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I moved into a new house last year. I laid a lawn which is now quite sparse looking. The soil is very wet heavy clay and I'm looking for some ideas. The garden gets virtually no sun in the winter and between partial and full sun in the summer. I am considering putting in a patio area but also putting in some sort of plants, however I don't know what type of plants to put in for this wet heavy clay soil, or if patio would be a good idea or not. Any help appreciated. Thanks
If it were me I would start by improving the soil by working in loads of organic such as manure, and sharp sand, to improve drainage. It will take some doing, and it may mean writing much of this year off getting it right, but once you have done that then you have a garden ready for lots of plants that don't grow so well in my exposed garden with little shade. Clay soil is usually very rich in minerals, so once the soil structure is improved you will be able to enjoy hostas, hellebores, primulas, pulmonarias, acteas, rodgersias, I could go on for ages.
By all means fit in a patio area so you can sit out and enjoy it in summer sunshine,.
I would try to create a lush jungle feel as opposed to anything mediterranean. Think lush jungle, think serene woodland, think foliage, think large leaf, think elegant ferns, think climbers, think evergreens, think water features, think stone, think garden art and garden furniture that can be just as pleasing as sun loving flowers. Think mirrors for capturing light. Your garden might not see much sun, but that means the soil wont bake hard in mid summer, so you can grow shade plants that will thrive in rich damp soil.
In areas that do perhaps get summer sun, grow those sun worshippers that you cannot live without. Some plants can survive on as little as four hours, if its good strong sunlight. It will be trial and error of course, personally I'd get rid of the lawn (grass needs sunlight to grow nicely) and indulge in a forest of foliage and climbers. You'll be surprised how many gorgeous plants grow in shade. even certain cultivars of roses will grow in part shade. Monty did a feature on GW last year.
In case you don't have access to a lot of organic soil improver at the moment, there is also a product called "Claybreaker" available to break up the soil. The cheaper option is to buy gypsum from a builders' yard.
You will still benefit from adding organic material, but this will get you started.
Following on from Alina's advice about gypsum, builders merchants supply it as builder's plaster - 99.5% gypsum plus some pink colouring. And get them to deliver bags of sharp sand too - lots of it! I bought two bags just today, for potting up sempervivums that need good drainage. I paid around £2 per 25kg bag. Don't get builders sand, which contains salts.
We are heavy clay here and it's only hard work and time that can improve the soil. Muck muck and more muck, or homemade compost dug in will help no end. If you've a big garden a willow tree will suck up lots of water. But you must be careful of the distance between buildings and where you plant it. We added a pond, which was just a hollow in the clay- no liner needed, and the waterlilies and rushes grew like mad. Was a source of great delight until the grandchildren started appearing, and we filled it in with a patio just to be on the safe side. Having said that, with all this rain we now have a patio pond! about an inch deep water all over the patio.
In a similar situation in our garden we have forget-me-nots, pulmonaria, alchemilla mollis, bluebells, yellow loosestrife, white and purple deadnettle and also a tall shasta daisy.
Hope this helps.
thanks for the idea's. Looks like I'm in for a long haul.
Hi Tomalli, you might find some more garden design ideas on here. There's plenty of time to be reading up on ideas given the bad weather.