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New Garden, New Soil

My wife and I have recently moved to a new home in Oxfordshire, very close to the Berkshire Downs and the Ridgeway.  As soon as we moved in we started sorting out the garden and found that it is very chalky, which is something neither of us has experienced before.  The plants we've put in so far, mostly perennials, seem to be doing okay, including four roses.  However, does anyone know of any plants that we should steer clear of, or which types of plants do well (we don't want to plant shrubs in this garden as it's too small).  We also want to plant a small tree at some point, so again are there any types that we need to steer clear of or ones that do well on chalk.  Additionally, is there anything that we can do to improve the soil, well what there is of it anyway!  Thank you

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  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,565

    Hi Dudley

    Steer clear of the obvious acid lovers like rhodos and azaleas and some of the heathers. My soil isn't chalk but it's very alkaline and I find skimmias and chaenomeles get an unhealthy yellow look to them so I avoid those.

    Muck is good for soil whatever sort it is.

    See what looks healthy in neighbouring gardens. google plants for chalky gardens and several nurseries have lists.

    Celebrate the chalk, don't try and grow things that just about surviveimage

  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 4,045

    Smallish trees that would do well on chalk would be amelanchier and robinia pseudoacacia.

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 79,415

    Euonymous europaeus Red Cascade is very happy on shallow chalky soil.  It's an elegant small tree with the most attractive fruits and really good autumn colour.

    And it's a UK native too so good for wildlife image

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh







  • Invicta2Invicta2 Posts: 663

    Varieties of Whitebeam, {Sorbus aria} grow well on chalk, and will probably make a small tree in the poor chalky soil. I think Crataegus and Malus [crab apples] are also quite chalk tolerant.

  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 3,422

    Lilac loves chalk and so do buddleia. We find that every type of viburnam just romps away and you get flowers and berries with some or scented flowers through winter. Foxgloves, aquilegias, cornflowers, many daisies all seem happy and hardy annuals are seldom fussy. Grasses are a new venture for us and seem to be doing well but we have clay as well as chalk so they have to be tolerant of very tough winter conditions. The best thing is to enjoy experimenting - you will find that some plants wither and die in spite of every recommendation while some flourish although they are meant to hate every feature of your conditions.

  • Thanks to all for the responses.  Posy, the  grasses we have planted, of various types, all seem to be doing well, but this winter will be the true test I suppose.  The one plant that is thriving is Verbena Bonariensis! It has put on a terrific show and has grown really strongly and very vibrant.  Also geraniums seem to be doing okay.  I hope to have some more information available early next year when the growing season starts again.  Until then we will certainly enjoy the experience and hope to glean some valuable learning.  image

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