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Planting advice please

SammymummySammymummy SurreyPosts: 140









Hi All, after the summer of digging hard, I'm now at the happy stage of thinking about what to plant and would really appreciate your comments and suggestions.

It looks like the photos were uploaded wrong way round - the bottom one is the view from the patio, the one before is the left side fence and bed, the one before is the right side wall and bed(s). The garden is about 10m x 10m, with a lawn (6m x 8m) in the middle. The borders on either side are about 2m wide and the raised bed at the back is 1m wide.  I've covered them with the weed suppressing fabric for the time being.

Sun rises from the back fence so the right side wall casts a shadow on the beds below (about half a metre is in shade all day). The other beds get sun good many hours a day. I have a thin layer of top soil (less than a foot in the left side bed) and beneath lies an impenetrable clay. I have dug in 40 bags of 50L farmyard manure to improve the soil but also found some substantial concrete blocks (top photo) about 20cm (less than a spade depth) from the surface.  I have 3 of those buried at various intervals in the left side and one huge chunk in the right bed. These are very thick and there is no way to dig them out so I guess I just need to plant around them.

So that's the blank canvas and as I haven't got much money left now, I think I'll plant shrubs this autumn and perennials next spring or autumn. 

After reading a lot of forum posts and GW magazine, newspaper articles, here are the shrubs I'd like to get this autumn: for the right beds, I'd like Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata' and Daphne transatlantica 'Eternal Fragrance', Sarcococca confusa, Ruscus aculeatus (box holly), and Skimmia. I heard Skimmia japonica subsp. Reevesiana is a hermaphrodite and therefore does not need a male plant nearby. Is that right?

I also want to grow climbers to cover the wall (will paint it this weekend) and read in Taylor's Clematis that the alpine clematis will tolerate shade. Has anyone grown any alpine clematis on the north wall? I also read Rosa 'St Swithun' will grow on the north wall. Again, I'd appreciate if someone can advise on that. Hydrangea Petiolaris too is on my card for the wall.

I'd love to hear what you think and would welcome comments and suggestions. I'll list shrubs for the other two beds in a separate post as this is already very long!

Many thanks x


  • SammymummySammymummy SurreyPosts: 140

    Hi Verdun

    Thank you for your advice. I tested the soil before I dug in all the stuff and it was medium, not acidic nor alkaline, but I will test again.  I used to have a choisya in my old house's tiny garden and had to hack it every spring to keep its size so that put me off... image The fence is less than 6ft high and the wall less, so although I love honeysuckles I don't want the climbers invading neighbours wall/fence too much.

    I will definitely get Hellebores, they are on my list.  I have considered phormiums ('Yellow Wave' and 'Evening Glow') so they are back on the list. And thank you for your advice to get the shrubs and perennials I really like.  The space is limited so there is no point getting something only because it's cheap.

    I live in Surrey, so the clay soil is a nightmare, but the garden itself is warm and sheltered.

  • SammymummySammymummy SurreyPosts: 140

    Hi Verdun, yes I meant neutral!  Can you recommend a camellia that will not grow too big?

    Hi 1Runnybreak1, I haven't really thought about adding trellis on top of the fence...I don't know how easy it is and whether I could do it myself.

    The original garden was just lawn with laurels on all three sides.  At first it looked nice and sheltered but after a few years I got bored and they needed chopping every year, which was a nuisance.  So we got rid of the laurels early last year (I still found plenty of roots when digging) and had new fence put in.  The path and the low wall at the back were put in this time last year.  So I'm gradually getting there.  As Verdun says, I am intending to go for quality and get only those I really like. 

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