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New house, new garden, beginner gardener, help needed

Hi everyone. I bought a new home last January and am really only settling in now. The previous owner was very tidy but the gardens are very sterile looking. I love wildlife, I am keen to help the birds, butterflies etc but maybe less so wasps. I have a fair few questions but I'd love if somebody would take some time and provide some guidance. 


I love lilac, ever since my childhood I've been around it so I planted two lilac trees in July. Lately they are rather weathered and chewed. One tree seems to be budding but both look quite beaten. Although neither have died yet. But I am worried about them. I added soluble plant feed last week in case.

I planted a Braeburn apple tree too and that seems to be growing well, with fresh new leaves since I planted it. However, I'm lost with the rest of the plants. There are numerous plants I hate but don't know whether I should get them out and replace them. 


I plan on planting daffodils, snowdrops, and tulips over the next month. But what do I plant around them so there will be something when the die away in early summer?

Finally my front garden is driving me mad. I dont like any of the plants/shrubs, especially the conifers which have wasps flying all around them this last two months. I suspect a nest in one of them. I'd love to take them out and replace them with box, at least on the side where the driveway is. But what do I plant behind the front fencing?

All advice welcome as I'd love a wildlife friendly flowering garden. But I'm afraid to do anything too radical.













 Thanks for taking the time to look. 




  • waterbuttswaterbutts Posts: 1,214

    Hello Jesse

    It looks as if you have your hands full there.

    Before you go buying plants it might be an idea to have a look around at other gardens in your area and see what does well in the soil and with the climate.

    For planting schemes you could go to some of the wonderful National Trust houses in Northern Ireland. I don't know if Mount Stewart House is near to you, but they are having an open day on 14th September and will be offering advice to gardeners then. They seem interested in gardening to encourage wildlife.

  • addictaddict Posts: 659

    Hi Jesse image 

    I see what you mean about sterile! image Looks like whoever was there before was going for low...very low...maintenance which does come at a price, ie Boring!!!

    Having said that I would leave Choisya in but give it good hard prune after flowering next year and maybe a couple of the yellow conifers. That will give you good garden structure to add to.

    Looking at the two Lilacs you bought I would say the brown marks are fine...bit of heat/sun damage I think, nothing to worry about. The notches in the leaves look like vine weevil damage The beetles are not a problem only the larvae.  With the gravel around them now and the fact they are in the ground the beetles won't be able to lay. Once they start growing next year and the leaves aren't so fresh and juicy you won't have such a problem. If you like to squish nasties though, go out with a torch at night and catch them in the act image


  • so people dont think I'm mad for wanting to uproot most of these trees and shrubs? I'm not afraid of a bit of hard work. Those yellow conifers have to go anyway, they attact loads of wasps. And I hate rhododendron. Is it a good idea to rip them up and plant other shrubs?


    And I'm fierce worried about my lilacs (top 2 pics). Thats the one I really am hoping will survive. at least I have two honeysuckle well established in the back garden, but I didnt notice an bloom this summer. Mount Stewart is a bit away but I can get to it. Thanks for repling waterbutts. scared me a wee bit though. 

  • Thank you Addict. It's some relief to think the lilac will take, as the apple seems to be doing fine. I picked shrubs I thought would be tough, from my knowledge of wild plants. I planted a white buddleia in the opposite corner to the apple, and gooseberry beside the buddleia. I think maybe I will leave the conifers near the border fencing but I think I'll go for box along the driveway, one of the conifers broke anway as we have rocky soil. The previous owner was definately neat, but god, he was no gardener, at least I can picture something promising. I'm thinking in the front the conifers and rhododendron along the outer fence will go, but replace with what?  

  • addictaddict Posts: 659

    Rhode? Outer fence? Wheres that and which bits that lol image

  • yikes, sounded fine in my mind. 


     anyway, id like all them trees along the front to go, I feel a spade coming out at some point this autumn. maybe leave the conifers along the far wall. 

  • i thought the tree in the top left of the picture was rhodedendron.

  • addictaddict Posts: 659

    LOL its looking for a Rhode that confused me image I think its a Choisya. If you crush and sniff smells of oranges. If it is thats the one I suggested you cut hard back next year. Would be happy half the size it is and the bees love the flowers so good for them.

  • ah great, I'll try the leaves in the morn. If its good for the bees then it will stay. I'll cut it back later in the season. Thanks so much.

  • addictaddict Posts: 659

    Ooooh so many things you could replace the outer fence with. Try things like winter flowering honeysuckle shrub. for really early flowers for emerging bees.

     Osmanthus Delavayi. Evergreen, early, tough as old boots


     Both of them have wonderful scent too.

    If you can find one and are willing to spend a bit of money and wait a few years then Cornus mas veriegata. It flowers early then foliage is lovely crisp white and green then red cherry like berries that the birds love.



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