fly through it. Maybe instead paint the centre in a pale grey or blue/grey, and paint some fake bamboo canes and leaves to simulate a view?
    If you can afford it, a couple of decent size rocks would add colour and texture contrast in the flower bed, and they don’t mind being in the shade!
  • B3B3 Posts: 25,280
    Quince against a fence is really easy to do. Pruning doesn't affect the flowers as it flowers on old wood.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,452
    Moon gate, not mirror.we even painted the potting shed and summer house black. Yes do good size rocks or really big pebbles.soon have you saying KONNICHIWA!
  • I think Pruning doesn't affect the flowers. Because my friends were told me that.
  • dilbydilby Posts: 73
    Apologies for the late reply friends - life has been... let's say interesting! These are all great ideas and I appreciate them. I'll lean towards not painting the fence, especially dark, because the moss really shows up on it and it's dark grey now (well before it turned green!) Cleaning it is a nightmare as it's feather edging and the water runs down the neighbours fence staining it and he can be fussy. I really like the idea of Lonicera nitida from @Fairygirl so am going to see what I can find!
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