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Hi everyone. I bought a new home last January and am really only settling in now. The previous owner was very tidy but the gardens are very sterile looking. I love wildlife, I am keen to help the birds, butterflies etc but maybe less so wasps. I have a fair few questions but I'd love if somebody would take some time and provide some guidance. 


I love lilac, ever since my childhood I've been around it so I planted two lilac trees in July. Lately they are rather weathered and chewed. One tree seems to be budding but both look quite beaten. Although neither have died yet. But I am worried about them. I added soluble plant feed last week in case.

I planted a Braeburn apple tree too and that seems to be growing well, with fresh new leaves since I planted it. However, I'm lost with the rest of the plants. There are numerous plants I hate but don't know whether I should get them out and replace them. 


I plan on planting daffodils, snowdrops, and tulips over the next month. But what do I plant around them so there will be something when the die away in early summer?

Finally my front garden is driving me mad. I dont like any of the plants/shrubs, especially the conifers which have wasps flying all around them this last two months. I suspect a nest in one of them. I'd love to take them out and replace them with box, at least on the side where the driveway is. But what do I plant behind the front fencing?

All advice welcome as I'd love a wildlife friendly flowering garden. But I'm afraid to do anything too radical.







 Thanks for taking the time to look. 


Hello Jesse

It looks as if you have your hands full there.

Before you go buying plants it might be an idea to have a look around at other gardens in your area and see what does well in the soil and with the climate.

For planting schemes you could go to some of the wonderful National Trust houses in Northern Ireland. I don't know if Mount Stewart House is near to you, but they are having an open day on 14th September and will be offering advice to gardeners then. They seem interested in gardening to encourage wildlife.


Hi Jesse  

I see what you mean about sterile!  Looks like whoever was there before was going for low...very low...maintenance which does come at a price, ie Boring!!!

Having said that I would leave Choisya in but give it good hard prune after flowering next year and maybe a couple of the yellow conifers. That will give you good garden structure to add to.

Looking at the two Lilacs you bought I would say the brown marks are fine...bit of heat/sun damage I think, nothing to worry about. The notches in the leaves look like vine weevil damage The beetles are not a problem only the larvae.  With the gravel around them now and the fact they are in the ground the beetles won't be able to lay. Once they start growing next year and the leaves aren't so fresh and juicy you won't have such a problem. If you like to squish nasties though, go out with a torch at night and catch them in the act 


so people dont think I'm mad for wanting to uproot most of these trees and shrubs? I'm not afraid of a bit of hard work. Those yellow conifers have to go anyway, they attact loads of wasps. And I hate rhododendron. Is it a good idea to rip them up and plant other shrubs?


And I'm fierce worried about my lilacs (top 2 pics). Thats the one I really am hoping will survive. at least I have two honeysuckle well established in the back garden, but I didnt notice an bloom this summer. Mount Stewart is a bit away but I can get to it. Thanks for repling waterbutts. scared me a wee bit though. 

Thank you Addict. It's some relief to think the lilac will take, as the apple seems to be doing fine. I picked shrubs I thought would be tough, from my knowledge of wild plants. I planted a white buddleia in the opposite corner to the apple, and gooseberry beside the buddleia. I think maybe I will leave the conifers near the border fencing but I think I'll go for box along the driveway, one of the conifers broke anway as we have rocky soil. The previous owner was definately neat, but god, he was no gardener, at least I can picture something promising. I'm thinking in the front the conifers and rhododendron along the outer fence will go, but replace with what?  



Rhode? Outer fence? Wheres that and which bits that lol 

yikes, sounded fine in my mind. 

 anyway, id like all them trees along the front to go, I feel a spade coming out at some point this autumn. maybe leave the conifers along the far wall. 

i thought the tree in the top left of the picture was rhodedendron.


LOL its looking for a Rhode that confused me  I think its a Choisya. If you crush and sniff smells of oranges. If it is thats the one I suggested you cut hard back next year. Would be happy half the size it is and the bees love the flowers so good for them.

ah great, I'll try the leaves in the morn. If its good for the bees then it will stay. I'll cut it back later in the season. Thanks so much.


Ooooh so many things you could replace the outer fence with. Try things like winter flowering honeysuckle shrub. for really early flowers for emerging bees.

 Osmanthus Delavayi. Evergreen, early, tough as old boots

 Both of them have wonderful scent too.

If you can find one and are willing to spend a bit of money and wait a few years then Cornus mas veriegata. It flowers early then foliage is lovely crisp white and green then red cherry like berries that the birds love.



oh wow, they all sound amazing. Thanks for the suggestion. The winter honeysuckle was on my mind. Read Monty's Irvington diaries and he kept on about it. Hope it wouldnt overgrow the fence onto the passing footpath outside. But I suppose I could prune it. That second one is beautiful. I'll get on to my garden centre Saturday and feel them out.  thank you.


The honeysuckle is a shrub Jesse so no chance of that  Will add some more later but I need a shower now been a long day lol 

and I better review my lessons for morning. Again, Im very grateful, thank you. The synapses are firing here with ideas, light after all  


Thanks everybody.


I know the crab apple 'Golden Hornet' grows well in Co. Down and is a beautiful plant which attracts wildlife - there are other coloured crab apple varieties available too.

Your lilacs will be fine as has been mentioned it looks as though the leaf damage was caused either because there had been a shower followed by strong sunshine or you watered the leaves when the sun was strong and that has burnt holes in the leaves (the brown patches)

Are you coastal? Is it a windy site? Which direction does the front face?



I did water them a fair bit in the last month, so thats maybe it. I was trying to be too kind. We live beside the Mourne mts so the soil can be quite rocky underneath, and it can be windy here, Im about 3 miles from the sea. But the garden is sheltered with all the fencing, it does get good sun though, due to the absence of tree cover. The lilac trees are against a wall, looking down at them is south. So they get a lot of light. Im living in hope.

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