What to do? A little help needed please

I need a little help with one of many areas of my garden… A common problem running through the garden is not only that often there’s heavy solid yellow clay but also that I have lots of slopes to work with as the garden is tiered, often the borders to the side slope which is an issue in itself.
I recently cleared the area; still need to add in some compost/soil improver. You can see how it slopes down towards the camera

And a slightly wider view to put it into context:

I’m thinking I also want to remove the Wisteria highlighted in purple below which has pretty much been killed by the previous couple of hard winters… This year it barely had any growth at all, so I think it’s time to give up and try something else instead. The other purple highlight is the Weigela:

This particular area is in danger of having couch grass come through from next door and the proof is in a Weigela which was here when we moved in and has grass all around its roots. This has been an issue since I moved in and I’ve been considering digging it up because of it – also I don’t find it attractive enough or to have a long enough season of interest to justify it still being here… I like plants to be attractive to wildlife as well as me. So I’ve been thinking of something such as a winter honeysuckle or caryopteris. Another option is to plant my ‘Susan Williams-Ellis rose there too… But I’m concerned about the grass issue and knowing it’s likely I’d have to dig anything up in a few years to get rid of the grass again. So I thought that perhaps perennials would be the best way to go and I can lift, divide and remove any grass at the same time. I was thinking that I might put my ‘blood grass’ (imperata cylindrica ‘rubra’) there?? Red grass next to the purple of the caryopteris? Would that look ridiculous? Or perhaps the red of the grass next to the red/pink of Persicaria?
One issue, as you can see is the fact it slopes down… I have a sedum which is doing a nice job of covering the ground but it’s mainly growing down rather than up; the sedum can be seen to the left of the below photo:

Does anyone have any suggestions?

So far I’ve done very little in this area other than plant the Astrantia and David Austin ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ as well as pulling up some shrubs which were originally there and taking over (they’re even managing to come back! They must readily grow from the tiniest bit of root!!)

Preferably I’d like something tall to help cover the fence while the Clematis and Winter Jasmine are fairly young. So perhaps something like some more Veronicastrum is the way to go for now? I have some Persicaria on order, do you think that would survive here – it gets hot and dry in summer.

And moving slightly to the right we have this area which lies between the Weigela and a small Acer and Cotoneaster, it is then backed by Tess of the d’Urbervilles. As a result it’s quite shady down here, so perhaps Foxgloves are the way to go – although I have had them here previously, obviously I have no seedlings from them.

Earlier this year I did have Ragwort in this section, but I’ve had to pull it up – no doubt we’ll get more next year as I allowed it to go to seed and I have seedlings I could move from elsewhere.

The aspect is west-facing and the soil although not too bad does have chunks of clay that I’ve cut up using my trowel.

Copyright 2011 Liz.
All rights reserved. Content created by Liz for Gwirrel’s Garden.

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18 thoughts on “What to do? A little help needed please

  1. Liz I had a similar issue at the old house. Shade, slopes and clay. I built tiered beds so the soil erosion would be less, I amended the soil and then planted shade loving perennials that thrived in dry shade and some in wet shade depending on the drainage. Although the tiered beds helped with that too.

    • Hi Donna,
      We don’t have any tiered beds here; but we do have tiered levels which still have some slopes and you’re right – there is soil erosion and it’s becoming quite an annoyance! I’ve attempted to plant things in the slopes such as Ajuga and the sedum to help with the erosion but it’s taking time. My next step is to move some bird’s foot trefoil and Campanula onto the slopes and hopefully that will work. Although I think I’m going to have to, as you rightly said; build some tiered beds.

      Our back garden – which is the main one, as our front is only small – is south-facing so it makes things difficult as many areas are in full sun for parts of the day and then may become dry shade in the afternoon… Makes it very difficult to plant shady borders because they aren’t truly shady. I’ve tried various different approaches to these temporary shady areas and am yet to find a good combination!

      • Let me think a bit, but I know for dry shade with part sun I planted a few things that helped. I will email you some ideas of things I planted that helped.

        • Hi again,

          I’ve had a go with hardy Geraniums, ferns and Pulmonaria which seem to be doing well in one dry shade/part sun area. I’ve also recently planted some Tiarella, they seem to be doing ok but don’t seem to be flourishing… (I think I’ll have to move them elsewhere)
          Aruncus totally died on me; both plants! (although I kinda hope they’ll come back next year?? Being very hopeful there!)

  2. Hi Liz,

    Persicaria may struggle there. In my humble experience, I have found it does better in rich moist soil. I also have it planted in dry shade and it has not done well.

    I know you are not overly keen on Euphorbia but they would do well there. They are tolerant of dry shade but equally love full sun

    I personally think they would look good with your red grass.
    The different texture and lime greet blooms with red would certainly catch your eye. Note to self, actually like that idea 🙂
    Of course there is always the orangey red euphorbia….can’t for the life of me remember it’s name!!

    • Hi Cheryl,

      Hmmm, rich, moist soil??? Oh dear, I’m trying to think of somewhere I could put this persicaria now! Lol. I think I might have to do some shuffling around in the new border to place them in there where there’s heavy clay under the border which keeps it quite damp – especially throughout winter.

      I’ve just put some of my home-made compost in the spaces I weeded (the spaces that this blog post is about) in anticipation of whatever I decide to plant. It’s difficult to get hold of Euphorbia this time of year, isn’t it?

      There’s also the pink of the Astrantia to consider as that comes into bloom… The Weigela is the darker leaved variety and has pale pink flowers. Although I think the red grass will work well with the red sedum creeping on the ground and perhaps even look good with the Weigela.

