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Gentle advice ... for an old newbie.

Hello everyone ... first time caller. I've obviously enrolled on the site; as everywhere else I've looked (the net, apps, and other sites) I've just struggled with the conflicting advice, waaaay tooo techy advice, and or folk making me feel dumb, or themselves too clever! 

Perhaps not the best introduction seeing as I'm arriving cap in hand? But I have myself a situation that I'm trying to resolve best I can. I looked in the Garden design part of the forum but that looked a bit too formal for what I'm after (plain advice) so I thought I'd ask here and hope for the best.

It's a long tale but to keep it short I have a garden that has completely gotten away from me. It's a modest urban garden, that was once worthy of TV attention. Over stuffed cottage style that frankly looked as though Walt Disney had been sick it was such a riot of colour: Not my doing you understand? But it came to pass that the protagonist of such excellence was no more ... and it was all of two years before I could set foot in that garden again, by which time it had gone completely mad - mad I tell you!

With time though I set about trying to make sense of it, and with some considerable verve cut stuff back and looked stuff up. But the truth is after much ado it was like the Forth bridge as before I got a half way through, what I'd done needed doing again ... and in hindsight I never have got in control of it, and honestly "it was dragging me down" to see it still in such poor shape and to note my inability to deal with it.

Now then, I finally had some kind of epiphany and decided this time to start again but instead of trying to rebuild the original - to start something that I can manage, both with time, effort, and enthusiasm constraints.

So, I had trees removed, rampant hedges cut back, whole beds were emptied (It grieved me but as I remember the quote "If it can't justify it's space - It's GONE" and you know - I'm sure I'd catch her looking at me just that way at times!?

The whole plot is as stated fairly modest considering my whinging, about 60' x30', narrow beds around the edge with island beds to the centre. Small greenhouse badly placed bottom right, and three dalek sized compost bins bottom left.

Now, I've put in a couple of nice (I think so) arches on a diagonal (BL-TR) and some old wrought iron gates to act as supports - and at the moment have added to these three David Austin roses - I intend to plant several more of these in and around the beds and supports. Now I liked the blousy colour that I used to have but not the mess. So I'd like the beds to appear fairly clean throughout the winter - (So I can see what's expected of me come the spring, (it's obvious I suppose I get easily overwhelmed)!

All this brings me to the actual question; what else might I use to under-plant the beds with ........ I'm thinking Dahlia's (which I like) ... I'm hoping that I can make the garden something that can be maintained by "pottering" rather than"Gardening"! - I know what I mean.

I guess I've described a Rose garden which sounds a bit twee, but I can live with that, it's almost a comfort.

I've babbled on haven't I? Most all advice welcome - keep it simple though, 'cos what I is a simple soul image

Cheers all .... Andi.





  • Welcome aboard Andi image

    Any chance of a photo or three to give us some ideas of options etc?  and which way does the garden face and what's the soil like ...... that sort of info would really help.

    You've come to the right place for friendly advice - many have walked your path before - there'll be plenty of ideas  image  I regard dahlias as rather more 'gardening' than 'pottering' , but lets see what others have to say ....

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

  • Hi Andi,

    could you post a picture of your garden.

    Nothing wrong with roses, I've got Arthur Bell and Anne Boleyn. Geraniums might be an idea, lots of varieties and easy to look after, just cut back the flowers. Or lavender or peony.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353

    Photos will be a big help Andi - and also your basic likes and dislikes image

    What time do you have to spend as well - that's a big factor. I don't have the time to spend, so my garden has to work around me.  I have a lot of planting which looks after itself and provides all year round coverage, so that I can add bits and pieces when the mood takes me. Bulbs and evergreens are very useful for that.

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

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,836

    Hi.  I take it what you have is a newly cleared and simplified garen with some roses and bare soil that needs filling to keep down weeds and set off the roses and you want to keep it low maintenance.

    I suggest you stick to growing dahlias in pots as specimens as they are fairly high maintenance plants - tender, so need lifting every autumn and starting again in a frost free place in spring before planting out after the frosts and they are slug magnets.

    Good companions for roses are hardy geraniums which are available in many sizes and colours from white through pink to deep agenda and shades of blue with different leaf shapes and shades too.   Not slug fodder either.   If you want hot colours such as yellow, orange and red, have a look at geums.

    Alliums are bulbs which will give height in late spring and early summer and are supposed to be good at deterring greenfly which might attack your roses.    Just plant them in autumn and leave them to do their thing.  Add daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and so on to give an extended season of interest.

    You can use this facility on the RHS site to help you find plants that are low maintenance and will suit you soil, aspect and colour scheme - 

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • image

     Here you go - and thanks for all your timely replies. Here's the Garden in question, taken this very moment and in the teeth of Frank so excuse the poor photography.

