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Problem flower bed!

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Question from Irene Johnston


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We are looking for ideas for a flower bed that just never seems to look good in our back garden. It's west-facing with alkaline soil but very dry because of three long-established trees and shrubs - one large conifer, a berberis and a philadelphus. The middle of the bed is slightly shady but the front gets baked to a crisp. What perennials would like these conditions and give height, shape and colour to this area?

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  • Replies: 2
  • Posted: Thu. 25th February 2010 16:26

Tricky conditions

Reply from Anna Taylor

I think you should start with improving the soil in this bed as it will be very dry from the mature plants taking all nutrients out of the soil.
This spring, dig in lots of well rotted manure and once you have planted and watered in well, apply more organic material as a muclh to hold in the moisture. Add a mulch every autumn or spring.
As for plants, you will now have more choice, but I would go for plants that flower for a long time giving you lots to look at ! Campanulas flower for a long time, with little attention, and in both shade and sun - so would give unity to the border. They are also tall flowering so would be in good proportion. I also try to plant lots of just a few different plants as this always gives more impact. Alchemilla mollis (one of my favourites) is a good front of border plant, no trouble and will cope in both aspects, together with Phloxes and anemones. This would be a very calm pastel scheme that would thrive with little maintenance.
Anna Taylor

  • Posted: Thu. 25th February 2010 21:43

Tricky Soil Conditions


Adding plenty of organic matter is always a good idea. However, to have a better chance of success, it would be an advantage to find out what the current nutrient levels you have in your soil. Because you have some long-established trees and shrubs in your bed, the soil is most likely to have become serverely depleted of nutrients. Having the correct soil nutrient levels will improve flowering, resistance to drought and, pest and diseases.

I represent a company called 'The Fertile Earth Consultancy', (details can be found under the professionals - sub-category Consultants of this website). We provide an affordable, comprehensive soil testing service that will ensure that any future planting will be a success.

If you are interested in having your soil tested for current nutrient levels, we offer a comprehensive soil testing service for £35. From the results we can then advise you on how to balance the fertility of your soil.

Please contact me through the website www.thefertileearthconsultancy.co.uk

from Alistair Olver

  • Posted: Mon. 1st March 2010 12:15