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Dear everyone,

I would really love some help - am a bit stuck! Over the summer I finally started sorting out the weedpatch that was my front garden. I have put a square of gravel in the middle (about 8' square) and planted a little box hedge all round that, with a curve round the lime tree in the corner. I now need to work out what to put in the remaining borders. It is north-east facing, but gets full sun all morning, then deep shade in the afternoons. The soil is neutral. The borders remaining around the box are about 20" wide.

I really wanted to plant things that were quite low, so they won't just swamp the box hedge which I was planning to keep about 8" or so tall. Also I really can't work out what to plant against the wall under the bay window. There isn't much space and I need something evergreen, that will grow quite close to the wall and (very important) hide the horrible crack that seems to be developing and I would rather not have to look at! So please, lovely people, tell me what I could do. Thank you, Amanda.


ps, I don't know if it's realistic, but ideally I'd like to have things that are evergreen, so it looks good all year round.

I think pyracantha can grow there, it's evergreen, can be trimmed hard against the wall and you can choose from red, yellow or orange berries.  For the borders perhaps a variety of scabious?  The have rossettes of foliage at the bottom and the flower are on airy stalks which will contrast nicely with your clipped box.

What you have done so far looks really smart btw!

Hello Amanda

Well, you want something evergreen and very low.  

Heucheras are mound forming in foliage colours ranging from purple black to red to orange to yellow.  Ophiopogons are grass like plants, almost black in colour and evergreen. How about winter heathers?  They have flowers in winter and green, yellow or orange foliage.  Grasses like festuca foliage....uncinia reddish foliage and stipa Tennuissima with lovely summer flowers.  campanula dicksons gold is a yellow evergreen mound with blue flowers in summer.  Scabious like butterfly blue is evergreen with blue flowers all summer.  Thymus silver Posie is a silvery white foliaged thyme with pink,flowers at about 8" high.  You could move some of that gravel   to other side of box edging to mulch your planting. 

How,about a couple of terracotta pots under your bay window and plant Phormiums ....dazzler is a rich maroon red and more compact than most.  I think, since your planting is quite formal, that I would keep to fewer varieties of plants.  The pots would hide the crack on the wall. 



I think it would look nice with a small ornamental tree in the centre of the gravel. I can imagine brightly coloured tulips in the borders for one part of the year.


oh, and a line of dwarf lavender along the path.

Clk. thought about lavendar too but even the dwarf varieties would swamp the box I think.  


Yes, I thought for the spring low growing tulips in one colour would look stunning as you have designed a formal neat and tidy garden.  I might think of other things yet, so will let you know.


I like what yo'uve already done.  It's very attractive. 

Verdun's sugestions are pretty much what I would advise too except that phormiums are not winter hardy for me so maybe something else like euonymous - the evergreen one with silver or gol dvariegation variegation or hebes if your winters aren't too cold..

Lavender would want more sun than is available here but heucheras and heucherellas would be happy.

You have done an amazing job there Amanda, If that was my front garden, I would grow Portuguese laurel against the house and with secateurs keep its height just below the windowsil, If that borders wide enough (its hard to tell from photo) Or pyrathcantha is a good option I agree Mrs G. I would grow a small decidious tree in the centre of that gravel square, something that would be ok with the partial shade aspect, I wonder if a paulownia would grow there happily, there is endless options! I would grow grasses of one variety around the tree in the gravel patch, in a prairie style with little coloured jewels of spring Tulips and summer Geums or Crocosmia's poking threw the grasses. Exciting oppurtunities!  



It's difficult to judge how much space you have between your box hedge and the house but perhaps you could have some viburnam tinus there which is evergreen and produces white flowers from winter to spring.  I thought of a pyracantha like a couple of the others but if you get spiked by it's thorns it is very painfull.  Well done though Amanda for a fabulous job you have done so far.  Keep us all posted with it's progress as we will all be very interested.   


I think it looks lovely already, Amanda!  Verdun has come up with some good plants for you.  Personally, I've always wanted a Japanese rock garden so would try putting an interesting looking rock in the centre and rake circular 'ripples' around it in the gravel.

Evergreen grasses are nice in winter, the varigated low growing one's add extra colour when nothing much is in flower. Some are fine even after a covering of snow, three to four clumps along the left hand side of your garden would take the edge off the paving. .


There are some brilliant suggestions here. I like the japanese idea, maybe you could grow an Acer in a pot which would complement that.

Around the outside I would probably keep it simple and fairly formal. I think Ophiopogon sounds great. There is a green form as well so you could make geometric shapes. Maybe as Verdun says you could add some blue festuca as well.



On the practical side - I'd get the crack checked out soon - it's probably due to the weight of the brick pier above it and might just mean those few bricks being chipped out and replaced.  Not a big job - and not as big a job as it'll be if that pier sinks down a bit and compromises the structure at the top of the bay - you'll have water getting in then and that will be a problem.

Also, make sure that whatever you do doesn't block those air bricks. 

(sorry, the ex was a builder )


Good advice fro Dove.  The crack is not that noticeable but does need sorting out and would be camouflaged, along with any repair work, by just having plants in the soil.  No need for tubs or planters and less watering for you in summer.

For winter interest, I find carex buchananii and its newer forms like Bronze Beauty look good.   Mine never seem to flwoer so no probelms with self seeding and tehy just need a comb through with a rake or gloved hands in spring to remove the dead foliage.  Look amazing with cream or white daffs interplanted come spring..

Obelisk, couldn't agree more with you.  Buchanii and comans bronze ....ESP the latter.....are so tactile.  I pull out the seed stalks in spring leaving no seeding issues.  I have cream primroses with my buchanii so much same colour scheme.  Comans bronze though is superb in a container but also grow double white hellebore with it too.

For plants against the wall those box plants would have to be moved though therefore my suggestion for couple of pots. 


Hi Amanda.

What a great job you have done!

Some brilliant suggestions have been made already. I have a small front garden - probably about the same size as yours, with a similar aspect and a lime tree. I find that even in such a small space I have had to think about varying amounts of shade - some of my planting has to cope with quite deep and dry shade when the tree is in full leaf. I have a lot of spring flowering bulbs that do their thing before the leaves come out. Near my lime tree I have planted epymediums, geranium macrorhizzum, japanese anemones, pulmonaria and pachysandra. They all cope with the dry shade there. Once the bulbs have gone over I rely a lot on interesting foliage - others have already recommended heuchera and grasses, and I find Carex Evergold is happy anywhere and have repeated it through  the borders to link everything together. How about a daphne under your window? I have D. odora ‘Aureomarginata’growing in quite a shady spot, seems quite happy. It shouldn't grow too tall, but if it does, this variety doesn't react  as badly to pruning as others do. Or what about a hydrangea? coming back into fashion, I hear, and there are some fabulous varieties. They're not evergreen but you can leave the dying flowers on all winter and they have a sad beauty.

With small gardens, especially formal ones,  I think you either have to limit the variety of plants or stick to a restricted pallette of colours, otherwise it can get a bit too busy. I am a plantaholic, so went for the second option and chose plants which either had variegated (silvery) foliage, or had pink or white flowers. I've added in some purple since to stop it looking too sugary. Still had an immense amount of plants to choose from!

Good luck and do keep us posted.