    That's a box hedge at the bottom, and there's an old "Dorethy Perkins rose against the fence bottom left by the arch, upon which I've since planted a DA "maigold" - Top arch has a DA "shropshire lad" and the middle post right at the front has a DA "generous gardener".

    Will continue to add DA roses as right or wrong I've decided I like 'em (this is why I get all tangled with my thinking and doing - ask for advice and ignore it)!!

    The bed right at the front has yet to be dealt with as it contained a very old and rather large Lilac tree which has since thrown up a kazillion suckers - you can barely get a fork in! - But it's the bottom of the garden I'm concentrating on at the minute.

    Timewise, it really is a case of "pottering" little and often type of time - occasional lengthy periods but these are few a far between. I have discovered I have to create little projects (like those arches) I have to keep them realistic, and I really do seem to get overwhelmed rather easily (I have a lot of other things vying for my attention {like everyone else I'm sure} but my head will just decide I can be more productive doing something other! and that's it - I tend to wander off) vis-a-vis my writing style - or lack thereof.

  • PalaisglidePalaisglide Posts: 3,414

    Know how you feel Andi, my boss, critic and colour specialist was taken from me nearly five years ago and it makes you feel things are not worth bothering about. I did have a good start with mature shrubs and bushes underpinned by deeply set bulbs of all kind which suddenly appear surprising you, a small clump of snowdrops is now a bed and start my year for me once again. Bedding plants fill spaces with the help of my Daughter who goes for scented plants putting sweet peas next to where we can sit and enjoy the scent and the sun, after all gardening is as much sitting and looking as breaking your back. My advice is deep plant bulbs of all kinds and fill in with your own seed and bedding plants. I prune the roses with a hedge trimmer (my old dad would have crucified me) they come again year by year, the shrubs and bushes get the same. The Dutch hoe is with me all the time, ten minutes a day as you walk round the garden saves a lot of hard work later. Mulches suppress weeds and feed the soil. I have a proper nursery near me so the odd pot plant is procured and sunk in place to liven up a dull spot. Like you probably I was nurtured by an old time gardener feeding us from a garden with no modern aids, he would probably frown at me now but we need to cut down the hard graft into doable sections. Best of luck/


  • Thanks Frank ... it's always good when you realise someone "Gets it". I do like the garden, and I enjoy it ... more than I realised actually. But it can get very demanding - and the emotional blackmail image for shame. I don't like this aerial view of it, but it really works when you're down there - immersed within it.

    Thanks for your note.


    oo-ps, I quite like Agapanthus and the like, Glad's etc ... I do seem to like quite architectural plants (fairygirl) ... and the garden reads as East straight ahead, West behind me North left and South right as you look at the pic'.


  • Hi Andi and welcome. You've definitely come to the right place. The folk on here have at least a million years of experiences, good and bad, in the garden. I too understand about losing heart and being overwhelmed. A gentleman who had brought his family on a wander to "admire" my garden stopped me some months later to ask if I had moved. I could have cried.  

    I find it easier to do a bit in depth rather than try to do the whole thing a little bit if that makes sense. That way I can see progress and that little bit just needs a quick lick on the way past to your next "project". I also try to do some maintenance and some renovation every time I go out. No doubt others have a different way of working and that might work better for you. Just because we disagree doesn't mean one of us is wrong.image 

    My plantspersonship isn't really up to snuff but someone will be along soon to help you out in that regard. I cheat where dahlias are concerned and just stick in some bedding ones. Big monster dahlias can be more of a "hobby" plant which sounds to me like hard work.image

    Good Luck.


  • Dave MorganDave Morgan Posts: 3,123

    Hi andi, welcome. I often get called in to situations such as yours and you've done a fine job so far. You've got structure, good design and primarily for easy care no grass.

    I see you want roses and dahlias. Some would say neither are easy care, but pick the right ones, feed and prune correctly they're a doddle. Same with dahlias really. The greenhouse is in the right place so starting them off early will be easy. The only precondition for both though is to make sure they're both well fed. An annual application of well rotted manure across the open beds is all that'll be needed, with the odd liquid or granular feed as a post flowering boost.

    You may want to consider the addition of a few perennials around the edges of the beds, bare soil isn't pretty,  if you have a look on the RHS website go to perennials and have a look under planting types they list there the best plants for under planting roses. There's only one plant I'd say no to and that's alchemilla mollis. Very nice in the right place but once you have it it's a permanent resident.

  • And there you have it. I use Alchemilla mollis to fill all the ugly holes in gaps and ditches. image

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