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What to plant against a west facing wall?


By peter


Get your thinking hats on folks, I’d like some help please :o)

So, here’s the view from my lounge window, with my veggies being just out of shot to the left. I eventually got round to moving the compost bin into the sun (I know it should have been there from day one but hey ho) and now I’d like to brighten up the wall in the photo. Cue my request for help…

My back garden

To narrow down the options I have quite a few criteria :o) so let me tell you a bit more…

I would like to plant a strip about a metre wide along the wall, from the drain pipe to the fence. This photo was taken at 3pm and the lawn next to the fence never gets sunlight. The foot of the wall is in shade until midday and then shaded again in the evening by the shadow from the house (about 6pm in the summer). The far right hand corner is in the shade all day, every day.

One to please Spritz and Grenville – I’m not allowing myself any veggies. I figure if I’m going to give this flower malarkey a go I might as well do it properly.

I don’t want to spend a lot of money – is that always on everyones criteria? It’s just the one that gets forgotten at the garden centre :o). Anyway, we rent the house so we’re not sure how long we’ll be in it – things like water features etc… are unlikely to come with us next move and could be a big waste of money.

As you may have noticed, I am not the most conscientious of gardeners – plants that curl up and die at the slightest neglect are probably unsafe in my garden – I’m willing to give anything a go but suggestions for delicate plants might need to carry a warning.

My soil (quick flick through the encyclopaedia) seems to be silt-y, I think. There are lots of Rhododendrons near us which I’ve been told suggests alkaline soil (although I’ve never tested it).

It would be nice if there was something to keep the area green and interesting all through the year (but not the biggest issue).

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to suggest plants (or even an entire planting scheme) that would suit my little patch.

Oh, I almost forgot, we live in the South of England :o)

Thank you very much in advance for the help, and if there’s anything else I can tell you to help please ask in the comments.

My garden is in your hands…

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Hi Peter,
I think first of all we need to collectively put our 'thinking caps' on and not rush into the project....its a blank canvas so lets treat it like a new 'painting', and the first step is to have an idea as to what the finished work of art will look like.
Well.... theres an endless list of possible suggestions but the first suggestion we can make is to give the border some shape- its a bit linear and straight at the moment. How about cutting into the lawn to create a gentle curve that will also give you more planting space?.
Then think about tiers of planting for height and structure, so that the plants cascade down to the lawn. For height particularly against the brick wall and to give a backdrop, possibly a Wisteria , Jasmine and several Clematis 'Miss Christine' for early white flowers and 'The President' or 'Prince Charles' for later colour- You could several varietes for seasonal colour to cover and hide the fence as well.There is also 'Apple Blossom' an evergreen Clematis with evergreen glossy leaves and delicate pink- white flowers in March/ April. There are also evergreen honeysuckles to provide all year round foliage and some perfume to the garden.You could add some perennials for colour and seasonal bedding if that is what you like.
It depends what sort of theme, colour and style of border you wish to create. Do you want 'evergreens' or a colour theme. etc. It's very easy to suggest plants, but first of all give some thought to what you want in this area- evergreen?, exotic vibrant colours?, muted colours?, seasonal interest throughout the year? etc etc so that in the depths of winter you still have some interest.
You might wish to think about colour, pattern, texture and form for this area as well.
The next step is to grab a big sheet of paper and jot down all your 'wishes' for this border, and we will proceed from there. Dont rush into it!. We are reluctant to suggest any more plants at this stage. Get back with a 'wish list'' and we will go from there.It's important that your garden is 'your own.' and you get it looking good, right from the start otherwise you can waste both time and money.
Hope this helps and looking forward to seeing your planting 'wish list' for this area.
Best wishes,
Grenville & Alan.

20 Jul, 2008


To cover the wall, I'd suggest an euonymus - either 'Silver Queen' or 'Emerald Gaiety'. Dead easy (honest!), grows just about anywhere, is evergreen and clings on like ivy (but is a much lighter plant).

