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New Border Novice Gardener

Hello all,

Am a novice gardener looking to start a new border up against a fence.

Space is 90 cm deep by 4 meters long.

Soil is quite dense, and hard to dig with a spade.  Fence facing northeast. 

Having done some research we were thinking about adding some hardy evergreens alongside some annuals to get us started then see how we go.  The plan is to add 2 climbers to partially cover the fence.  

At the front, we were going to go with 3 types of Hebe 

Along the back we were thinking about:
Fuchsia (my wife's favorite)
Californian Lilac - evergreen shrub
Magnolia - evergreen climber 
Clematis - 'early sensation'

Comments on the plan are welcome, not sure which Hebes to go for at present.

Also, anyone got thoughts on the annuals we could select?

What should I do by way of soil prep am assuming a bag of compost (non-peat) dug through will be sufficient?

And any suggestions on good places to buy the plants?


  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 21,759
    If your soil is heavy I think it will need more than 1 bag of compost. It may be easier to dig if watered the day before, moist, not sticky.

    I assume you mean hardy Fuchsias. They come in different sizes, Riccartonnii  being one of the taller ones.

    Make sure you buy the right sort of Ceanothus (Californian Lilac) some are quite bushy, some are low growing.

    The only evergreen Magnolia that I know of is Magnolia Grandiflora which grows into a big tree. Even if pruned would be too big for a fence.

    Is your bed quite shady being North east facing? That would affect the sort of annuals you could grow.

    Are there any nurseries or garden centres near where you live? It would be best to see the plants you are going to buy and choose healthy ones.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • IHateWeedingIHateWeeding Posts: 49
    edited April 2022
    Thanks so much for the advice...  Tough to get started with such little knowledge... 

    The bed is in partial sun and shade depending on the time of day.

    Yes, we will visit the garden center as you suggest.

    Yikes I see what you mean by Magnolia Grandiflora. 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,214
    Magnolias aren't climbers. Are you confusing them with something else @IHateWeeding ?
    I don't think Ceanothus would be happy for long in that aspect and soil. Most Hebes like sun and well drained soil, so they might not be the best plants there either. Some will grow well enough, but you may not get much in the way of flowers. 
    Some of those evergreen clematis won't be happy either, as it depends on your location. They aren't reliably hardy.
    If it's clay soil, the best solution organic matter - especially well rotted manure. You can buy it bagged in most places. It's worth taking time to get the soil right before planting. The plants will benefit from that enormously   :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 4,309
    I think I would spend some time on preparing your soil before anything else or you could be wasting your money. Plants like annuals won't like to be planted into a dense soil. Soil conditioner and grit would be better than compost unless you have access to well rotted manure. You may find that what you need to prepare the site will push up the budget before you start. Also hebes hate wet soil conditions and love full sun.
    If you have a photo of site and soil that would help.


    BROWN IS A COLOUR   Piet Oudolf
  • Thanks for the advice @Fairygirl Sounds like we need to go visit our garden center and ask while we are there.
  • Here it is obviously got to remove the grass...

    Soil does get waterlogged but doesn't appear to be clay as such its just quite dense.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,214
    If it's been grass, the nutrient levels won't be great, so you'd need to beef up the soil a bit anyway, regardless of what it's like, and add more soil and compost to get a good growing medium   :)
    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
    From a design perspective, I wouldn't plant three types of Hebe together, maybe plant a group of one type of Hebe, and a couple of other things that contrast with it (i.e. not blob shaped). For example, you could have Brunnera, with bold leaves, and Libertia formosa, which has sword shaped leaves. 

    The shrubs along the back will eventually take up the whole width of the bed, but some of the smaller things along the front might be able to sort of nestle beneath them..
  • seacrowsseacrows Posts: 231
    Try looking in neighbours gardens, see what they have that's doing well and that you like. If you're feeling really cheeky you could ask if they mind you taking some cuttings.

    We've got heavy soil. Tried three varieties of ceanothus and given up, all declined to flourish and eventually died. Clematis loves the soil for some reason, as does honeysuckle. We ended up growing aquilegias as annuals - it self seeds, we let them flower, then pull up any plants that aren't especially pretty. Bergenias like that sort of soil and are pretty much evergreen.
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