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Where to start on a big old sloping plot



I have an old garden.  After three years of removing tree stumps, ant hills ( that looked like tree stumps ) old metal objects, trees, weeds and much more I have a large lawn and large spaces where weeds and stumps were.  I also had a problem with rabbits eating any thing I planted.   The garden is also on a strange slope.  I need some big garden ideas.  I put things in to grown but as it's a long acre you can't really see plants.  I also have an old orchard, veg plot and fruit section... but they are for another day... Any ideas on what to start with, how to start or advice on what to grow.



  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,735

    Hello Jane.image Where to start indeed. You have a garden that most gardeners would give their eye teeth for. You don't say where you live. Is the climate mild or cold, windy or protected, sea side or inland? Is the soil sandy or clay or something else?

    Really though, when you found yourself in possession of the land, what did you have at the back of your mind? Herbaceous borders or a wild, natural garden? What famous gardens do you love and could you see yourself aiming for?

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • Hello... I live in North Bucks so a long way from the sea.  Clay soil - it dries like concrete in the summer.  There is a lot of old hedge row and old trees so sheltered at the bottom .  I wanted a big cottage garden with roses,  Lupins, fox gloves and Hydrangea, weeping trees.  My hydrangea don't grow, my Lupin get attacked by bugs that eat them to sticks, and the wild rabbits eat the roses... I would like big colourful borders with very tall flowers.   I have planted hundreds of allium's in the autumn but that doesn't fill a great deal of space. I had a vision of a field of Lupins that I had once seen in New Zealand  

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286

    It would seem with such an open space anything growing is going to be seen by pest species from miles away and targeted. Could you plant some flower meadow around the edge to begin with and then start to work from the center with the cottage garden? A flower meadow would give cover to foxes if they are welcome and they will help control rabbits, the rabbits will also have other stuff they can get busy with rather than your roses and insect pests which find host plants by sight are going to have a much harder time of it. It would all then start with a better balanced eco-system around the plot and allow you to get that cottage garden going. That really is a plot to die for though. image

  • Sorry to have to disagree with Gemma, but the rabbits WON'T just be content to leave things alone!  From bitter experience I know that they'll nibbleand/or totally devour almost anything they can reach.  The best plan to begin with is to plant things which are in fact poisonous to them - e.g. foxgloves, euphorbias etc and they seem to leave these alone - even though I reckon some of baby rabbits do actually nibble things before learning the hard way!  At any time during the day I can see at least two rabbits in my garden - it's more or less surrounded by fields and because of the lie of the land I cant keep rabbits out by the conventional means of using part-buried chicken wire around all the boundaries.  It's not a good idea to encourage foxes, especially if you have dogs (which I do) as foxes often  have mange.

    In my opinion, the best way to discourage and destroy rabbits is to have a couple of semi-feral cats.  When I had two, the rabbits didn't come close - and those that did try were caught by the cats.  Despite the efforts of my dogs (whippets) the rabbits flourish simply because they have access to the garden 24/7 which - of course - the dogs don't!

    I can no longer even keep summer bedding plants in pots - the rabbits stand on tip-toe and munch whatever's within their reach.  I've watched them do it!  I think the only solution - which I intend to try this year - is to keep the pots at the sort of height the rabbits can't reach, so am going to see if I can buy some old chimney pots big enough to put the plant pots in, so that the rabbits would actually need a ladder!

  • GemmaJFGemmaJF Posts: 2,286

    Well there are always two ways hypercharleyfarley, work with nature, or against it, one could introduce non-native predators then pour chemicals all over everything. Each to their own. image


  • Gosh, Gemma - I didn't think cats or foxgloves & euphorbias were "chemicals"  and, as far as I know, rabbits weren't here until the Normans  (most people believe they were responsible)  brought them to this country .................!

    My suggestions - only "suggestions",  not "instructions" -  were an attempt to help the original poster avoid continued disappointment regarding the loss of plants. 

    Sorry if you misunderstood.



    Ma.  (AKA HCF)

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,980

    Rabbits???  Where???


     He'll get rid of them for you image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Is he on patrol outside 24/7, Dove?  !  My dogs are quite good at chasing (and sometimes catching) rabbits but they do spend quite a lot of time indoors............ !

