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Creating a corner bed under a cedar

Evening all, 

I am in the west Midlands area, towards Wales.  I have a corner in my garden that is south east facing and has an atlas cedar in it.  The ground underneath was full of weeds, ivy etc which I've nearly cleared.  There's a small red brick patio which used to house a summer house on it which I can keep to put small patio furniture on.  The lower canopy of the tree is really high - 3 or 4 metres at a guess so it gets a lot of sunlight underneath still.  But the ground is dry and the grass doesn't grow underneath it.  I've been doing some homework before I want to plant a bed in that corner this spring.  

1) I think I need to improve the soil a bit first.  How?

2) The plants I've selected as suitable for these conditions are (white and purple preferably):


Mock Orange

Russian Sage


Skimmia Confusa

Sarococca confusa

And maybe also:

Popcorn double fire viburnum


Hebe Pascal


weigela ebony and ivory



Am I right at all?!

3) How do you go about choosing which plants you have (apart from position suitability and flowering time)?  I have a feeling it's better to have more of the same plants instead of lots of different plants?  Obviously tallest at the back, medium in the middle and low growing plants at the bottom I suppose?  And in odd numbers?  How would you plan that area?

Thanks so much in advance!! 



  • punkdocpunkdoc Posts: 14,338

    Need to add lots of compost / manure.

    Then need to look up plants that like very dry conditions.

    I prefer more numbers of fewer plants, but not all will agree.

    Main issue will be the dryness.

    How can you lie there and think of England
    When you don't even know who's in the team

    S.Yorkshire/Derbyshire border
  • Any particular type of compost?  

    I'll re check the suitability of those plants to a dry soil. 

    Thank you!

  • Soil type not a problem, dryness is and it will be dry under there. I agree with Punkdoc - groups of plants, fewer types.  Sarcococca and skimmia, great, grouped, with a deciduous azalea or two. I'd avoid the shrubs that prefer sunnier sites and instead go with some perennials like epimedium, perhaps hellebores (do they grow well with you?), some heuchera and tiarella. That'll keep the evergreen cover at ground level.  Perhaps where it's brightest you can try a shrub or two.  The addition of a bit of good soil to give plants a good start will help, just a few inches worked into the existing to help with planting depth, because I bet there isn't much under the tree.


  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,924

    What size is the bed? There's a lot of, potentially very large shrubs, on your list. You'll need a huge amount of  soil improvement to sustain larger shrubs and get the best from them.Loads of well rotted manure and soil based compost, or even topsoil will help. Work with your conditions, rather than trying to change them too much, and choose plants for drier shade.

    I'd agree with doc about keeping it simple too. You can extend the season with bulbs - there will be plenty that will be ok if they get enough light, which seems adequate with the aspect you have. image

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

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • image

  • Ok people lots to think about there thanks.

    So my big shrubs are too big. Loads of manure and to soul first. Then maybe I'll still to sarococca, deciduous azalea and skimmia at the back. I LoVe hellebores so some of them round the front with tiarellas which I also like. 

  • whoops. Posted too soon!

    im hoping to create a south faving bed nearer the house so maybe I can pop some of my faves listed above in there with some plants from the cedar bed to link it in. 

    Thansk everyone x

  • OnopordumOnopordum Posts: 390

    I keep posting this but be careful not to bury the base of the trunk of the cedar tree. Should be exposed to the air right down to the root flare.

  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,634

    The hedges and the tree will be sucking out most of the nutrients and water so I would abandon all ideas of shrubs and go for ground cover plants such as geranium macrorhizum which have scented leaves which turn red in winter and white or pink flowers in late spring.   Add a good clump of hellebores for late winter flowers then concentrate on planting bigger specimens where they will have more light and less competition for nutrients and can grow well.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • You're all kill joys and all totally correct.  The soil quality will be rubbish and I need to abandon ideas of my big beautiful shrubs for somewhere else. I'll have to re plan smaller plants like you say. And you're right about not covering the base of the tree. I heard that recently so thanks for reminding me. 

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