CHOOSING LANDSCAPE PLANTS
Last week we looked at Fiona and Scott’s new garden project beside Lumphinnans Farm in need of ideas and planting. The site was analysed their needs discussed and a programme to implement a landscape plan was suggested.
Plans can always be flexible as it is usually to have some parts ready for planting while other parts are still under construction for paths, patio, hard standing and garage.
It is a good idea to use a planted border around the base of the house to soften the structure into the surrounding landscape. Even when builders leave the area packed down with hardcore a narrow one foot wide border is not hard to dig out and refill with good soil about ten to twelve inches deep. Plants will be very happy to grow in this environment, though a two foot border would give more impact.
The landscape design will be based on an attractive range of plants that will not need much maintenance, but be very effective in function and appearance.
Although farm land usually means good soil, it may well be hard packed after building works and have a lot of old bricks and other debris buried in it. These need removing from the top soil, but they are not usually a problem in subsoil, unless this is very hard packed. Sometimes it is just as quick to excavate the planting areas and bring in fresh top soil. It is beneficial to mix in some peat, compost, well rotted manure, old grow bags or planting compost into the top soil. Always add some fertiliser to new areas to get plants off to a good start.
Around the house
The south and west facing borders will allow a wide choice of flowering plants enjoying a sheltered sunny position. Good ground cover plants include heathers, lavender, cistus, genista, senecio, mahonia and helianthemum. To add some height where ever there is space at the side of doors and windows add the New Zealand Flax, cytisus, (brooms), ceanothus, fuchsia Mrs Popple, Rosemary or Kerria. Some herbaceous plants can be very reliable and easy to look after such as flag iris, Shasta daisies and phlox.
A climbing rose trained up part of the chimney would add colour, scent and height.
A large expanse of lawn in front of a house deserves a very special specimen tree to add class. My favourites are the white stemmed birch Betula jacquemontii and the blue Atlas cedar Cedrus atlantica glauca. You only need one specimen planted well back from the house but visible from the windows.
Outbuildings, parking areas, storage space for materials and fence lines can all be screened with a mixture of trees and shrubs. The trees can include pines, spruce, rowan, birch and taller oaks, beech and even the more exotic walnut and sweet chestnuts. Shrubs are better if views are not to be impeded so include philadelphus, shrub roses, lilac, and magnolias and where evergreens are needed for screening all year round include rhododendrons, ceanothus, pyracantha, camellias and yew.
The steep bank at the back of the house is overgrown with gorse and is not particularly attractive. It could be improved by cutting back the gorse and planting a mixture of woodland edge trees such as rowan, alder, elderberry, birch, sloes, and field maple. Plant young bare root plants direct into the soil spaced about two metres apart or closer together then thin out a couple of years later transplanting spares around field perimeters.
There are many options for using a half acre of spare land, but practical factors such as time, labour, funding and interest will help decide what to choose. Different people will come up with a variety of good solutions depending on their own knowledge and experience. A lot of thought and research is essential to get the option most appropriate for Fiona and Scott as the choice may well be for the long term to make the most of a golden opportunity.
I will consider three ventures in greater detail next week. These include establishing an attractive easy to look after small woodland, a small apple orchard producing high quality heritage fruit for local markets and the first commercial Saskatoon fruit farm in UK.