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Name: Elaine Randall
Question: New garden, blank canvas lawn only part shade help! Garden is all lawn at present, it's wide one end narrow the other. 36ft long widest part 24ft gradual narrowing to 18 ft. I'd like perennials, fragrant climbers, and obviously some evergreens. I also want to attract wild birds, I love honeysuckles, armandii clematis, jasmine, Lavender , Buddleja davidii . I also want pots strategically placed with maybe the fine cut acer? A bright red. It's all fenced. Sun one end early mornings, sun other end late afternoon evenings. I don't want to dig full borders, more corner borders filled with colour and fragrance and obviously climbers to cover bare fencing. Quite a tall order, but being disabled I know it'll take me awhile, and it needs to be mainly maintenance free, it's a new lawn too laid October last year, when can I start to plant drifts of crocus, snowdrops etc in it?
Answer: Hi Elaine, how lovely to have a blank canvas! You’ve listed some nice plants to use - and you’re quite right to suggest using evergreens as they give the garden some structure during winter. All these plants will require some maintenance, whether it’s pruning the shrubs and climbers so they put on a good show of flowers and stay within bounds, or cutting back and dividing the perennial plants every 3 years to keep them performing well. Some easy-going evergreen shrubs include Aucuba, Berberis, Daphne, Euonymus, Fatsia (which is big-leaved and architectural), varieties of holly, Pittosporum, Escallonia, Osmanthus , Garrya (fantastic winter catkins) and dwarf conifers.
It sounds like your garden is mainly part shade - on our website you can use the filters on the left hand side of the page to select plants for part shade e.g. in our perennial and biennial plant section. Click on any of the categories from the menus and you’ll be able to filter on the left according to your requirements.
We’ve put together a comprehensive list of plants for attracting birds (and bees and butterflies!) in our 'Plants for wildlife’ article - click here to view it. We’ve also put together a 'Plants for walls and fences’ article which is divided into plants for cool north and east-facing walls, and plants for warmer south and west-facing walls. Both articles include interesting plant features such as autumn colour or scent so hopefully you will find something here to inspire you! As for the crocus and snowdrops you can plant them this autumn as the grass should be fairly well established by then. I hope this helps Elaine - best of luck with the garden, we’d love to see some photos as it progresses!
Name: Stephen Muddell
Question: Just like I guess a lot of people, my allotment has been either under water or at least very soggy for most of the autumn/winter are there any pearls of wisdom to help the soil recover ready for spring planting/sowing?
Answer: Hi Stephen, the most important thing is not to walk on the soil whilst it’s wet - particularly with clay soils as this can damage the structure and make water logging even worse! The best thing you can do is to leave it until you need to, or are able to, work on it for sowing/planting. This could be mid-spring on clay and also depends on how the weather works out this year. Alternatively you could help the soil dry out and warm up by covering it with plastic sheeting or cloches from February onwards. If you do need to walk across the soil then try using a plank of wood to distribute your weight and reduce compaction. Make sure you keep adding organic matter each year as this helps to chemically and physically break up the soil for better air flow and drainage. I hope this helps.