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Hi Ladies and gents, I need some advice on a couple of things.

Firstly, I'm getting my front garden done (New brick fence, new limestone foothpath and blue slate in the rest of the garden). I'm wondering what to plant in the new flower bed/border along the new brick fence.

I'm in west London and the front garden is pretty small. It's only about 5m wide and about 4m long. The brick wall is about 90cm tall and 4m wide. So the border is about 4m long and 50cm wide. It's North facing but I doubt it gets a huge amount of sunlight due to other trees in the vicinity. Regarding the plants I was thinking 4 medium size evergreen plants (max height of 1.5m or so) , 4,5 small plants to go in between and some bulbs as well. So I've come up with these so far:

medium sized plants - 

choisya ternata white dazzler or choisya ternata sundance

A couple of Azalea/Dwarf Rhododendrons

Bowles Mauve

Small plants/shurbs - 

Some lavender, Hebe and Dianthus 

Bulbs - 

Various narcissus and crocus bulbs

What do you think of this list? Do you have any suggestions?

Also is it OK to plan them now? I see that this week it's not going to be so cold (minimum temps over 2C)

The other thing I am after help is on the weed bulbs growing in my new lawn in the backgarden. I want to get rid of them/kill them.

I had my back garden landscaped last year (turf laid in February). Prior to that, the back garden was in a jungle like state with lots of bulbs (but didn't really see any flowers on them unless I'm mistaken). I think the landscape gardener didn't use a weedkiller when he cleared the garden so the bulbs remained and they started growing through the newly laid turf. I tried to dig some of them out without damaging the lawn too much and also cut the tops off them. 

Annoyingly, they are starting to grow through the lawn again. They have quite hard leaves and when I walked on them it felt crunchy. I tried cutting the tops off them using a trowel.There must have been about a hundred of them.

Digging them out is not an option as I don't want holes in the lawn. Can you please suggest another solution? If I apply round up gel on them, will they die? 

Thank you.

Last edited: 08 January 2018 12:00:04


For the bulbs in the lawn ... regular mowing thoughout spring, summer and autumn will weaken them and they will stop growing eventually ... plants can't survive without leaves.  Round Up Gel may help to weaken them too but because bulbs tend to have glossy leaves they can resist absorbing the gel. 

Thank you. Any suggestions on the plants for the front border? And whether I should plant them now?


In regards to the soil type, have you tested the soil to see if it's neutral to acid? Azaleas and Rhododendrons grow better in acidic conditions. Your plant list is fine, but if you have shade from other tall trees on a north facing border, you will normally have a short period of high sun in the summer months. Some plants like Lavenders, Dianthus and even wall flowers may grow leggy and some develop semi-woody base to try to reach for the light. The flowering may also be less vigorous and plentiful. 

Lavenders and Dianthus prefer a more alkaline and more free draining soil. If you do choose both, you need to make sure the borders are well dug over and have plenty of grit or compost to open up the structure.

Have a look at some hardy Geraniums. There are many types that are suitable for your conditions. 

Thanks Borderline for the reply. Is it OK to plant them at this time of the year provided it won't be too frosty?



If they're small it's better to pot them into bigger pots and keep them in a sheltered corner so they can grow stronger roots systems and be fitter for life out in the border.  Never plant when the soil is frozen or frosts are expected as it can lift the new plants out of the soil and expose the roots and thus kill them.   A little patience is essential for good gardening.

Choose you plants wisely, checking that the varieties chosen are OK in partial shade.  Some do best in full sun and some do well in part shade.  If the info isn't there on the labels, make a note, research online and then buy.

Hi Obelixx, I don't really have any room to plant them in bigger pots and keep them. If I plant them when it's relatively mild (min temps not colder than 2,3C) for a few days and plenty of compost and mulch, will they survive?



Better to wait till temps get warmer than that.  8C minimum.  Just be patient and wait to buy them.  Nothing looks worse than teen, straggly plants struggling against the odds and if they die, it's time and money wasted.

I might take a chance and plant them. I have about 40 bulbs and I really want to plant them soon. Thing is I want to plant the bulbs around the 4 medium sized plants so I need them to be in before I plant the bulbs. I could then cover everything with a winter fleece cover for a few weeks until they get established.


