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Looking for Wisdom

Hi There!

I'm hoping to glean some knowledge and wisdom!  I'm a novice gardener - I've got an allotment I have tended to for 4 years now with relative success - however when it comes to anything pretty or creative I really struggle. I’ve done some reading but struggling to pull my requirements together.  Perhaps I’m setting myself too much of a challenge?!

A couple of years ago I took on looking after a flower bed in the village (outside the Dr’s surgery) and I'm really sick of exchanging polyanthas for something equally boring in the summer and trimming the box hedge with ruler precision. It looks old fashioned and boring.  I also feel it is such a waste when I have to take them out when they are still blooming beautifully. I can't believe this is cost effective for the village either.  I'd really like to pipe some inspiration into the village planting and thought along with it I might do myself a couple of favours. I do have permission to make some changes. Yippee!

The bed:

- Approx 1.8m x 8mYorkshire

- Alkaline soil

- Edged by fence at the back, grass at the front, paving at the sides

- Extremely dry and a bit rooty from the tree that covers it (not sure what the tree is but it has oval waxy leaves and its probably 4-5m high. Roots may actually come from the box hedging within the bed that I plan to remove)

- In the summer it gets sun from around 3pm (in previous years flowers have crisped with hot sun in the late afternoon) however really it’s mostly under shade from the tree

- North west facing (tree is to the south east)

Must Haves

- A drought tolerant bed that won’t need watering except in extreme events

- Low maintenanceYear-round interest

Would like to Have

- A medicinal theme

So far the plants I think would be nice to incorporate are:

- Thyme

- Lavender

- Chamomile

- Peppermint

- Rosemary

- Sage

- Spring Bulb: Daffs, snowdrops, crocus

But – I don’t really know how to put these together into any sort of sense (height/combination/colour) and I can’t really gauge if that is going to create enough year-round interest – I think I might need some more colour.

Do you have any advice on how to achieve my goals – any species that would be great to incorporate or advise on what to avoid? Any advice on how I ‘frame’ the bed in terms of whether I look at symmetry or completely random locating – and how I incorporate bulbs in amongst everything.

I’d be very grateful for your advice!

Many thanks


  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 7,012

    There are lots of different sorts of thyme. The creeping ones are very useful in the sort of situation you describe, they need absolutely full sun - hate shade. The other more culinary thymes actually need quite rich soil, at least to get them going.

    Sage is a good choice - lots of variety of size and colour and it's evergreen. Purple sage with maybe a santolina (cotton lavender) which has silvery leaves would make a nice 'base' - being mid height - with some taller plants behind - evening primrose? - and a mixture of creeping thyme and chamomile at the front, perhaps. Lavender is hugely varied - little vivid ones like 'Hidcote', tall very strong fragrance ones like 'grosso' so you could maybe have a number as a repeating 'rhythm' along the bed, between the sage/santolina blocks.

    The tough rosemaries are very big plants - mine is 4 feet tall and at least that much across. There are some with white flowers, even pink ones. The common ones are blue flowered.

    Mint needs to be confined or it will completely take over. Traditionally it's planted in a bucket with no bottom and the rim just above the soil so you can cut the runners as they creep over the rim and pull out the roots. It will need more managing than your other choices to keep it in check. If you go for it, black peppermint has a fantastic fragrance and dramatic dark green leaves with purple stems.

    How about some marjoram? Evergreen, bright green leaves, lovely fragrance. Calendula - pot marigolds - brilliant orange flowers, self seeding. Opium poppies (the garden sort) are tall, self seeding, pretty range of pinks and purples. And nasturtiums will grow more or less anywhere and have lovely bright flowers.

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,742



    Herbal Medicine of Northern Europe
    Angelica archangelica, Asplenium scolopendrium, Colchicum autumnale, Convallaria majalis, Digitalis purpurea, Galium odoratum, Gentiana lutea, Helleborus niger, Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, Hyoscyamus niger, Linum usitatissimum, Lysimachia vulgaris, Lythrum salicaria, Prunella vulgaris, Sempervivum tectorum, Succisa pratensis, Viburnum opulus, Viola odorata 


    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,854

    I suggest you go to the library and borrow Beth Chatto's book on creating a Dry Garden.   She explains all you need to know about soil preparation and plant choice.  She created hers on a former car park and there are large trees.

    Some photos here for inspiration, taken last May - 

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thank you so much for all these ideas. I'll go check out that book and look at all these plant ideas and perhaps draw up a top list before getting my crayons out. Raisingirl thankyou for your ideas on layout - great help

    thank you!!

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