Problem area in garden

Discussion in 'Garden Design and Plant Suggestions' started by jazgv, Sep 6, 2006.

  1. jazgv

    jazgv Member

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    Hi. Help - I need some advice about a problem area in my garden.

    I have a stretch of garden which has an established beech hedge (approx 25 metres long) and also has approx 8 oak trees (about 100-150 years old) mixed in with it. As a result, the area has very little light. The lawn is very patchy, and in some parts very dry, and others very damp. I have a border about 1.5 metres deep backing on to the hedge, and very little seems to do well there. The ground is appears very dry and lacking in nutrients because of the hedge and trees.

    I cannot remove the hedge or the trees, so can anyone suggest possible solutions for this area. I need to know what plants are best to put in, either shrubs or perennials, specific plants that would do well here.

    Any help on this would be gratefully received. I live on the east coast of Scotland to give you an idea of the enviroment.

    Thanks, David
     
  2. rhiannonnightsinger

    rhiannonnightsinger Member

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    As someone who converted a compacted old oil and gasoline soaked driveway into a garden, I can tell you what worked for me. If you can loosen the surface just a little it will help. Then you want to throw down topsoil with loads of organic materials. Not too much though, you don't want to damage the tree's roots. Then you will want to plant things suitable for a woodland garden, Sweet Woodruff (Gallium odoratum), Hostas (Hosta spp.), Wood Geraniums ( Geranium sylvaticum), Red Campion (Lychnis dioica) or Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis). Be advised, Sweet Woodruff and Lily-of-the-Valley can spread aggressively if they like where they are. The majority of flowers from this bunch will be the whites, roses and lavenders... very cool and restful. If you have tried these already, my apologies.
    Good Luck
     
  3. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    The surface loosening was a good idea, because there is probably some surface compaction, especially under the patchy lawn.

    Are you familiar with vertical mulching for trees?

    It could aid the project.
     
  4. Debra Dunaway

    Debra Dunaway Active Member

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    I would suggest the same as Rhiannon, maybe some pachysandra? have had success with that in the past. Deb
     
  5. jazgv

    jazgv Member

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    Thanks for the replies. I will give the suggestions a go. Will even give the Vertical Mulching a try!!! Had never heard of it before, so will be interesting to see what happens to the trees etc. Cheers again.
     
  6. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Before you go buying plants, however, you need to be clear on what effect you are trying to accomplish. If you want just a carpet of greenery, do you want it evergreen? If you want a variety of plants, are we talking an organized perennial border or a woodland walk look? As Rhiannon warns, lily of the valley, Gallium, and also Pachysandra can be very invasive, and if you want a tidy border, you need to contain those, and they can't be allowed to get into other parts of the garden. If you include those you'll end with a carpet of greenery even if you start with an organized border.

    If it were mine, I'd probably make it a fernery; many ferns do very well in dry conditions (once established). Best to start with are probably Polystichums. Also, consider epimediums among your options for carpeting plants. I also have a shrub called a Ruscus, which is quite rare over here, but which grows in the most inhospitable conditions imaginable and is kind of cool - prickly though. In hostas, you should only choose the most vigorous varieties; I kind of doubt anything but Hosta ventricosa - also a bit of a colonizer - would do well. Other options include Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum), maybe helleborus orientalis varieties, and believe it or not, the shade-loving saxifrages. There is one that is used as a houseplant, called the strawberry begonia if I recall correctly, that is hardy and has awesome drought and shade tolerance. There are a couple more saxifrages - primuloides, I think, and another one I'll have to look up later.

    Finally, one more option when growing conditions are abominable is to make it a gallery of container plantings. The advantage of this approach is that when you water plants in the ground, it will attract the hedge and tree roots, which will ultimately strangle your plants. Pots guard the rootzone for the smaller plants. Growing in the ground as you plan to do is kind of a no-win project, but one that nonetheless keeps many people (me included) enthralled for years.
     
  7. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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  8. jazgv

    jazgv Member

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    Thanks for that KarinL. I am going to give the plant list some real thought before starting out. Some of the plants that you suggested I have already put on my list. I have gone specifically for shade/semi-shading loving plants, which are also fully hardy due to the weather we get here in Scotland. Will put a post on of the plants that I am planning to use, and would weclome any comments on them.
     
  9. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    Vertical mulching is shown in this album here...

    http://www.mdvaden.com/album_TreeCare.shtml

    It's about #12

    The liittle augers, soil drills, bulb hole makers -whatever you want to call them - are available online and at some retail garden stores.

    I usually add a little bit of compost and mycorrhizal fungi when it's around the trees.
     
  10. easygardeningsecrets.blogspot.

    easygardeningsecrets.blogspot. Member

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    Hello, I agree with loosening the soil. Compacted soil is very bad for growing. Have you considered colloidal humus composting for this as well as all areas of your yard and garden? This type of composting really improves the health of your plants and makes them much sturdier for difficult growing situations such as the one you described. There is information on this method of composting available at my site at www.EasyGardeningSecrets.Blogspot.com Good luck! Happy Gardening!
     
  11. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    We have a problem area under beeches as well and here are a few of my experiences, good and bad. Our beeches are 2 large trees and when we decided to add shrub beds under them we removed the fine dense network of roots down about 8 " with a mattock and mounded the new soil up about 6" as well. We thought this would give the new shrubs a chance to get their roots established but the tree roots were so vigourous that in less than a year the bed was a solid felted mass again and new plants were barely hanging on despite regular watering. The trees just suck everything up, and no rain gets through the dense canopy.
    Only two shrubs have done really well: Eleagnus ebbingii, which has lovely dark green evergreen leaves with a slightly metallic sheen and bright silvery backs. We remove any vertical 'watershoots' and keep ours pruned to a slightly weeping mound shape about 4' to 5' high and about 6' across. It has done great with virtually no watering even in very dry summers. Another success is Ribes sanguineum "White Icicle" which has thrived and flowers well. The pink flowered currant would also look nice.
    For perennials, Primula vulgaris seem to be amazingly drought tolerant, though even they eventually seemed to be choked out by the roots. Geranium macrhorhyzum, and Epimediums are worth trying, as are Deer fern (Blechnum) and Greater Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica). The low Aster n.b. "Violet Carpet" has persevered but doesn't bloom much in this much shade.
    Even after several years of summer watering everything else looks stressed, starved and sad so I'm going to take them out and plant another couple of Eleagnus instead since it looks so nice year round and is completely pest free.
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Serious modifications of root environment may damage trees. Classic underplanting for beech in UK is Cyclamen hederifolium, maybe try some of those. Shouldn't have to do much except plant and mulch, this is an easy plant to grow. If it does well you will soon have carpets of it.
     
  13. dt-van

    dt-van Active Member 10 Years

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    The surface root modification we did had absolutely no noticeable effect on the health or vigour of these established trees. It probably represented only .5% of their root mass (if that) so I don't think it is much of a concern unless you are digging up a whole area with bobcat and rototiller. I've grown cyclamen under pines but never thought to try them under the beeches; thanks for the suggestion.
     

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