My 'advice' is to follow the very good advice you've received .


Reading back again it seems you have little experience or knowledge about plants and how they grow.

It is fine to plant woody plants like shrubs and trees in winter but not when the ground is partially or completely frozen and better still in autumn when the top of the plant is dormant but the soil is still warm and roots can grow and settle the plant ready for the big spring push.

Herbaceous plants, for the most part, die back above ground so asking any young plant that has been raised in a sheltered, covered nursery to cope with having its feet stuck in almost frozen ground and its head exposed to frosts, wind, snow and sleet for another month or two is just foolhardy.   They need to be watered in and that will make them more susceptible to frozen feet or waterlogged feet if it can't drain adequately.   No amount of fleece will solve that problem for you, even if the chosen plants are ideal for that aspect and soil.

Bulbs - it depends on what they are and when they are to flower.  If they're spring bulbs then it's jolly late and you may well just get foliage this year and no flowers.  If they're summer flowering bulbs they won't thank you for bunging them in freezing, or near freezing soil.

As said earlier, patience is a great virtue for a gardener.   

As I said I won't be planting them when it's frozen and almost all of the plants I'm selecting are evergreen. I'm only going to plant about 4 (medium sized ones) now so I can plant the bulbs around them. I have to plant the bulbs now otherwise they will die. The 4 plants won't be more than 40 pounds or so and I don't really want to wait till March/April time to plant them and my bulbs will have died by then. I am willing to take that risk. Someone from a garden centre also said I could plant now provided it's not frozen. Perhaps I'll buy the plants (mostly from online nurseries) and just leave them in their pots.Thanks.


Why not plant the bulbs leaving spaces for the other plants?  You can mark the spot with sticks.

It's still early January and the worst of winter is yet to come unless this turns out to be an exceptionally mild year.

Garden centre staff are there to sell you plants and make profits.   

However, your money and your risk.

Yeah I think I will probably do that. If I buy the plants now, is it OK to leave the plants in pots outside?


Cammy0102, they should be fine if they are from 9cm pots upwards. Keep them stationed against a wall, preferably a southerly wall. This will minimise excess rain-fall and frost. If it's quite small, keep inside an unheated greenhouse or similar.

If you haven't bought from your plant list yet, do consider alternatives to Lavenders and Dianthus. I believe they will struggle longterm in your front garden. Might be better to source plants that are more able to adapt to your front garden conditions. These are my recommendations based on your current colour schemes. Thalictrum Delavayi, Hyssopus Officinalis, Lychnis Coronaria and Aconitum/Polemonium Caeruleum.

Last edited: 10 January 2018 18:33:07


Thanks Borderline. Why do you think lavenders and Dianthus aren't suitable? I had them on the list because they are already in my back garden, I like the look of them, they don't get too big and they are evergreens. I do like the ones you suggested too and am considering them instead. I only need about 4 small plants to go in between the medium plants.

So I ordered the following 4 medium sized plants a couple of days ago:

Choisya Sundance
Choisya 'White Dazzler'
Azalea japonica 'Madame Van Hecke'
Erysimum Bowles Mauve

Also bought Hebe Mrs Winder


Cammy0102, Lavenders and Dianthus can grow there, but as mentioned in my first post here, you stated you have tall trees surrounding the garden. The sizing of your garden is quite compact. Together with it being north facing, will mean it gets limited sun throughout the year.

There will be sun in the summer months of course, but not likely to be prolonged. These conditions affect your soil and also the plants. The soil may stay damp for longer between summer rainfalls. Not ideal for some of those plants. Lavenders and Dianthus prefer sunny sites. They must have free draining soil. Provided you incorporate plenty of compost or grit, they will be fine. They however may not flower in abundance because of the shade caused by the small size of garden and the trees around it. That's the reason. Does not mean 'no' to the plants, but in my opinion, it's an opportunity to try other more suitable plants in that space. 

Because your borders are quite small, you could slot in plants like Cyclamens that have interesting foliage in the winter time. I find that prennials that are evergreen do not always make the borders look full or interesting. There are only a handful of evergreen perennials that look good in the coldest months. It's better to have plants that have winter interest instead.

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