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in Problem solving
I have just discovered that one end of my garden is composed of 20 - 25 cm topsoil overlying solid clay on one side and sand/gravel on the other - both clearly natural.
I had hope to plant some dahlias down there this year (on the clay), but ultimately was thinking of a couple of nice shrubs (pieris, not sure what else) in the corners. Will that work? The clay is obviously very solid and I don't know if plants can survive growing into it!
Pieris will only work if the soil is acidic, and it really prefers good well drained soil to thrive, so I suspect it will struggle on your clay even if it is acidic, unless you prepare the planting hole well. I have similar soil to you, and lost quite a few shrubs / trees by just digging holes big enough for the rootball with a bit to spare. They died because of lack of moisture in dry summers and sitting in saturated soil in winter.
If planting a shrub or tree I now use a pickaxe, 5 ft long crowbar and mattock to break up the underlying hardpan down to at least 2 feet deep and at least the same across. Sometimes I wish I had a pneumatic drill!
Thee are a few shrubs that can handle heavy clay well with out a lot of preparation. One is the cornus (alba, flaviramea, sanguinea, Midwinter Fire etc. )
Ribes seems to cope pretty well, I've lost lots of things on similar soil
Blimey Goldilocks, perhaps I will just stick to Dahlias!