  3. Hi Liz,
    Persicara will surivie there, it is a reliable plant. I have just found that it is more prolific in rich moist soil. Remember Liz, it is just my experience…..each garden is different. I have seen things in your garden that would not do well here 🙂

    Euphorbia is a Spring plant but I saw some this morning at a local niursery. Forgot about the Astrantia……..Hmmmm.
    The combination Weigela, Sedum and red grass would look good I think.
    Perhaps Liz it is one of those areas you have just got to try things,
    remember it all can be re-located at some point, that is the fun of gardening.

    I am not being much help really…….

    • Hi,
      Other websites also say that it likes moist conditions; so it will have to go where I mentioned anyway. I could always switch the plants that are in the new border up into this space instead. I don’t have to decide immediately anyway 🙂
      Some more plants arrived today with the Persicaria… Dierama! yay, I need to get them in so they can get settled and protected before winter.

      If I go for the dark Euphorbia which has dark reddy green leaves and lime green blooms then I think that’ll be a nice contrast with the blood grass as well as working with the Astrantia.

    • Hi Shirl,
      Heehee, I look forward to more combo chatting 😀

      I had a look on a website and they suggested yellow achillea, Geranium ‘brookside’ and Knautia Macedonica as being good partner plants to the blood grass… I was semi-planning on moving the large purple geranium in the new border to go with the blood grass, so I wasn’t far off!

  4. Dear Liz, I know I only have one-way suggestions to make… but I hope a different point of view could help you a little. Why don’t you beat weeds with grasses? A big miscanthus would look perfect there. It would cover the fence from april till january, when you’re supposed to cut it back. It could provide some freshness for persicaria that you could plant in front of it. Otherwise caryopteris would look nice with imperata cilindrica, maybe a golden leaved variety, which produce lighter blue flowers. It certainly would be an audacious mix but dare!

    • Hi Alberto,

      That’s very much a possibility; One option was to use ‘blood grass’ in the space and combine with Geraniums or something else.

      I have a Miscanthus sinesis ‘flamingo’ that I could potentially move to this empty space – Do you think that would look good? At the moment it’s a couple of metres from the empty space where I planted it temporarily until I was certain where it would be best situated.

      • Even if I’m supposed to be pretty lucky with grasses I had some problems with Flamingo in the past. I think you should consider a taller and tougher variety like m. purpurascens. but I don’t want to force it here, so try and use what you have available. 😉

        • Hi again,

          Thanks for the suggestions, it’s much appreciated 🙂

          I’ll see what I can get hold of as the season’s coming to an end a lot og garden centres stop selling grasses and such. I would like something tall though, so a nice large grass I think is the way to go and it’ll help hide the fence until my climbers are more mature.

  5. Hi Liz,

    Wish I hadn’t chatted to you last night :0)
    I have spent the day re-locating plants….absolutely shattered and still not finished.

    Did I read you lost two Aruncus……saying very quietly, I moved mine to shade and where the soil is moist, and they have romped away. They had looked very sickly initially.

    • Hi Cheryl,
      Lucky you – it’s been rain… sun… rain… sun… all day here and every time I attempted to pop outside it couldn’t be for long before the rain came again so I ended up inside all day.

      Yep my Aruncus died, I do kinda hope they come back, but I’m doubting it. I need some good dry shade plants… I began to branch out in terms of shade plants but they all seem to be moist shade i.e. tiarella, aruncus, epimedium etc. Bah. Although the hardy Geraniums are doing an excellent job, I guess I’ll just have to fill it with geraniums – but I’d like some height other than Foxgloves too.

  6. Hi Liz. Couch grass creeping in from next door is a pain in the posterior. You could try digging out everything you can get at and then sinking some damp proof membrane vertically up against the fence to cut down on the invasion. You’d need to get some at least a foot wide though, that stuff spreads like crazy 😦 You could also plant an ivy against the fence, the wildlife will love it and if you allow some of the branches to trail along the base of the fence it will help stabilise the soil and shade out the couch grass. I agree with the other commenters, persicaria prefers moist soil, as do Miscanthus although I get away with it. If it doesn’t get really dry, and if you dig in plenty of good compost, you could certainly try for a largish slump of veronciastrum, as it stays looking interesting for most of the year. Aconitum would go well too, and with plenty of organic muck miscanthus would probably be fine – mine are, and I have the same issue with heavy yellow clay and the drying out tendencies. Any matt-forming perennials like lots of the geraniums will help hold the soil together too. Crocosmia could work well too, wonderfully structural, though might not work well in with the purple/blue etc colour scheme? Perhaps one of the pale lemon yellow ones? And you could try Phlox, lost of them survive in sun or shade, and again, attractive to pollinators. Oooh, and you could try a dogwood against the fence too, great colour in winter, and then a good backdrop to perennials later on… Have fun!

    • Hi Janet,
      It’s a long fence and I’m not so sure I’m up for digging up 20m of planting along the edge lol… But then that’s the reality and maybe it’s worthwhile doing it a bit at a time. Although I do need to wait until the kickboards under the fence are put in place to stop anything come under – it’ll certainly help to some extent.

      I think I’m going to go with a feature grass in the space – a big Stipa. I’ve already moved the geranium from the border below onto the slope. The Persicaria have been planted in the Aster border in place of the geranium where it should remain relatively damp for them but I do plan on moving one next spring once I’ve moved ‘Lady in Black’ which is blooming now, so a bad time to try moving it. I’ve bought a few more ferns today as well as some Lady’s mantle, some more blood grass a honeysuckle to cover that back fence I mentioned to you on one of your blog posts and a small ornamental acer that will go up on the upper tier with nice deep leaves (similar to yours) and only grows to a metre and a half.

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