THE MODERN MINT BLOG
There are lots of plants for clay soil. Difficult as it is to work with, the opportunities to tend a fabulous garden of well-fed, strong and voluptuous plants are second to none (just try not to despair, at the end of the day, when trying to remove the clay from your boots!)
Roses are the absolute first choice for clay.
We made a beautiful rose garden for a client in Hampshire. It was on blue clay and halfway down a gentle slope, so got plenty of water. Each bed had a single variety of rose in, 15 plants per bed, and it looked fabulous as you peered through the hornbeam arch (we chose hornbeam, though not as nice a hedge as beech, because it could cope with the site.)
The client had wanted lavender and box to edge the roses and fill in any gaps – but there is no way they would have survived. Ilex crenata may have coped better, but we doubted its longevity (the site really was wet at times.)
So instead we built a small seating area, added a sculpture and made sure the grass sward was beautiful and cut consistently.
Simple and striking seemed the way forward in this case.
Val Bourne gives a rundown of some fantastic plants in her book The Natural Gardener: The Way We All Want to Garden: Preserving Nature’s Jigsaw. She said…
“Roses (even those old-fashioned beauties), viburnums, hostas, phlox, monardas and asters will love your garden.”
You won’t go far wrong if you just planted these!
The hostas may get eaten by slugs, so if you don’t want the hassle either steer clear of growing them, use copper rings around the plants, or add gravel and grit across the whole bed. Decide on your maintenance capabilities really, and how much time you want to spend on picking off and squashing slugs. It wouldn’t be our first choice of jobs to do…
If you do want to buy hostas then you can see what is on offer here – Jersey Plants Direct – they also sell a Viburnum opulus at a fair price if you type that into the search. Viburnums are solid plants (see the V. carlesii in the picture below) and they provide a cluster of flowers at the start of the season and then berries at the end.
Do plant them!
Cornus is another fine choice for soils that are damp – normally planted for winter stem colour, we also think they do a good job during the summer when in leaf – Cornus alba ‘elegantissima’ has a white margin on the green leaf, which provides a lovely calm backdrop for bigger summer flowers.
Astrantia is a favourite of ours, if you want something perennial. Let some aquilegia seed around it, maybe some campanula and forget-me-not, and you have a soft (possibly too soft? If so, add euphorbia palustris!) late spring scene of delightful flowers.
We always found, when growing dahlias, that lots of water helped. So though you will lose the tubers over winter in clay soil, putting them in for summer will give you a beautiful display. Crocus are currently doing a special offer on dahlias in there ‘bulbs’ section – so don’t miss it, go now!
That should get you started. Just remember to suit the plant to the place – that is what modern garden design is about, and it means the plant is happy and you won’t have as much work to do… unless (and it’s a fine problem to have) they grow too well…
All the plants we’ve talked about can be bought and delivered from Crocus or Jersey Plants Direct – Jersey Plants Direct offer a free delivery no matter the size of the order. Which we think is more than reasonable….
Or for decent books to use as a guide, try Beth Chatto…
Or this one on plants for problem places…
Or this one…
Here is an updated list of books for keen gardeners. I have enjoyed these books immensely, they range from designers and how they work to helping wildlife to thrive. And by buying from here you are helping local or independent bookshops to survive too. Here is the list – go take a look and nab something to read now!
I compiled a list of books using Bookshop, a new online shop to rival Amazon. I like it because it is supporting independent bookshops, helping them out by giving them an audience whilst their own physical premises are closed. The books I’ve listed are not all about gardening, but worth a look through and an order anyway as they are wonderful and have seen me through lockdown – and I hope they bring you some joy too! Check out the books I recommend here.
Hedge laying is something I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, a type of pruning that can bring huge benefits to wildlife as well as looking amazing. So last year I went down to Dorset/the edge of Devon, to spend a day learning to lay a hedge. Hedge laying is a way of building a stock proof fence. It does take time, and some practical and physical skill, but once you get the hang of it I would think developing your instinct about what to prune and where to lay the branches is where the true proficiency arises… …