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Why can't I grow anything?

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by Fidgetsmum, Aug 20, 2009.

  1. Fidgetsmum

    Fidgetsmum Total Gardener

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    We have sandy soil and the two beds we currently have, get sun for most of the day. I'm hoping to gradually build up a border of herbaceous perennials, all heights, all colours and although it might make some people shudder, I want to create a 'haphazard, all-jammed-in-together' look.

    In order to find suitable plants, I've been on to 4 internet sites now and put in all the details, soil - sandy: ph - neutral: aspect - full sun: height - any: colour - any: time of interest - any, etc., etc.

    So far, every single site has come up with the same result - 'Sorry, nothing matches your search'! Clearly, according to 'the net' I'm destined to grow nothing but nettles, couch grass, bindweed, groundsel and dandelion. Funny that - because right now, my fledgling borders are a riot of colour given off by some very happy herbaceous perennial plants!!!!
     
  2. PeterS

    PeterS Total Gardener

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    That doesn't make me shudder. In fact that is my idea of the ideal border. :D

    Being on clay, I have no experience of sandy soil. My gut feeling is that you should go for mediteranean type plants, that have some tolerance to drought. Although - plants are pretty tolerant, so a wide variety should do well.
     
  3. clueless1

    clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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    Those plant finder search sites are, in my experience, rubbish. It seems to me that no matter what criteria you put in you always get told that nothing meets the criteria.
     
  4. daitheplant

    daitheplant Total Gardener

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    Fidgetsmum, put in whatever plants you fancy, THEY will let you know if they like the situation or not. :gnthb:
     
  5. Alice

    Alice Gardener

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    In this case, ignore the Net Fidgetsmum.
    Plenty of things will do well for you.
    My Father in law grew on ground like that and had a glorious garden.
    Look round your neighbourhood and see what does well there.
    Look in your own garden and see what is doing best and plant more.
    Try out the plants you fancy and see how they get on.
    Your garden will be just great. Please do post the pics.
     
  6. Loofah

    Loofah Well used member

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    I'm with Dai, plants know best;)
     
  7. Fidgetsmum

    Fidgetsmum Total Gardener

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    That they do.

    I recently bought 2 Verbenas simply because they were cheap (50p each) and pretty. In 6" pots with lots of healthy growth, flowers and buds the labels read 'Any good moist but well drained soil,' and went on to tell me to plant them in ' ... soil mixed with an organic improver and suitable fertilizer. Keep well watered.'

    All this was done - well, with one of them, I had to go away for a few days and Mr. F'smum forgot the other! Within 10 days the 'well watered' one had wilted, was laying flat on the ground and clearly dying so, the same Mr. F'smum decided he'd better replace it before I got home (:lollol:). At the same garden centre from which we'd bought the originals, he asked their 'advice centre' what he'd done wrong, to which the answer was ' ... watered it. They don't like damp conditions, you need to let them dry out almost completely.' But the 'care instructions' say ....

    So, if what the label says is completely the wrong advice, why put it on there at all? Only trouble is, it's not until after you've followed those instructions and the plant is beyond help, that you realise they might be wrong.

    Fortunately we've now ignored all the 'advice', both are now watered when we think about it and appear to be doing well, so yes, the plants do know best.
     
  8. PeterS

    PeterS Total Gardener

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    I take all advice with a pinch of salt - unless I know that the person giving it is reliable.

    When I started gardening, I looked up a lot of plants on the internet, and was surprised to see how many sites gave conflicting information. I now look at about 20 sites and take a mental average.

    I think many suppliers and writers are lazy, and just copy what others have said. On Ground Force some time ago, they said that Circium rivulare was one of the three most popular plants in the UK. So I looked it up. Several books said propagation was by seed. But I could never find any supplier of seed, so I asked an exhibitor, showing it, at a big flower show. All the members on the stand fell about laughing. They told me that it was sterile and never set seed, and that the writers of the books didn't know what they were writing about. :D
     
  9. clueless1

    clueless1 member... yep, that's what I am:)

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    There was a thread in on here a while ago where I think it was Sussexgardner (Aaron) who was having trouble getting his foxglove to grow. Several of us chipped in with notes about the conditions we'd each seen it thriving in, and the conditions they didn't seem to do well in. Everyone had conflicting observations. In conditions where I'd seen it thrive, someone else had seen it struggle and so on. I guess to some degree the plants decide for themselves just to confuse us.
     
  10. Sussexgardener

    Sussexgardener Gardener

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    Agreed, plants make up their own minds. Each garden can be unique and what works in one fails elsewhere.

    I still have trouble with foxgloves, despite ideal conditions...
     
  11. geoffhandley

    geoffhandley Gardener

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    I wish i had sandy soil in my present garden at home. Most of the garden is damp and i have a limited amount of well drained soil at the top to grow many perennials. Go for things that must have good drainage - catmint, lavender, echinaceas, scabious etc. you could try Fox tail lilies that i can only dream about. you can increase the amount of organic matter in the soil by digging in well rotted manure and home made compost. Make compost every year and top dresss the bed as a mulch to hold the moisture in. It is realtively easy to improve a light soil and put on lime if neccessary but its a nightmare to do the opposite.; When you buy the plants give them a really good watering and then only if they are obviously wilting. As they establish their roots will go down deep. Forget about things like phlox, hostas, astible and delphiniums.
    You need a good book on perennials. See what you can find in the gardening section of your local library, something that will tell you honestly whether a plant needs well drained soil or damp soil.
     
  12. Sussexgardener

    Sussexgardener Gardener

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    The RHS do a good book on perennials - one of their guides. I look at mine almost every week, more if I am planning something new. I must really remember to take it with me when I go to the GC.
     
  13. theruralgardener

    theruralgardener Gardener

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    I would also agree that plants often surprise us by doing well where they shouldn't, or vica versa! Also, geoffhandley's advice about building up your organic matter is good. (You have got good drainage, this would improve the water retentiveness.) As PeterS says, mediteranean plants should do well...most silver foliage plants are usually good. They'll look good with your Verbena too! To conserve moisture, a surface mulch applied in Spring would be a good idea too.
     
  14. Fidgetsmum

    Fidgetsmum Total Gardener

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    I'm grateful to geoffhandley and theruralgardener for their suggestions, however, they both serve to prove the points made earlier about plants knowing best .... I have both Phlox and Delphiniums and both are thriving! - probably in spite, rather than bcause, of how I 'care' for them! My Verbena? Well, that's already been dealt with above.
     
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