Any thoughts on improving a barren landscape?

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by Warwicks1, Nov 28, 2020.

  1. Warwicks1

    Warwicks1 Apprentice Gardener

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    Hi all,

    I've been doing some tidying and weeding for my elderly neighbour over the past few months. She's in her nineties and much of her garden has been modified over the years so that it's low maintenance.

    There were a few conifers (about 6 feet tall) in the gravelled area at the front of her bungalow, bordering the road, but these were dying and have recently been removed. The contractor left the stumps close to the ground so that the gravel could be swept back over the top.

    IMG_20201125_131317.jpg
    View from the road... The shrub at the LHS of the pic is a hydrangea, and there's another much smaller one visible within the gravel a little bit set back and to the right.

    IMG_20201125_131340.jpg It would be nice to lose the view to the hydrant...

    IMG_20201125_131418.jpg
    A bit more gravel is needed at the front to neaten things up, but it's all a bit barren!

    My neighbour has asked me to improve the view (she's very trusting - I'm new to all of this and she has more faith in me than I currently have in myself!). So far, I'm thinking about planting one or two shrubs into the gravel - perhaps lavender towards the front and a salvia hot lips behind the hydrant - they're low maintenance and pretty drought resistant. In addition, or perhaps as an alternative, I was thinking of adding a few rocks and perhaps some plants thrown in such as crocosmia... I found the pic below on the internet and thought it looked pretty inspiring.

    Picture1.jpg

    I've another neighbour with a similar gravelled area which has self seeded with antirrhinum - looks superb in summer...

    I'm just wondering if anyone here has any bits of inspired advice they can give? I do think some height / structure is needed, and perhaps some additional interest?

    Any thoughts you might have would be very welcome. I'm going to have to work with the limitations of the stumps - pulling them out won't be an option. (Simple might be best - I might also be trying to make this more complicated than it needs to be?) :rolleyespink:
     
  2. Nikolaos

    Nikolaos Super Gardener

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    What about adding one of these to the mix? Flowers in late Spring, more briefly again in early Autumn, low maintenance and does well in most moderately moist soils, flowers and foliage are scented and it's evergreen. :)

    Choisya x dewitteana 'White Dazzler'

    Nick
     
  3. noisette47

    noisette47 Total Gardener

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    Before recommending anything, it would be handy to know what the soil is like under the gravel, and what your local climate is like (especially in winter!) Whatever you plant, it's going to have to withstand exposed conditions. Might be worth having a look at different Cistus varieties. They're useful evergreens for full sun.
     
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    • shiney

      shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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      I agree with @noisette47 that it would be easier for us to recommend if we knew about the soil and how close to the pavement are the stumps and how far they extend into the gravel bed.

      I can see the hydrant sign but can't see where the hydrant is. The cover should really be left exposed and easily accessible.

      Choisya is an easy evergreen to look after and 'Sundance' (golden colour) would stand out well against the darkness of the footpath and road.

      If you're able to establish a shrub border parallel to the footpath you could then place pots on the rest of the garden. These can be planted so that there is colour most of the year.
       
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      • Warwicks1

        Warwicks1 Apprentice Gardener

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        Thanks all for your suggestions and comments - duly noted.

        I've included a few more photos below which gives a better idea of available space and the extent of the conifer stumps.

        In the corner (where the drive meets the road) there have been two conifers, so there's limited space there to do a lot in the way of new planting - maybe a few large stones there, would be a better idea than planting?

        There are 5 stumps parallel to the pavement, beginning about 4 feet from the drive, and then roughly one every two feet. They extend a foot or so into the gravel from the brick edging, but doubtless their roots go further.

        The third photo shows more generally the shape and scale of the gravel. I guess there would be scope to set one or two new shrubs a few feet in to the gravel. Another thought is to install some decorative border edging along the line of the pavement (I've included a fourth image to show the sort of thing I mean).

        As for the soil - I'm afraid I haven't cut through the membrane to see, and if I'm really honest, I'm not sure what I'd be looking for unless you mean general category - sandy, clay, loamy etc. If I planted a shrub, I assume I'd dig some compost into the soil to help it get established, but I'm afraid I'm now showing my lack of experience in things beyond the tidying and weeding I've been doing up to now...

