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Shrub or small tree for shelter from the wind

puschkiniapuschkinia BrightonPosts: 200
I'm looking for a shrub/small tree (somewhere in the circled spot) that can provide some shelter from wind in my front garden. It's south-facing and full sun so I thought I could plant whatever I wanted, but it seems it's a trickier spot than I realised: south-facing, full sun, completely exposed, very windy, shallow chalk soil (improved it lots by changing the topsoil + adding a little extra depth). 

A neighbour with an almost identical house & front garden has a beautiful californian lilac (not sure which cultivar) so in Autumn I planted one too - a snow flurry - despite RHS saying it's not good for exposed places. Unfortunately it's dying so that was a mistake. I don't know whether Eunice killed it or it was never going to survive.

Does anyone have something they can recommend? Something that can withstand the wind and protect the rest of the plants a bit, but also look nice :wink:. I'm happy to be flexible, but ideally it would:
1. be fragrant
2. have year-round interest
3. could be crown-lifted or shaped as a small tree to make it look a little prettier

Other plants I've got so far are a young peach tree, mexican fleabane (can move them if needs be) and lady of shallot (in a container, which currently is in a bizarre spot but will move). I'll be planting thunbergia alata & verbena bonariensis there later in the year. Ideally the shrub would match those at least a bit.

There's a height restriction in my garden, so I'd need to keep it at around 2-3m max

I've scoured the RHS database for ages but haven't found anything. I was thinking perhaps a shrubby honeysuckle, but I'm not sure whether the site would be too hot & exposed for them. I love hawthorns but I think it'd get too big. Maybe a lavatera? V. tinus seems to grow well around here but I'm a bit (perhaps unnecessarily) scared of viburnum beetle - a stink is not the fragrance I was looking for :lol:  


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  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 11,015
    I think, looking at your criteria, a shrub would perhaps be better than a tree. My first thought was perhaps some kind of pittosporum, but there are several here that might do. (I just picked this site at random).
    A shame about the ceanothus, but they can be very hit and miss.
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze I garden in South Notts on an improved clay soil Posts: 3,121
    Think I would dig up the lawn and plant some grasses.
    The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker,for it involves hours of walking round in circles,apparently doing nothing. Helen Dillon.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Wirral (free draining sandy soil)Posts: 1,754
    A multi-stemmed shrub would look good there.  There's a columnar Sambucus that might suit, it has delicate dark foliage, fragrant flowers and berries which attract birds called Sambucus nigra f. porphyrophylla Black Tower.   There's a green leaved version too called "Golden Tower".  They both thrive on chalky sites. (I'd choose the dark leaved version as it will provide contrast with your other plants.)   You may need to provide some protection from high winds until the plant is well established and woody.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,330
    I don't think shrubby honeysuckle would be right - lonicera nitida is a good windbreak but it's not fragrant or particularly interesting. lonicera fragrantissima is a big sprawling plant that is permanently untidy - delicious in winter but quite scrappy the rest of the year.

    What about smaller shrubs like philadelphus Manteau d'hermine and/or prunus 'Kojo-no-mai'? Both stand up to the wind pretty well and you can underplant with bulbs for winter interest
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • MarlorenaMarlorena East AngliaPosts: 7,134
    As you're by the seaside, I would plant a shrub for coastal locations..

    Olearia macrodonta, the usual form is 'Major' but there is a dwarf form called 'Minor'.. I've grown both.

    The usual form grows to about 3 mtres over time, but easily controlled.  The foliage is Holly like but soft, not sharp.  White corymbs of strongly scented flowers in summer, attracts insects..   thrives on chalk and is totally windproof.  Can also be pruned lower down as it has attractive flaky bark.
  • puschkiniapuschkinia BrightonPosts: 200
    Thanks for your suggestions everyone, really helpful.

    @AnniD - some of the pittosporums are really pretty! do you know if they respond ok to some stronger pruning to keep them from getting too big?

    @GardenerSuze - I kind of want to remove the lawn too, but DH wants to keep it. Could clear out some more to make room for larger beds though. Would grasses get tall enough to provide shelter? I'd thought maybe they were too low

    @Plantminded I think I prefer the green one and planting a native shrub would be great, but I'm a bit worried about how I'd shelter it until it became strong enough to withstand the winds. I have windbreak fabric that I used for the peach tree, but it just blew away :t:tired_face:

    Good to know about the loniceras @raisingirl. I'd looked at philadelphus but it seemed they might be too wide for the space and I couldn't find any pictures on google suggesting they could be kept neater. I absolutely love kojo no mai though - I have one planted in that terracotta container! I'd assumed they wouldn't be able to deal with strong winds - is that not right? If they'd be ok then that would be perfect!
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze I garden in South Notts on an improved clay soil Posts: 3,121
    @pushkina I grow Miscanthus Kleine Fontane it is in my front garden and looks fab in November lit by a street light. It can be a real problem to lift and split.  I was fed up dragging a lawn mower out to my front garden, so now it is one big border full of plants, bees and insects
    The most serious gardening I do would seem very strange to an onlooker,for it involves hours of walking round in circles,apparently doing nothing. Helen Dillon.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,330
    I've got both the prunus and the philadelphus in my garden, which is very windy. I have heavier soil than you but according to the RHS, either would be OK with chalk. The philadelphus is growing very slowly, probably because of the wind - something to bear in mind is that the sizes they give for plants are often based on quite ideal conditions and on a windy site with shallow soil, in many cases they'll be smaller than you're expecting. The upside is it can make them flower more as well, if you care for them well
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 11,015
    I think generally speaking, pittosporum are usually only lightly pruned. If you do that once or even twice a year you would be able to keep it neat. A lot depends on the variety.
    You can hard prune into an established shrub but it wouldn't grow back very quickly, but as you would be starting from scratch as it were, that shouldn't be a problem  :)
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,330
    edited March 2022
    In my limited experience, pittosporum aren't all that good with the wind. Most evergreens aren't, but it is a very cold wind we get here. By the sea, it may be less of an issue.
    Euonymus, lonicera nitida and the olearia that Marlorena suggested are the notable exceptions, along with things like holly and juniper that you probably wouldn't want in that small space.
    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
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