Forum home Garden design

Planting ideas at entrance to house

We have stone walls to the entrance of our house which run curve round into the driveway. In front of the curve in the wall is an area of cobble stones on each side, with two rectangular spaces as planters up against the wall. I’ve attached a photo which shows them on one side.

We’ve emptied out the planters as they were overgrown and full of brambles when we moved in. The question is now what we replace them with this autumn, but we don't have a lot of gardening experience, so I’m hoping the kind people of this forum might be able to assist.

The planting spaces are south-facing and the soil is loam I think - it’s certainly not clay (I will add some organic matter before planting, although how much depends slightly on the plant). They are a little irregular in size, around 100cm x 65cm for the two in the picture and 90cm x 45-50cm the other side.

We are looking for something that is fairly hardy and doesn’t need too much TLC. We have thought about lavenders and other lower lying plants, but our preference would be for something to take over the space, so a large shrub is probably the ideal (we have also thought about half standards with the same conclusion).  I had originally thought about shrub roses but they may not be big enough to take over the space fully and we would probably prefer to limit ourselves to the single blooms, which is quite limiting on the rose front.

We have thought about Hydrangea paniculata Limelight, but I suspect the water demands in summer might be a bit high and the blooms may be prone to drying out in the summer (it probably doesn't help that I'm writing this at the end of a second, very dry heatwave this summer!). If anyone has any experience of this plant in an exposed south-facing position would, I'd be grateful to hear how it has got on.

An alternative thought has been Viburnum tinus Eve Price, which has the benefit of being evergreen, although the flowering period is in winter and it seems a shame not to have flowering planters at the entrance to your house over the Spring/Summer. I have tried to look at options for growing something through the viburnum, but I’m struggling to understand what would work (on the plus side, we are thinking of running rambling rose (probably Rambling Rector) across the top of the wall behind, so perhaps it wouldn't matter too much).

So in summary, we are looking for something that will fill the space, not too hard to look after, which doesn’t look too tattered in its off season (or which can be managed) and will have a good flowering period. I am open to and would be grateful for any simple or creative, single or combination planting ideas!


  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,819
    That's a tricky spot. It may flood in Winter, as water will run off the paving into the planting holes, and the paving and wall may make it very hot and dry in Summer.  

    Here are some suggestions, all are evergreen, which personally I would go for:

    Choisya - We find these cope very well once established. Sundance has yellow foliage, Aztec Pearl has dark green. Both flower in Spring, and can be shaped nicely into a dome if preferred. They can need trimming once or twice a year.
    Pittosporum - These are not hardy in all parts of the UK. If OK for your area, a more dwarf variety, such as Midget or Golf Ball, might look good.  There are many other cultivars, but they may need more regular trimming than the dwarf varieties.
    Privet - Tough as old boots once established. You could go for the traditional green variety (P. Ovalifolium), but we like the variegated version (P. Argenteum). Will need trimming once or twice a year.
    Abelia - Lovely coloured foliage (especially the Abelia Kaleidoscope variety). Will need the odd trim.
    Euonymus - Lots of different varieties. E. Bravo has lovely variegated foliage. Not too fast growing, so maybe one trim a year.

    I personally wouldn't plant a half/standard, or anything which leaves the soil exposed, as you already have enough hard surfaces. A nice, dense mound of a couple of feet high would look good.  Good luck.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,716
    Can you determine the depth of the soil in your planting areas and whether they are free draining?  
    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • Hi @KeenOnGreen, many thanks for your reply and for the recommendations.

    I think Choisya does seem to tick all the boxes. I do like variegated evergreens, but for better or worse we are looking for something that flowers as well, which I think (although I will dig a bit deeper on all your suggestions, so apologies if this isn't the case) rules out some of the others.

    Abelia looks like a real find though - there appear to be lots of great options there, thank you for the suggestion.

    Just on the size - you mention dwarf variety. The wall is about four feet and we'd be happy for it to come out and up over the line of the wall, so I think we've got a bit of room to work with height-wise.
  • hi @Plantminded - I just went out to have a dig!

    It's fairly hard at the moment as you'd expect, but I couldn't get to the bottom (I found some old gnarled roots deep down).  It certainly doesn't appear to have a stone/concrete base to it, or not that I can get to with the fork.

    In terms of free draining, one side has been empty for a little while now and I have never seen any standing water - I think the soil drains fairly well generally (admittedly it isn't far from a flood zone, but it does appear to be free draining in the garden the other side of the wall as well). There is also a gentle slope off the cobbles onto the road, so water tends to run off there quite well.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,716
    I’d be inclined to dig out those planting spaces as deeply as you can once this is possible as you will probably need to refresh the soil.  I’d suggest a blend of a soil based compost like John Innes no 3 with added grit and perhaps some farm manure to give your plants a good start.  You mentioned Hydrangea paniculata limelight.  I planted one last year in one of my borders and am really impressed with its show of flowers.  Mine gets morning sun until midday and is then in light shade.  I have been watering quite a bit to get the roots established.  I think four of these would make a very impressive entrance to your home.  Even in winter the dried flowers will add interest.  You’ll need a good root space of at least 18 inches or so to obtain a reasonable height and then to give your plants extra care as if they are in containers.  

    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,716
    This may give you an idea.  My plant is growing close to a hedge, so not unlike the situation with your wall:

    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • Hi @Plantminded, thank you for your posts and particularly the picture. 

    I'm glad to hear your thoughts on Limelight and i'm inclined to give it a go. It will be fairly relentless sun all day, which is my only concern, but it is billed to be drought tolerant once it is properly established, so a year or two of extra care should be manageable.

    When you say a good root space of 18 inches or so, what does mean in practice - is that the depth of the planter below the root ball? 
  • PlantmindedPlantminded Posts: 2,716
    edited August 2022
    Hi @jamesdudbridge, 18 inches from the top of the planter downwards, so from the point where the root meets the stem. Hope that makes sense! The roots are quite shallow, in the top six inches of soil, but you’ll need that extra depth to aid moisture retention.

    Wirral. Sandy, free draining soil.

  • That makes perfect sense, thank you
Sign In or Register to comment.