Planning for the future – a design challenge

This is the time of year when we all get out our garden notebooks and start to think about what needs to change in the garden.16_10_26_3589This is the view across our garden and shows the old kitchen garden wall. Actually our garden extends beyond the garden wall although the large sycamore tree is actually in our neighbour’s garden. The other side of the wall includes some utility areas.16_08_08_3140To the right is a fruit cage and then through the gap is the compost area. Directionally, this is looking to the south west.3area-looking-towards-south-westOn the left is a dumping area. Every year we feel we should do something here but what?2-area-looking-north-eastSame area from the other end, looking to the north east.4-the-wallArea viewed from the compost area.  The issues are that on this side of the wall, due to a lower ground level, the wall is very tall, behind me is the compost area which is shaded by the sycamore (mentioned above). The wall is running from the north east to the south west so, combined with the sycamore tree, the area gets limited direct sun although it is not a dense shade. See also the garden map to further understand the layout.

This area is not a prime area within the garden. We wanted a relatively low maintenance solution which takes into account the light issues. Ideally we also wanted an area that feels different from the rest of the garden.5-area-to-have-gravel-and-pavingFirst I have taken a photograph and modified it adding an area which I am planning to be some type of hard landscaping. (It is much easier cleaning up an area on Photoshop!). This will define the lawn and make it symmetrical around the way through the yew hedges.6-mock-upNext I have added some trees. These were provisionally multi-stemmed silver birch. I am yet to do a detailed plan for the hard landscaping but essentially the diagonal lines are to represent courses of bricks (about four courses wide ) that would create five 1m by 1m planting holes for the trees. The planting hole would have a weed membrane and gravel to finish. At this stage I am still thinking about the triangular areas by the wall and by the lawn. These could be gravel which would keep it simple or they could be cobbles which we have elsewhere in the garden and would form some continuity.

The big question is what trees to buy? On this decision there were a few of constraints. The centre of the planting hole is 1.45m from the wall so roots could be an issue, any wind we have comes from the south west and can be cold so despite the wall it is not the warmest of sites and lastly we wanted this to be fairly instant gardening so we were looking to buy trees of at least 1.75m. We are on a sandy loam soil which is free draining.

I have talked to one of the best local tree suppliers. Bluebell Nursery is an award-winning, traditional working nursery, specialising in rare and unusual trees, shrubs, climbers and conifers based in South Derbyshire, England. At this stage they have had the above brief and come up with some suggestions:

  • Amelanchier lamarckii ‘Ballerina’ – small, rounded tree with masses of spring flower and decent autumn colour.
  • Drimys winteri – unusual evergreen tall shrub/small tree with glossy green leaves and white flowers once established. Should enjoy being near a wall.
  • Sorbus ‘Autumn Spire – narrow, upright small tree with excellent autumn colour once established.
  • Eucryphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’ – small, upright and fairly narrow evergreen tree with masses of white flowers in late summer/early autumn. Should enjoy the shade and grow well next to a wall.

Another we considered was Styrax japonica but unfortunately, it would not be very tall initially for instant gratification. However, they would come into their own after a few years in which to get established. As for the  multi-stemmed silver birch the advice was that we would definitely risk damage to the wall in time and even if not the case, as the wall is so tall you would be unlikely to have perfectly symmetrical habits forming as they would tend to grow towards the light given the opportunity.

At this stage we favour the Sorbus but the jury is still out.

Any suggestions gratefully welcomed.


15 thoughts on “Planning for the future – a design challenge

  1. Great ideas. I have E’ glutinosa and it’s always a treat to see as it’s quite late to flower, the bees love it and it’s perfumed. Also have several Sorbus ( although not the one you’re looking at ) which never fail to add interest and the birds adore them. Sue.

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  2. I’m glad you decided against silver birch. I’ve had a few and they can be a pain…dropping small branches every time the wind picks up, so not what you want for an easy-care area. I like the idea of the Sorbus, but you might also consider Stewartia pseudocamellia. It forms a nice pyramid, prefers light shade, and offers striking summer flowers and autumn color, plus handsome patchwork bark similar to crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia). Not an everyday nursery find (in Southeastern US), but certainly worth looking for.

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  3. So interesting to read about your new plans. Personally I would go for the Eucryphia, always a winner in my book. I know you get both spring and autumn colour with Amelanchier, but they are both so fleeting.

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  5. If you wanted evergreen tress, look at Irish yews, taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata.’ As well as the common or garden dark green form, there is a golden T. b. Fastigiata Aurea Group, and T. b. ‘Fastigiata Aureomarginata’ which has yellow edges to the leaves. A mix of three dark green ones interspersed with two of the lighter ones might be an interesting mix.

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    • Yes we thought of yew and it would certainly grow ok there and could be made into any shape. However, the location is between two yew hedges and I am not sure e want more yew. Something that would provide other interest would be good. Thanks for your help. We have not made a final decision yet.


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