20 Jul, 2008


I tend to agree with Grenville on this one - although Andrew's suggestion would work, it wouldn't necessarily be what you envisage. Think about how you intend to use the rest of the garden. Do you want to sit outside and look at colour and shape? Do you enjoy fragrance? Write down what you'd really like then add to this blog and we'll put our collective thinking caps on and make suggestions. Remember that this is YOUR garden and only you know your preferences - you can take or reject the ideas. So glad you want more than veggies, though! :-)

20 Jul, 2008


Thanks for the advice and suggestions. Answering questions with questions though - not fair :o)

To be honest there are a couple of reasons why it is not so important to me that I get the garden "just right" - I'm treating this as an experiment so it's more important to me that I learn new things rather than end up with my perfect garden.

The second reason that it's tricky! I don't know if it's because I'm a novice but I find it very difficult to picture what I want. I think that is one of the things that makes me anxious - thinking that I should know what I want the end result to be when really I don't.

Now that I've dodged the questions I'll try to be a bit more helpful :o) I do know that I want certain things from it so maybe telling you those will be useful.

I'd like to have greenery all year round. In fact, I think I like interesting foliage more than flowers - I'd like some flowers though, my wife would be disappointed if not :o)

I'd also like to have plants which require some attention - things which make me learn, but not so much that they'll die easily.

Thinking about having the plants cascade down to the lawn - that sounds a good idea. I wouldn't want it to look bare in winter so maybe something tall an evergreen at the back of the border?

I don't need flowers all year round but it would be nice to have things flowering in series rather than all at once. Akane has just put a request in for aliums, will they grow there?

I think I am drawn to the paler, calmer colours but then Akane likes bright - if it "works" then I think any colour scheme would be OK.

Am I focusing on details too much? Are there a handful of 'big picture' questions that I should start with? It feels like I could read a book on garden design and still be confused.

21 Jul, 2008


Hi Peter,
You have mentioned a major issue in your blog that will affect your decisions for the garden . You are currently renting the property.
As you so rightly say you may decide not to stay there for long, and your efforts will be left behind.Theres no point in spending too much money at this stage.
You could add masses of Alliums for late spring structure with perennial wallflowers.
(Very cheap and colourful)

Put the Allium bulbs in groups of 5 or 7 so that you have masses of tall spikes growing together. They could go in this autumn.Also you could add blue, cream and purple tulips for spring colour with some muscari grape hyacinths so that they spread and appear each spring along with some traditional blue hyacinths for spring perfume.

Later next year you could develop a cottage garden style border if you want to invest more money, time and effort in the garden.

I know you want to experiment with the planting and the border ,but you could end up wasting a lot of money if things dont work out, and you will feel disappointed..

Sorry to have posed more questions rather than answers--- but I have designed gardens for other people and they often say to me 'tell me what to plant' and I always say if I do that the garden is no longer yours- so I ask them to sit down and just get a few ideas down about the colours they want and if they want an evergreen backdrop or colour in the winter.
It does'nt have to be a 'professional' plan, but you will appreciate your efforts far more if you learn by having a go. Even if you make a few mistakes it does'nt matter, but you dont want a major disaster on your hands either!

So this is why I'm going to suggest that you and your wife both look through some gardening books and plant catalogues, or go on the internet, so that you can jot down ideas and plan your planting scheme together and agree on colour, pattern, texture and heights and types of plants.

I've given you some ideas for some easy 'starter' plants, and then you can add to them and be more adventurous as the space develops if that is what you both decide to do.

I think it will be far more satisfying for you both to see the border develop over time rather than do a 'quick fix' like the T.V garden makeover shows of the past......

Finally, and perhaps the most important decision of all...
(in view of the fact that you are currently renting the property,)
I suggest you both decide on how much money you are prepared to spend on the garden, and really stick to your decision....
Hope this helps,
All best wishes,

22 Jul, 2008


Thanks Grenville - renting does make a big difference to how much we want to spend and we will sit down to look at ideas and themes that we like. What a great excuse to go back and look through the great photos on GOY :o)

Akane loves tulips so I think they're already on the list!

22 Jul, 2008

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