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Help with suitable plants for north-facing garden - total novice!!


We have just done a 3d design for our back garden, half of which is patio and half of which will be lawn. It's a rectangular garden and we're planning to have raised beds along one whole side and the back. It's a north-facing garden but the back half does get some sun in the afternoons. We live in Devon so do get a lot of rain. I'm not sure about our soil, we may even have to buy some topsoil to fill the beds. We're going for a contemporary look, white rendered walls, flat neat lawn, and would like some low maintenance plants that will survive year round.

I really like the look of bamboo, grasses, spikey plants, palm-type plants, and tall skinny flowering plants. We'd like some colour variation, I recently came across japanese maple which I liked the look of but neither of us know anything at all about plants. The last thing we want to do is go and spend a lot of money on nice plants that will just die. I'm also not sure if all plants can be planted next to anything? Ideally, we'd like to have some tall, some short, and some different colours in there. I've been on Pinterest which has given me an idea of what I'd like it to look like but I'm completely stuck now! I'm hoping someone on here may be able to help or make some recommendations! I'd be so grateful of any advice, what to do/not to do, types of soil, drainage etc. Hubby is building the raised beds so can design them to any spec. 

Many Thanks in advance :) 

Last edited: 15 February 2017 17:21:41


  • I also have a photo of the garden design but I'm not sure if I can or how to upload it on here. :)

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353

    Lots to deal with there Emily, so it's better to do it a stage at a time in case you frighten yourself off!

    I like the sound of your plans, and the first thing i'd suggest is that you do your raised beds and get any other hard landscaping in place, and then see exactly what room you have to play with.

    North facing isn't really an issue, and there re plenty of plants which will be fine in that aspect. Japanese maples will be fine in that site, and they like a bit of rain to keep them looking good, so that's a good choice. There are lots of other plants like Fatsias which will also thrive there -big foliage and evergreen. Phormiums like sun, but they will also do well with a bit of shade - especially the dark, plummy ones. Some of the grasses will also be fine if they're not in dense shade, and there's a few,  like some of the Carexes, which are happy in almost any aspect. 

    If you can post a couple of pix of your garden, that will help enormously. There's a  camera icon above the box for posting, so click on that, and follow the instructions. If the pix are a bit big they don't upload, so you may have to reduce their size. 

     I usually suggest that people also make a list of things they don't like - whether that's colours, styles or anything else. That can make decisions easier right away.image

    I've just seen your bit about the photos, so hopefully you can do that now!

    Last edited: 15 February 2017 17:30:38

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

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

    Thank you so much for your helpful reply!! Very much appreciate the recommendations. The photo worked this time, the raised beds on the left (from the back of the garden to where the little wood bench is) is 5.5m so it's bigger than it looks in the drawing. We have a lot of work to do before we can start building anything as there is a huge mound of rubble and 3 old sheds out there at the moment but we never do enough planning so thought I'd try to get a bit more organised this time around! I'll have a look at some of the plants you mentioned. I think hubby isn't too keen on anything too flowery or too many colours (although I quite like flowers...)  but otherwise very open to suggestions :) I think we will keep it just as soil (no chippings/stones) so want to try to have a few plants in between bigger ones to cover the ground a bit. 

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353

    Looks good Emily image

    I don't think you'll have a huge amount of planting area, so a few choice,big specimens is probably the way to go. A simple repeat of something is also a good design trick.

    If you have the money to buy big mature plants, that will give you instant impact, but if not, smaller plants will take a while to establish, even if given a perfect start, so you can always add a few annuals to fill in the gaps while your statement plants mature. 

    Cannas are another plant that will give you an exotic, contemporary look - they have bright flowers on tall  stems, but are great foliage plants. They require a little care over winter, so you may want to leave that type of plant till you get a feel for your space and have your more straightforward plants in place. They're also good in pots, and that's another way of getting a modern look easily. My earlier suggestion of a repeat plant works well with pots and you can move them around too of course  image

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

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