    Seriously though - in the 20+ years I've lived here - the only thing that worked for me ref keeping rabbits under control was the cats.  I "rescued" them from the RSPCA - who were quite pleased to get rid of two half-wild (non-cuddly) cat brothers, which were approx 5 and 6 years old when I got them.  They patrolled the garden when the dogs were indoors - and lived in the garage/shed.  They had all "mod cons" in there, including a heated pad in their "house" which consisted of two of those big plastic dog beds fastened together with cable ties (looked a bit a bit like a cockle shell),  It took a very long time before I could even spot them in the shed - I was advised by the RSPCA to keep them indoors for at least 6 weeks before allowing them out.  During that time I used to sit in there for about 10 mins several times a day, talking to what looked like a totally unoccupied shed - apart from all the "stuff" stored in there.  Obviously when they heard or saw me coming (shed had large windows on both sides) they'd hide amongst the "stuff" so it was a long time before they felt confident enough not to hide from me. 

    One afternoon - in the middle of the "here I am again, Moggies, isn't it a nice day today....etc etc" I happened to look up, and saw the two of them sitting calmly side by side on one of the rafters & appearing to say to each other "oh here she is again - that mad woman who comes & feeds us & cleans our litter tray........."  That was the first step in that they'd learned to be less afraid, and eventually they didn't run and hide from me, but became quite friendly - but it did take a few months.



  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Jane, all the above suggestions have merit. Cats, especially if sourced from a farm are highly effective predators when it comes to rabbits, and a terrier will also, have huge fun chasing and sometimes catching rabbits. I lived right in the sticks in the middle of a wood some years ago, the dogs (spaniels) ignored the rabbits, the cat(who adopted us), kept the rabbits under control and we rarely bought any food for it. It would eat an adult rabbit on the lawn almost every day.

    Rabbit resistant planting is the best way to start the garden, protect young trees and shrubs with rabbit guards, easily obtainable, or chicken wire, wrapped around the stems.

    It will take a year for the rabbits to learn this is a dangerous place, they are not as stupid as they look, but the word gets round trust me.

    Rabbit proofing such a large area, would be very expensive, and probably ineffective, so choose area's away from the edges of the grounds, start near the house where a dog will happily roam, and create plant free area's around any beds you create. This has the effect of leaving open spaces, rabbits prefer to feed near cover, it's safer. Open area's are easier to predate in, so you rarely see a rabbit in the open, other than those with a death wish.

    Go slowly, and you'll soon find out what works and what doesn't. Just remember, rabbits love cover, so leave space. We don't have many birds of prey that will take an adult rabbit, but the smaller ones are another thing, the youngsters will be the main problem.

    Finally, if your'e up for it, get a gun licence for pest control, they are easier to obtain than people realize, and learn to use it. A .22 is the best with silencer and scope. They are easy to use, but get some lessons if you do go for it, safe handling of firearms is essential.

    It all may take a year or two, but with such a large area, it'll be huge fun and get more interesting as time passes.

  • What a glorious space - you need Capability Brown! Seriously though, it is a big space and will need big planting to make any impact. To spread the cost over several years why no copy his ideas a bit  and make one or two clumps of shrubs part way down either side of the garden to break up the length; not symmetrical, and one larger than the other, but arranged so they balance each other and draw the eye and you don't look straight down the middle. Nothing expensive either till you know how edible it is!

    You want tall colourful flowers,  so build up a swathe of them leading up to your shrubs. Foxgloves are tall and come in several colours, monkshood (aconitum) are tall and come in blues and whites, both are poisonous. The Rhs publish a list of rabbit resistant plants so you could find more things you like the sound of. Initially I would stick to cheap and cheerful  things and things that self seed to help build up volume. You can start refining and adding more special things when your cat army or shotgun skills have begun to make some headway!  Wild flowers have to cope with rabbits so may be the way to go - poppies and corncockles (poisonous), ox-eye daisies,yellow loosestrife, marigolds, all these could make big patches of colour for you. Some of the larger grasses could work too. With all that other grass to go at, they might not attract so much attention as novel flavours. Maybe you could try the odd shrub rose - you could protect an individual plant with netting, even if you can't do the whole garden. This would give you the beginnings of your desired flower borders   to enjoy and give some initial encouragement, then you can extend, expand and improve a bit more over time. Don't forget to plant some bulbs for spring - daffodils are usually safe from predation as they are also poisonous.

    I endorse the cat idea. I have 5 and hardly ever see a rabbit ln the garden though there are plenty in the fields around.

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