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Difficult Sites

planting gems

In London, most of us have a small outdoor space that is less than ideal!

Neighbouring buildings, boundary fences and walls, trees and hedges, often outside our control, means we are frequently challenged by unusual and difficult sites. However, you don’t have to resort to ‘faux botanicals’!

You can still create an attractive, green, living space.

Dry shade– Under trees or at the base of walls/fences, the ground is often dry and compacted, and may be full of roots. There are plants adapted to these conditions, woodland plants, that are used to competing for water, nutrients and light. Plants such as Hostas, Epimediums, Ferns, some Euphorbias, Geraniums and evergreen grasses, all provide good, shade-tolerant ground cover. There are shrubs that can cope too, depending on the level of moisture in the soil: Rhododendrons, Viburnums, Nandina, Daphnes, Skimmias and Mahonias to name but a few. Most reach their peak in the winter or spring, before the deciduous trees and large shrubs create denser shade with their foliage.

Dry, Sunny Sites– Hot, exposed ground can be a challenge too but there are plants well adapted to lack of water and nutrients, often Mediterranean plants, with glaucous foliage. Shrubs such as Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Cistus and Hebes, are all good at coping with this sort of conditions.

Wind- The prevailing wind in London tends to come from the South West, and it is amazing how it can whistle down a tunnel between buildings/fences/large objects, or blow on the top of an exposed hill/slope. Plants that cope well with coastal conditions, can be used to counter this problem.

Wet, boggy areas– There may be a variety of reasons why the ground may be soggy and wet: at the base of a slope, near a natural stream, or where drainage is poor. There are marginal plants that don’t mind having their roots sitting in water, or there are ways to improve the ground.

Hard Landscaping– There are now a variety of Troughs and Containers in all sorts of shapes and sizes that can be used to ‘green’ an area without planting pockets, whether a passage, patio, balcony or other outdoor space. One can grow climbers, create hedges, and have an enduring garden, with shrubs and perennials not just seasonal bedding, in sun or shade. You need to think about watering, and generally the larger the container, the healthier and long term the planting can be.

So don’t give up hope: or fight the prevailing conditions- Look for the solution!

Anne Fraser and Caroline Streets



07729 835988 and 07930 876348

About Anne Fraser (36 Articles)
Planting Gems is Anne & Caroline and we offer garden help and advice whether you are looking for a full re-design or makeover, or just some help with the re-styling of a tired border.