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Introducing a border around established trees/shrubs

Back again for a bit more advice. . . 

I have a lot of established trees and shrubs at the back of my garden with no discernible border. Initially there were a lot of weeds in between which I have largely removed. I was keen to introduce so sort of formal border which I have largely marked out after removing the weeds but there a lot of superficial roots extending to under the "lawn" (mainly composed of ground ivy/creeping charlie at the minute).

I am hitting roots when I try to dig more than about 2 inches to create the border and I am worried about damaging the roots. 

Any ideas how I should proceed? (if at all) 






  • CharlieBotCharlieBot Posts: 208
    I would make the border wider as very little will thrive that close to the bottom of the trees and shrubs. You can probably remove some roots without doing damage but you will need to enrich the soil with rotted manure/compost before planting.

    You could do this then plant some herbaceous perennials to flower next year as the garden centres are reducing them all now.
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,850

    I agree, make it wider. at least 2ft wider, maybe moreimage

  • Thanks for the replies - seems a good thing to try. 

    Ordinarily I would imagine the level of the border should be below that of the grass? I will hopefully be able to lower the level at the borders edge but with some much established growth etc in there is this desirable for the remainder of the border? 

    Sorry for the very basic questions - totally newbie here. 

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,850

    It's traditional in English gardening to have a sharp, well edged drop off between lawn and border.

    I hate thatimage

  • Interesting - what is the alternative? Is that not designed to avoid the lawn "creeping" over the edge? 

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,850


  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,290

    You don't need to lower the whole border, in fact you will want/need to build it up with home-made compost and manure. All you need to do when you cut the edge is flick the soil away towards the middle of the border to give a small gutter. You could lay a line of bricks or pavers or flat stones level with the turf, so you could mow over it, as an edging strip. Yo might even find it better, given all those roots, to make some kind of raised edge to contain some extra soil depth for the plants. Or you can just let things flop and overflow and look very natural and just mow up to them and maybe tidy a bit after. Your garden, your choice!

  • Lou12Lou12 Posts: 1,149
    I initially had a hard time planting up the area under my holly tree as it's incredibly dry, there are shallow roots everywhere so there can be no deep digging and there is little natural light.

    I found I had to buy small plants so I could plant them between the roots and plants like alchemilla mollis, tiarella, perennial geraniums and annual geraniums, aquilegia, ferns, euphorbia and sarcococca have done brilliantly and the whole area is now covered in plants that are growing successfully.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 48,991

    I'd do what Buttercup suggests. An edging of some kind to create a slightly raised bed, then adding plenty of manure and compost over the entire area (which won't harm any trees or shrubs already there) and you'll give your plants a good chance of establishing well when planted. I had a similar problem in a previous garden with tree roots but managed to overcome it. I also did the same as Lou, using smaller plants of tough varieties like geraniums and lots of bulbs. It's amazing how quickly it can start to look good. image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • SusanSusan Posts: 4

    I have a similar problem with a willow hedge that I planted to screen the veg garden. I created a raised bed for it as we were starting from a bog. Now I love the way it waves in the wind and I grow clematis and honeysuckle up through it. Only trouble is that the flowers face the other side of the hedge towards the sun! I'm still experimenting with plants that are tough enough to compete with the willow but have had success with marguerites, various primulas and creeping things like houttoynia as well as spring bulbs.

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