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I'm looking for an evergreen bush for the back of a bed that will cover up a fence and give some nice colour at some point during the year. Ideally 1.5-2.5m tall and 1m spread. Bed is in full sun on very sandy soil in Bedfordshire. 

I'm considering ceanothus but I see it doesn't like "cold, drying winds" and I'm not sure if this would apply to my bed. Is it quite a fussy bush or should I just give it a go?

Thanks very much, Jen


Escallonia is useful in these conditions- mainly pink flowers but there's also a white variety. You can grow it against the fence rather than as a stand alone shrub and that will give you more space for other plants in front of it. Euonymous are smallish shrubs but can be grown up against the fence and will get to a good height in that situation. They're  variegated greens/creams/golds- several popular varieties. Flowers are insignificant though- mainly a foliage shrub. Choisya ternata should be fine there and has white flowers in summer and very attractive foliage. These are all easy to get hold of too. There will be many others Jen- these are just ones that came to mind right away! You can search them online and take a look 


..there's a pink Escallonia flowering near me which is absolutely gorgeous and I'm determined to get a cutting from it... 'nick' is the word I suppose...

the problem here is the 1m spread which is required... a usual choice is Ceanothus 'Concha' but I see this as a big wide spreading bush and doesn't look nice when pruned in my opinion...

here are some others you might like to consider, which should be hardy enough where you are...and manageable width-wise... obviously going to take a few years to reach 2.5m tall...

Abelia floribunda or Abelia grandiflora

Cistus cyprius

Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' [site could be too dry]

Olearia macrodonta [this is hardy in most parts] fast growing

Myrtle [Luma Apiculata]... should be hardy where you are, fairly quick

Rosemary 'Miss Jessop's Upright' only... fast growing

for foliage Pittosporum tenuifolium hybrids might survive, I don't know how cold your garden gets... some lovely silver leafed in Spring - inconspicuous but scent in the evening... quick growing

other members might come forward with their favourites...



Can you  attach wires to your fence?  Solanum album is evergreen and has white flowers all summer.  Quick growing but easily pruned back.  

Check out Lonicera Baggesons Gold.  It's fairly quick growing, fits your dimensions and has beautiful olive leaves in winter turning butter yellow in spring and summer.  No flowers,but lovely thing.

Taxus Stamdishii is beautiful,conifer that would thrive there.....occasional red berries but no flowers

The ceanothus is a problem....the bigger varieties are the most tender and any that grew to height you want will also grow just as wide......and suddenly die on you.

Photinia would grow there too....colour from leaves.  

But, holly is my choice.  Ok, no flowers but golden king has yellow and green foliage, red berries and looks good all year round


Hi - when we moved into our house 12 yrs ago there was a Ceanothus growing in the garden. It was about 3 metres accross and 2.5 metres high but was very overgrown and hadn't been pruned or looked after very well.

Every year there was an abundance of the loveliest purply/blue flowers and it swarmed with the tiniest of baby bumble bees. The only problem being that it only flowered for a few weeks which is a shame.

The reason I am commenting on your post is that my garden is 3 sided and the Ceanothus was in the most open, windiest side right in the middle of the lawn and it came back year after year for another 11 years so I think it will be ideal for you if you kept it under control.

As it happens I have just been to our local morrisons this morning and happen to have rescued a ceanothus in a 9cm pot so it is quite tiny. I have had to cut a few stems off it but I'm hoping it comes back really healthy so I can again have this in my garden - if only for the abundance of bees that love it so much

Good lluck and it would be great to see some pictures



 Hi again - it was always in full sun for most of the day too! Here is a picture of the little ceanothus I rescued from morrisons today - a little small but otherwise nothing wrong with it. It was reduced from £5 to £4 but I persuade her to let me have it for £2 so a bargain really  This one is the Ceanothus 'Repens'


What about climbing hortensia?

Ceonothus repens is a low grower. Ceonothus should be hardy for you there is hardy in a normal winter up at nearly 1000ft. Chanomeles (ornamental quince) will grow up a wall quite nicely with good blossom (red/pink/white) then yellow quinces in Autumn. 

