Without proper soil dept, planting shrubs is an expensive waste of time, says Ian Rafferty
It is always a challenge being confronted with an empty border. Maybe you have just moved into a new home and the back garden is bare, or that long-awaited extension is just finished and now you need some outside colour. Whatever the circumstances, starting from scratch is always a challenge, but it’s exciting too.
The ingredients for a successful garden are rooted in common sense. However, it is surprising how many people want to take shortcuts. So, here are some simple steps to follow when starting from scratch.
Before you begin, make sure there is adequate soil depth. The length of a spade is a good indicator. It is tempting to try to get away with less soil, especially if it requires a little effort getting it in, but without proper soil depth, planting shrubs is an expensive waste of time.
Next, you will want to define the border with an attractive perimeter. At ground level, a row of bricks is an effective choice and, when set an inch or less below lawn level, you also save time on lawn edging. For a raised bed there are also many ideas. A dry stone wall can give the garden a country manor feel, while the ever-popular railway sleepers produce a more regimented appearance.
It is always a good idea to avoid growing too many large shrubs if your border is small. It sounds obvious, but many people rush out and buy the biggest plants they can find, which is fine for the first few seasons. However, you end up having to hack through an overgrown jungle and you might just want to start all over again. Start small and let the border develop over time.
You can think about the larger shrubs in the case of a boarder being surrounded by bare walls that you would rathger see covered.One idea is to mix the reliable privet, berberis or holly, and plant in hedging style along the wall. This can provide a sable background for the smaller shrubs planted to the front.
When you are finished planting, a selection of mixed bulbs planted in and around the shrubs will give you a welcome splash of colour in the spring.