        Pic 1.jpg
        There were two conifers where the drive meets the pavement

        Pic 2.jpg
        Stumps roughly 2 feet apart, extending a foot or so in from edge

        Pic 3.jpg
        View showing extent of gravel available for planting

        pic 4.jpg
        An idea for edging which might neaten the edge by the pavement?

        I think my neighbour would be happy with something fairly simple... As before, I may be thinking too hard about this!?

        Anyway, thanks again for taking the time to look at this - I'm humbled by the level of experience you all have, and your generosity in taking time to respond. Hopefully, one day I may be able to do the same for someone else!
         
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        • ARMANDII

          ARMANDII Low Flying Administrator Staff Member

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          More like he couldn't be bothered to take the effort to do the job properly and take the stumps and roots out.:dunno::doh:
           
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          • noisette47

            noisette47 Total Gardener

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            Oooooo Mr Grumpy! :roflol: It's not a catastrophe....at least Warwicks1 is very sensibly planning to add a few shrubs and perennials, not plant an entire border! It might be a bit of a pain to get roots out to create planting holes, but that's where a little pruning saw comes in handy :)
             
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            • Graham B

              Graham B Gardener

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              Ceanothus would be a good choice. It's evergreen so it provides a good structural element, it doesn't need trimming, and it's basically unkillable. (Councils often use them for planting.) Flowers are various shades of blue, in early/mid spring.

              The basic ones are rather dark green and can be a bit gloomy. Choose a variegated one so that it looks more welcoming. The only thing to watch for is that they come in very different sizes, so do look at the final size on the label. You want a bush-shaped one growing to 3-4ft high. Also look at the final width if you're going to plant it along the front, because that would generally spread to 6-8ft wide.
               
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              • Warwicks1

                Warwicks1 Apprentice Gardener

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                Thanks Graham B for your suggestion of a ceanothus. I've been reading around it and agree that a variegated leaf variety could work really well. My only reservation is whether it would be happy in what is a relatively exposed location - I've read that it prefers a bit of shelter. Does anyone have experience of it in a more exposed setting? It can be a bit breezy at times, but it's also the Midlands, not northern Scotland - would it count as 'exposed'?!

                As for the stump contractor - he's a mutual friend. He spent around 6 hours getting the stumps as low as he could (and a lot of time re-sharpening his chainsaw). He really didn't charge much for what he did to be honest, but he was concerned to avoid damaging the edging brickwork and mucking up the gravel area more than was necessary. The elderly owner was really pleased, and she's now just looking for something to make it a bit less barren.

                I'm quite keen on the decorative edging fence now - I know someone who will lend me one or two sections from their garden to see how it looks. I would propose to install it so that it borders the pavement, perhaps also one piece at 90 degrees aligning with the drive... A new shrub like the ceanothus plus a few rocks and perhaps some additional interest like crocosmia spitfire would probably finish it nicely... (At least that's where I am in my thinking!).
                 
              • Graham B

                Graham B Gardener

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                Not sure about exposed areas. I've only personally planted them by fences or walls. However our local council (in Cambridge) has regularly planted them all round the place, and they don't seem to suffer.
                 
              • noisette47

                noisette47 Total Gardener

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                You're spot on about exposure, @Warwicks1. You'd think that Ceanothus would thrive here, with the long, hot summers, but I've tried to grow them in my main (exposed) borders for the last 11 years and they're just not having it. The only ones I've been able to keep are in spots protected from cold winds and hot sun. The exception to the rule is C. 'Yankee Point' which is a lower, spreading variety, vigorous and a good blue.
                 
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                • kindredspirit

                  kindredspirit Gardening around a big Puddle. :)

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                  Perennial wallflowers, such as Bowles Mauve, do very well in gravel and can flower for a very long time. I had a bed of Bowles Mauve once, which flowered for 48 months continually until I changed my layout. Wallflowers and mini-boulders can look very well and easy to do.
                   
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