Garden for pseu

I must preface this with the reminder that this is how I personally would treat this new area and is subject to my own personal tastes.

We have a triangle roughly 18’x16′ facing mainly East with early morning sun, ph neutral to alkaline that has previously been laid to lawn.  The requirement is mainly shrubs with some perennials, some evergreens and with mainly white flowers.

General preparation.

The ground will have been compacted under lawn for some years, the first priority must be to till and fertilise the soil.  It is not a good idea to plant shrubs in compacted soil and merely dig out a hole for the roots, this effectively sends the roots in a circle and they will not develop to proper maturity,  the soil should be hand dug or mechanically tilled with good additions of bone meal and organic fertiliser such as matured manure before planting should commence.

Consideration of plants.

The ph alone precludes the use of many stalwarts of the shrub garden. Most camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas, kalmias and magnolias will not tolerate the ph. Many shrubs, conifers and roses will not tolerate the lack of sunlight hours and the chemistry of the proximity of a yew hedge.

Consideration of design

Some time ago I’m sure pseu posted some pictures of her house, I remember considerable yew hedges of some height and a very traditional English looking middle class home, I do hope that these were your pictures pseu! Taking that into account I personally would not want to see any ‘tricky’ looking plantings, I would take care to avoid too many coloured and variegated foliages and go for a very traditional English looking border to compliment the structure already there. Yew is a dark and sombre foliage especially to the East with limited sunlight. I would use a limited palette of single green, grey/silver and bluish foliages with mainly white flowers with highlights in soft blue and pink to provide lift.  I have considered gold and feel that it may not be so complementary in the setting, it would be perhaps too urban and may be construed as a bit ‘Golders Green’ for the environment!

Trees and shrubs

I think I would want to see a lift as a  focal point, I suggest a tree, Betula jacquemontii, a Himalayan paper barked white birch to provide contrast in both texture and colour against the yew.  Not to be centred but off to one side a little, underplanted with an offcentred oval of lilies of the valley.

Other shrubs, with the caveat that there is not too much room for them and that they must earn their keep by being long flowering -to provide winter interest, Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, this flowers white /pinkish all winter into early spring and has a charming scent, it is not over vigourous and has a very strong structure and interesting leaf shape. To provide spring interest in white, Spirea Bridal wreath and the summer, shrubby cinqufoil, potentilla, something -wood is white and flower until frost!  I cannot see either hybrid tea roses or shrub roses being in scale with this planting, however I can recommend a mounding rose, Ballerina that flowers small pale pink flowers from June until frost, most reliable and only needs  light clipping rather than traditional pruning. For the autumn perhaps hardy fuchsia,  there is white single pear drop style blossom I think it is called Hawkshead, or maybe hibiscus, the satin range has a nice double white flowered one.  For the winter perhaps Skimmia would take the ph and as long as you plant both male and female will have white flowers, red berries and is evergreen for interest.

Ground covers and perennials

I can see hellebores being most useful here, they are effectively evergreen, long blooming and have useful coloured foliage. Hellebore augustifolia has a silver grey dentated leaf which remains handsome all year and a natural green flower that last 4 months. Hellebore orientalis has a cultivar White Queen’ that is white flowered, fading to purplish with interesting seed heads.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is deciduous but has a green leaf with silver white tracery and sprays of pale blue flowers in spring, most useful for the shady part of the bed.

Stachys byzantium has silver furry leaves which effectively mats the ground with a pale pink flower .

Bergenia is evergreen and can be had in every colour from white to dark pink.

Hostas would make bold statements, I think that sieboldiana elegans, with its large bluish foliage would be effective.

Personally I would restrict the palette of plants and plant the perennials in groups for reasonably fast impact, the austerity of the background needs an elegance not a messy ‘bunged in’ look, structure and texture is all.


White crocus teamed with those pale blue stripy, spotted blue ones and snowdrops.

White daffodils, but beware they are beloved by slugs, prepare to defend them!  Pheasant eye narcissii.

Ivory tulips, teamed with pale pink viridiana tulips and some black ‘Queen of the Night’, followed by ornithalagum or camassia alba for early summer.

Lilies, unfortunately all the asiatics and orientals will not get enough sun to do well here but there are lilium candidum that prefer neutral to alkaline soil and lilium regale that should do ok in the sunnier part of the border. Also toad lilies take a poorer light.

Cyclamen coum will take the part shade as will various of the anenomes.

When planted, I would make sure the bed is mulched with a fertile mulch, you will need a couple of yards to give a satisfactory depth of mulch to inhibit weeds and provide nutrition and humus, that soil will have had no added humus for years.

Author: christinaosborne

Landed on one side safely.

22 thoughts on “Garden for pseu”

  1. Ferret, stachys would make good substitutes if you ever lose your ears, nice and furry!

  2. Oh, Christina, you are a star! What a wonderful well thought out ideas treasure you have provided.
    Yes the photo’s you remember are mine.

    I already have one of those paper-bark silver birches in the existing border, and had thought of adding another, but then hesitated as I think there should be an uneven number.

    I am aching this morning, having removed all the grass over Saturday and Sunday and broken up the surface to a border fork depth and tipped on a whole compost bin full of compost. I have booked a jobbing gardener for Thursday to break this up further and dig the compost in, and to remove two shrubs which have had it. (I have realised my limitations) I hope he’ll be able to come again the following week to lay a path along the hedge so I have somewhere to stand when I trim it. The turfs have been stacked for making some decent loam and I still have one and a half loads of compost to use, though I need some for other beds. Shame I’m working three days this week!

