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I have a fully south facing, baked clay garden.  The soil is shallow with lots of rubble beneath and digging out is not an option.  All the plants have flowered and are over by  now every year.  What ever I put in, even things that are meant to flower in autumn, finish by the end of july.  There is no shade and anything I plant to create shade either takes up what precious water there is for other plants, or die because they cannot get roots down deep enough....

Does anyone have any suggestions of plants that can cope with these awful conditions and might also give me some real late summer colour?

Thank you

Pennine Petal

Crocosmia, heleniums, dicentra spectabilis, Michaelmas daisies ....


Not sure about the dicentra - likes to have it's toes damp - mine's been most unhappy this summer on my Shady Bank 


Start laying on lots of humus rich material such as compost, or well rotted manure.

 It will enable the soil to hold water better and the plants will do better. You can fork it in where you can , but just laying it on the surface works well, as the worms pull it down. Try rudbeckias for late summer colour.


Spent ages replying then it disappeared so I'll try again 

I know you don't want to hear it Caroline- but you'd be better adding some well rotted manure and extra compost/topsoil to the borders and then you'd have much more scope for planting and anything you put in would have a better chance too. That said, some of the grasses will take those conditions and although they don't give as much colour with flowers, they do provide movement, have attractive foliage and have a long period of interest. Taller ones like Miscanthus for example, would also give some shade. Crocosmia will grow just about anywhere and flowers later- plenty of named varieties. Alchemilla (lady's mantle) can be invasive if allowed to seed, but will provide frothy flowers for months. Most of the hardy geraniums will take harsh conditions and although they flower early, if you cut them right back at this time of year they bounce back and give a second display at the end of summer. Whatever you plant, if you water them in well and apply a good thick mulch it will benefit the plants and prevent evaporation. 



always improve the soil when you can but verbena bonariensis, shrubby salvias and annuals sown later in theseason do well on poor soil in sun here. May not be the best specimens, would be better on improvedsoil, but not bad. Add some dry soil type grasses and some silver leafed shrubs and away you go

Thank you all for the suggestions and advice.  I do put manure and compost on but as the beds are on a slope and sloping towards a wall a lot falls off, however I shall persevere! I have crocosmia and michelmas daisies but they are already in full flower or over but salvias are something I don't have so will investigate those.

Thank you all again


I don't think you have an awful situation at all but a very promising one but one that can be improved considerably with a bit of diy... I would suggest not by incorporating rich compost or manure but by copious amounts of pea shingle and grit...over and in the thin soil you have there... you will then have good drainage and can plant sun loving mediterranean plants that will thrive... these do not need, and should not be given, rich soil... they exist in impoverished ground....

lavender, cistus, grasses like Festuca...Sedums...sun loving Hebe's...Erysimum bowles mauve..Stipa gigantea... all these would supply you with later colour right through... drainage is the key...not rich my opinion and all can be planted as very small little plants, so no real hard work in having to dig great pits... 


I completely agree with Salino.  Why try to fight the conditions you have - just nudge them in a direction and get plants to fit those conditions.  I have an inca berry (Physalis peruviana) that absolutley loves free draining soil.  It is still flowering now and producing edible fruits.  I wish I could grow it outside.  All of the mediteranean herbs love those conditions too.


Caroline I don't know what size your plot is but if the slope is steep and the soil is so shallow, I'd be inclined to put in a terrace or two - easily and cheaply done with some timber or sleepers and short posts. That lessens the slope right away, prevents all the good stuff you're adding from sliding off the other end (!) and means you can plant a much bigger variety instead of being so limited in choice. 

Convolvulous cneorum, osteospermums, Helianthemums, nepeta, santolinas, pittosporums.....purple, variegated, green, yellow, grey folage .....linums, aeoniums (try growing these in pots and bury them in your garden.  For winter lift the pots to greenhouse) euryops, stipa Tennuissima, and heathers do remarkably well once established.  

Yet more great suggestions, thank you all, I shall get to it over the autumn.


Just to say Caroline.   Late summer can be fantastic.  There are loads of plants to,choose from and, of you can include some tender perennials in pots, you can have exotic looking "stuff"  into the autumn


How about railway sleeper to hold back the soil tip drill two holes in the ends and then drive around bar in to the ground ( about 15" rebar) should do it then add your top soil

this will give you a raised bed if you plan it and keep the soil from moving.

Low maintenance also add a watering system and some post's to hang flowers from and even bird feeding

you could even use old tyres, and paint them, reclaimed bricks just stack as a wall leaving a small gap to add small rockery plants to block and stop soil washing way even breezeblocks 




Buddleias and hebes do fine on my pure sandy soil.  They may look sad at times due to no water but they rally - good for butterflies too.  I'm an advocate for hardy geraniums, there are a number that should work for your conditions. 

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