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 I've got an empty space and no ideas - any suggestions? The area was overgrown with brambles and it's been dug over and the roots removed. There's a Choisya on the right and a Viburnum opulus on the left which has been hard pruned. The trellis fence is falling down and will be removed. We are looking north in the photo. The soil is alkaline and well-drained. I prefer informal to manicured. 

All thoughts welcome!


Veg beds? My soil is pretty alkaline and the veg love it. If your veg beds are elsewhere, you could grow Globe Artichokes here which become pretty big but are very beautiful and great to eat.

Silver birches along the boundary, under planted with bluebells.Amalanchier,Exochordia and a cherry.your favourite bulbs and a bench.


Is it land you want to cover and not have to do much to?  It's not clear from the photo if the view is something you want to see or something you want to disguise!


Thanks everyone.

Artjak, not veg - the veg garden is already established elsewhere.

AWB, the area isn't big enough for all that - I'll go and measure it in a minute.

Patsy and Annie, I can see the area from my kitchen window, especially in winter. It would be great if there was a bit more to look at! There might be room for one more shrub between the two existing ones. Then I guess perennials, perhaps some annuals for this year. There are probably still some bulbs along the edge near the far path. Beyond the path is the orchard - you can just see apple trees to each side. The structure beyond the fence is next door's oil tank, I don't need to see that but there are shrubs and climbers already in place. The bare area is a bit shady from trees and shrubs that are out of shot.

Flowergirlie, I don't want a pond just now as I have small grandchildren, perhaps in a few years.

At least I'm starting to think a bit more constructively now!



A winter garden? Cornus? Other shrubs that have good Autumn colour?

Lion S

How about a Hamamelis, underplanted with Cyclamen coum; or maybe a Garrya elliptica and some  ornamental grasses? Bulbs for Spring colour. Would look very nice with the Choisya.

I like the idea of a winter garden! The Viburnum opulus does colour up (assuming it survives the hard pruning!) and the Choisya is evergreen, so that's a good start. Some Cornus for stem colour might be nice. Doesn't Hamamelis need acid soil?

I've measured and the space is roughly quadrant-shaped, one straight side is 5.2 metres and the other is 4.2 metres.

I've just remembered the Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey. I think there are a lot of hellebores there as well, might have to go on an expedition to check it out.

Would you recommend putting in some stepping stones or something for access to the middle? (I don't need to cross it to get anywhere).

Get some winter heathers in there.....carnea and darleyensis varieties.  They come in a variety of foliage colours and flower in mid winter to late put in at last 3 varieties of the same or, ideally, 5 or more, to make a glorious evergreen undulating carpet.  Add a conifer like Taxus aurea or Standishii.  .  Can you add a couple of helleborus orientallis and helleborus corsicus?  And dig in some mushroom compost at planting time.  Add a "grass" like carex buchanii an evergreen foxy red upright then fountain like appearance.  Get a euphorbia like rubra......purple black foliage and yellow flowers in spring....or a variegated variety in there.  


Stepping stones to the middle with a bird feeding system there?


Skimmia Japonica, mahonia (check it's an evergreen one), Vibernum bodnantense Dawn, pulmonaria, alchemilla mollis, geranium macrorrhizum, and periwinkle.  They are all fairly fast growing and the perennials spread quickly.  Excepting the alchemilla I have them all in leaf or flower in the garden at the moment.  The vibernum can get tall but I chop mine back hard in summer when it stops flowering and haven't killed it yet.  Good luck

Verdun, do you think heathers would survive in my alkaline soil? I'm on limestone and the pH is about 8.5. I've always avoided them because heather isn't found in limy areas. I've got a few Helleborus orientalis that need moving, they could certainly go in there. I've also got H. foedidus, which looks great at the moment. The sedge sounds good, I don't know that one. I love euphorbias, I'll have a look - I used to have a lovely lime green compact one.

Annie, those are all good plants, I've got most of them elsewhere in the garden and could transplant some bits.


Definitely a perfect space for wildlife.

A pond with wildflowers around the side with mown paths. Planted with bulbs for springtime interest and early pollinators?

I would plant a few small native trees along the boundaries, maybe something like wild cherry for spring blossom and later fruit for the birds, I would also plant Rowen trees and crab apple for the wildlife with maybe an apple tree and plum tree for yourself?

On one side I would under plant with native wildlife shrubs such as guelder rose and alder buckthorn  and other native shrubs to form a loose wildlife hedge? Then on the sunniest side you could have a loose under planting of tall pollinating plants such as verbena, aster, rudbeckia, salvias etc to add long interest and of course nectar for bees and butterflies or you could just continue with the wildflowers here instead?

Lastly make sure you have a nice bench located near the pond to enjoy all your hard work and the wildlife that will b queuing up to come in!!!




Yes, Erica carnea  and darleyensis varieties will thrive in alkaline soils. ,these winter flowering heathers are lime tolerant.  Surprised at how high your ph reading is though.

If planting these heathers you add mychorrizal fungi to the planting holes and mix in some ericaceous compost (not necessary but it's what I would do) I'm sure they will do well.  

I love a carnea variety called Foxhollow.  It has clear yellow foliage with red/orange new growth tips.  Vivelli has red flowers and dark foliage.  Ann Sparkes has orange foliage.  Lots of lovely varieties to,choose from.  Darleyensis and Mediterranea varieties are taller and help to create nice contrasting mounds


Yes, the first testing kit I bought only went up to 8. I had to take a sample of soil to work and use a pH meter to get a reading. I haven't actually tested the soil in this little patch, I'll see if I can get a kit that has a good range (retired now so I can't use the facilities at work any more!).

I'll have a look at some heathers, possibly at the weekend.

Here's a view from the other side, and with the fence removed. Now I have to decide whether to put something in place of the fence or let the area merge with the adjoining bit.


Can I also suggest a conifer   I'm very fond of, viz., Sulphur Spray, a juniper.  The foliage is greyish blue and forms a nice mound ....mine is about 4' high and 6' across after 15 years or so with annual trimming and sets off perfectly coloured foliaged heathers.  I have a a variety of winter heathers backed by  a naturally conical variegated holly ...golden king.....adds to a nice evergreen low maintenance winter scene I think.  Could this holly occupy your ex fence spot?

I've got that holly, it's to the left just out of shot in the photo above. I was wondering about a variegated euonymus or three, they seem to grow well in my garden. I've got some that I keep trimmed to form a rounded shape and others that just grow free, they are all good. Junipers are lovely, I wouldn't mind a bluey one - there are golden ones in the front garden border. Great ideas, starting to get excited now!

Euonymous Emerald n gold is a favourite of mine.  Has pink red touches to,the leaves in winter but always a lovely feature.  Euonymous aureus is bigger, different.  The former I keep to mounds about 4' high but Aureus I keep "topiarised" to about 7 or 8'.  Also a nice white variegated variety ...Gaiety I think.....with same compact evergreen mounded shape.  More excited landgirl?  

Just been shopping at Barnsdale Gardens. I bought three Cornus, two with red stems and one with yellow; five different Hellebores; and a Sarcococca confusa.  I had a look around the gardens and they were all plants that were looking particularly good in winter. I also got a lovely Hart's Tongue fern with curly edges.

I was also impressed with Arum italicum 'Pictum' and various pulmonarias. Saw a large Euonymus 'Emerald Gaiety' but none for sale. No heathers in evidence.

It's all starting to come together!