Hiya folks.  It's not about it's hardyness that I don't recommend ceanothus.  They can be quite hardy in right situation.  It's their pre disposition to decide to die on you without apparent reason.  They are lovely neighbour has one over his wall amd must be 15 feet.  For me, seeing it above the wall it's lovely but in his garden it's an ugly thing for bottom 4' or so.  If in my garden I would dug it up.  I,like to see shrubs well formed from base to top and looking good even out of flower, which is for most of the year.

I have grown several varieties but keep them only for as lomg as they look happy....a grimace from them and it's the chop....hard man me!

Got to suggest a Kalmia latifolia. Bit of ericaceous compost with the soil. Stunning in flower. 

Yes I too like the kalmias....for acid conditions though.  Sandy soil is alkaline.

We tend to mix rotted pine needles with ericaceous compost. Make a hole 3 times as wide as the root ball instead to 2. Occasional use of ericaceous liquid feed and a top dressing leaf mould. 


..I wonder if Jennifer will come back to us at some point and tell us what she's planted... I so often find that people ask these questions but then we never hear from them again.... do you find it so...?

sandy soil is often acid Verdun... not heard of the Bagshot Sands...? noted for it's very acidic heathland...  Berkshire, parts of London, Surrey, Dorset..etc....

Hiya Salino.

Have to agree to disagree I guess.  I'm always ready to learn though.

Always understood sand to be neutral to alkaline.  Here our beach sand is alkaline without a doubt....tested it many times.  

I don't mind if people just ask a question and "go".  I enjoy the repartee, the disagreement, the debate, the information, and the general chitchat here but  many just pop in for an answer.  

IDGM, have done that mix too to get,very low acidity.  Do,you grow blueberries and cranberries?


...oh that's alright, no problem in disagreeing but this isn't really about our opinions more about geological fact isn't it..

from RHS Wisley, Surrey, for instance:-

''Soil at Wisley is generally acidic, free-draining, sandy loam with a natural PH of 5.5''

from Natural England website:-

In the Ascot-Bracknell-Wokingham area and to the south and east of Newbury the London Clay is overlain by the sandy Bagshot Formation. These free-draining sands give rise to nutrient-poor acidic soils which support heathland...

so we're not talking of beach sand here, such as you have,  but sandy loam such as found in many gardens...

I wish I had's some work trying to make neutral into acidic...

edit: actually I could have just referred to the Queens Sandringham Estate, which isn't far from me.... the name itself is a contraction from Sant Dersingham, [the sandy part of Dersingham]... it's full of lovely Rhododendrons and Azaleas... growing on the sandy heath... you see them all along the roadside too...


I do remember a feature on Gardeners World about somewhere that had green sand that made growing rhododendrons easy. Just wish I could remember where! I don't grow any fruit and veg, just ericaceous plants! 

Ok....So, principle is sand needs to be ph tested too.   Learn something new every day I guess.  Thanks Salino

Ironically  I have a good sandy loam here, ESP in back garden that grows most things.

IDGM, envious a bit that you have ericaceous,soil and plants.  I grow Rhodos, azaleas, etc,in pots but can grow camellias and pieris in the ground.  However, best to grow what we know our,soil supports.  Any ericaceous  favourites?

I live in the Chilterns! It's very chalky! We just prepare the planting hole first, ericaceous compost (John Innes) and rotted pine needles. Then use ericaceous liquid feed after that. But I plan on investigating using sulphur dust as a spring top dressing that gets dig in, looks a bit cheaper!

Favourites that aren't so common are Kalmia latifolia and Lithodora diffusa. 


...I think Prince Charles's garden at Highgrove, in Gloucestershire is alkaline soil but he grows acid lovers in a specially prepared bed... I'm sure I saw that on the t.v. some time ago... like Verdun says it's going against the grain a bit, but if it's just a section of your garden and not too big an area, then I think it's worth a go...