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Inspiration and ideas needed














 Hi all.

I'm looking for some inspiration/advice.

I've almost completed the main structure of my new garden, just got to lay the decking on the left hand side and finish a few bits off.

I'm not very creative, and certainly not green fingered so any ideas for planting etc. would be welcome.

The first issue I need help with is, I have painted the front wall using dark Creoseal and it has turned out much darker than I expected (it's virtually black!). I was going to paint the rest of the sleepers the same colour but am unsure now as it may make the whole garden look too dark, i'm really struggling with this one at the moment.

Just a few bits of info that may help, the garden is pretty much north facing, the soil is clay (nightmare!), there are two very large neighbouring oak trees which cover most of the right half of the garden.

The raised area is intended to be lawn although I am open to ideas. The front border possibly decorative gravel with pots, and the side and rear borders to be planted for cover etc.

I'm sorry if I have been a bit vague and if more info is needed then please ask

Thanks for any input.





  • kate1123kate1123 Posts: 2,815

    My first question is how much do you have to spend and how much time do you want to spend caring for your plants?

    A simple solution would be to plant lots of daffodils and evergreen variegated  Euonymus. This would give you a structure, then next spring you could go to the Garden Centre and buy plants that you like the look of.


  • Hi Kate

    My budget is a bit tight at the moment, spent way too much on sleepers!, but should be fine by Spring next year.

    I'm looking for the garden to be fairly low maintenence, but i'm flexible on that.

    My main concern at the moment is getting all the timber and fences painted, they are a bit of a mishmash, and I have this issue of whether I should paint the rest of the sleepers the same as the front wall. I know that's not strictly a gardening question but I was hoping people may have some opinions/ideas.

    Thanks for the input.


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  • Caz WCaz W Posts: 1,353

    Hi Jeff, if you're on a tight budget there are lots of cheap and cheerful spring bulbs on sale in places like Poundstretchers.  I bought a few last year just to try them out as I wasn't sure how good they'd be but they were all fine.  Just been down today and got some more - for example 10 Dwarf Narcissi Mixed for £1.29 or 2 packs for £2.  They had larger daffs, tulips, snowdrops and fritillaries too. Would look great in pots in front of your dark sleepers.

  • Poundland is brilliant for bulbs also try Wilkinsons. Have bought many from there and the majority grow. Local nuseries seem to be cheaper for plants than the big chains. Look on sale benches at gerden centres i always seem to find a bargain or 2. In the summer local fairs seem to have plant stalls and have found lots of pots at car boots.

  • Hello - How brilliant to have a 'clean slate' - and in a year or two you will have a good-looking garden to be proud of (without the guilt/restrictions of removing/sticking with existing plants).

    One thing I'd like to say is that the oak trees could well have a drying effect on your garden soil. I have one oak and in the 7 years here have been amazed at how the soil (clay also) a good 15ft outside the canopy appears to be sucked dry by the tree. It's worth bearing in mind. Fortunately I think 'your' trees are to the north, so at least you won't have the double whammy of summer shade. Also, the oaks attract squirrels - who seem to love nipping off the heads of tulips - so best not be too dependant on flowering bulbs!

    The clay has most likely been horrible to deal with during hard-landscaping work, especially during this wet year - but it isn't a bad soil once it comes to plants.

    Also on a more positive note... I have a jasmine (no idea of proper name) which covers a fence all the way up the garden and even under the oak. It forms a lovely green hedge and has some white flowers but it's the green screen effect I like. In a mild winter (hmmmm!) it keeps much of its green right through. For low ground cover and masses of bee-loved flowers I've found that Hardy Geraniums (not pelargoniums) are a great addition.

    Good luck, and please post photos in next summer!

  • Hi Eddie,  I agree with the others not to do any more black painting.  I have also got a north-facing garden with clay soil and the plants that do well are (amongst others) hollies (variegated would be good in yours), yew, Euonymous, rhododendrons (not the invasive ponticum), Spiraea varieties, roses, irises, and for ground cover hardy geraniums and variegated ivies, plus any number of bulbs and most hardy perennials, so don't despair.  Many perennials can be grown from seed, or beg cuttings or divisions from friends and neighbours - any gardener would be happy to help out.  Good luck!

  • PlumPlum Posts: 3

    Love the sleepers, including the black ones.  I think the others will weather into a uniform colour quite quickly and will end up the same as the fence.  One other thing crossed my mind, if your garden is north facing will the lawn grow successfully? In my last house the lawn that was always in shade was very mossy and looked a mess so I gravelled it with a random crazy paving area so that ground cover plants such as thyme could grow through. If you did that then the bed at the front could be a flower bed, trailing plants over the front edge would soften the black if you find it overpowering.  As an aside, I have recently moved to a property on clay which is permanently flooded in this wet weather. Contractors have just dug a six foot deep hole for a soakaway and haven't found soil yet! I'm thinking of buying a kiln and going into the pottery business!

  • The good news is that you have done a lot of the hard work - we also made a garden from scratch and it can be a bit daunting! Planting is the good bit. I like the dark sleepers and think it will look great if you plant some green trailing plants spilling over the front edge. I don't know what kind of garden look you are going for or whether you are a beginner - plants that have worked well for me as a total beginner with a chaotic style have been lavatera (mallow), agastache, fuschia, euonymous (but be warned there are many varieties so check the one you're buying!), marguerites, broom, perovskia, lavender (although your soil may be a bit heavy), hardy geraniums, phormium and phlox. If you're worried about the fences why not just plant climbers over them - I planted a montana clematis on our north-facing wall and it has run rampant (about 3m x 3m coverage in 18 months). I've also planted a small magnolia on the north facing side and it seems to be thriving. RHS do an excellent book called 'Plants for Places' which may help. Good luck, and remember to take pictures as you go along - then if you get discouraged you can remind yourself what was there before!

  • I'll play devil's advocate. I'd say paint the rest of the wood either the same colour or the same sort of colour just a few shades lighter. Then plant lots of plants with silver variegation - i.e. plants that have silver or white streaks / stripes / blotches in their leaves. And plants with white and light-coloured flowers. What you'll have is an extremely sophisticated black and white garden with plenty of green. Check out these photos I took at the Chelsea flower show a few years ago, this is the sort of effect I mean. Of course, it's not everyone's cup of tea, so just think about what sort of things you like and take it from there.

    For the lawn, if you prefer to have one at all, make sure you choose a special seed mixture for shady areas. Geraniums, some roses that tolerate shade, japanese anemones are all great in my north-facing border, and my soil is good enough for pottery it's got so much clay. When in doubt, just check the label, if it says it tolerates shade, give it a go. Check out the plant search feature under the plants tab on the gardenersworld website where you can select plants based on the soil and light conditions, then you can pick the ones you like the look of.








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