  3. Excellent work. some opinions;
    the Betulal jaquemonti I find less elegant than the Betula ermani, if you can find it.
    An alternative would be a winter flowering cherry, which I love.
    What about Winter sweet? Chiomanthus. Personally don’t like the viburnum
    the spirae is quite vigorous, amy be too big. how about. Chionanthus or spirae thunbergii, gives earlier flowers qnd less vigourous.
    Not exactly in the colour scheme but ma

  4. sorry pressed on the wrong button. Mahonia charity would look good against the Yew on dull November days.

  5. Osmanthus xburkwoodi is another favourite. evergreen, modest growth, white perfumed flowers early spring.

  6. Thank you madeof. I can see I shall have to do some image hunting and deciding….

  7. BY the way a couple of my own ideas:
    lavender a the edge of the plot where the hedge meets the veg plot (inside the veg plot path lined with lavender, so ties the theme into what already exists)
    vibernum plicatum mariesi
    magnolia (poss stellata)or a small maple of some sort.
    a smoke bush, to replace existing berberris which is dying!
    A clump of grasses, possibly.
    A hebe of a mound forming shape, with dark edged leaves.

  8. Pseu if you want my ideas yu’ll have to post a picture. I can’t repember what your garden looks like.

  9. I thought about lavender too, but decided you may not have enough sun, it really needs all day sun to do well, ditto the magnolia stellata, ditto the hebe! none of these will do in under 5 hours sunshine a day, just malinger!

    I don’t think I like the acer against the yew, starts getting tricky!

    Smoke bush are lovely but them you change the colour scheme, it is one of my favourites but I didn’t fancy it against the yew, too much dark on dark.

    I have my doubts thou about the Chiomanthus in Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire, a little tender and it has yellow flowers.

    Richard has some good suggestions. I particularly like the osmanthus and the spirea thunbergii.
    Yes some pics would he helpful, it may not be such a dark corner as I am imagining.

    Glad to hear you are having it dug over thoroughly, don’t forget the bone meal!

    I always think that it is such a temptation to put things in because they are favourite plants even when the situation is really not suitable. I’m extremely lucky here to have such a selection of beds with differing attributes here at this house so I can generally find the right sapot, but just to make life interesting all my beds are colour co-ordinated in the summer season, but I allow the spring bulbs to riot! We have so many dull days here.

    Are you really sure you want a white border?
    Whatever you choose, do not get carried away with fads and fashions, that is a huge mistake!
    Chelsea throws so many tricky vulgar plants that it is quite easy to waste a fortune and repent at leisure! (Don’t ask me how I know!) Do you remember those ghastly red delphiniums a few years ago? No I never succumbed to those!!!!

    Have fun!

  10. Afternoon again,
    The smoke bush would go against the wall where there is an already planted border which needs rearranging, so wouldn’t be in front of the yew. I’ll get some photos done! Maybe not today though. Probably Thursday, my next day off, unless we have a sunny evening. (One side of the triangle, the one facing the house is the yew, the other at right angles is a horrid wall, topped with a neighbours trellis and a rather exuberant Kiftsgate rose.)

  11. Talking of trends, I have a rather bright light green form of Philadelphus which I hate and love at various times of the year….

  12. Hats off to Christina! Very thorough. I absolutely love the thought of that tulip planting scheme. Osmanthus is exquisitely perfumed and spirea has the prettiest form. Great ideas, folks.

    CO, if you’re reading this – don’t forget about the organic gardening/wildlife gardening piece. Look forward to reading your views. 🙂

  13. janh, will get to it anon, but so terribly busy at the moment, it is a full time job!
    Must away and garden for Tina!
    Cheers you all.
    Yes pseu some pics in due course would be most helpful, and hours of sun on the patch.

  14. Honestly, Christina, no rush. Just didn’t want you to forget. I’ve knackered my back moving a big camellia in a bloody great pot. Gardening is just sodding hazardous. You don’t get this trouble on a bike. Hmmph.

  15. I have been working on this project and have now had two not completely successful visits from a jobbing gardener who arrived and proclaimed the soil too hard to dig on the first visit and returned this afternoon with a Rotavator.
    In the meantime, between his first visit and today I had forked over the surface and broken it up a little and watered it with a sprinkler for a while yesterday and started moving out some day lilies etc that were growing along the old border edge.
    When he arrived I got him to finish digging these out while I supervised and then asked him to put another load of compost out onto the soil before he turned the soil over. Then I left (to work in the veg patch) while he did the noisy bit. Only the motor wouldn’t start! He tugged and tugged at the cord and did all the necessary fiddly bits to get it going, but with out luck. he’ll be back on Thursday.
    He has put in a few slabs as a path in front of the yew now as well. So it’s happening but slower than I had hoped.

    I have printed off all your suggestions, Christina and Madeof and have a friend coming on Wednesday evening to advise further. I have taken a few pictures of work in progress but Techie advisor is not available at present….

  16. The border is Rotavated and composted. Slabs are laid. (see above)
    Day lilies lifted and pulmonaria reduced by me.
    Then I produced a huge list of ‘wish I could have one of those in the garden…and then felt it was time to get a friend in. She has drawn the plot and taken photos, and will produce a plan to work from.
    Thank you so much for your input on this. You helped me realise that I needed to think it through properly before planting.

  17. Yes fraid so!
    Otherwise ends up as the proverbial pig’s ear especially if you want colour co-ordination.
    That always lifts it into the semi professional sphere.
    Good luck.

  18. Oh, and we (husband and I) removed a couple of branches from a cherry tree to balance it up a little and can now have a better view of the new bed, once it’s planted.

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