Plants for Dry and Acid Soils

Situation and aspect govern plant selection; so to a lesser extent does soil type. Fortunately, most plants are very adaptable: although they may prefer a particular kind of soil, they will usually tolerate most reasonably fertile ones that are neither too wet nor too dry for long periods. Most fussy are the lime haters, such as enkianthus, gentians, lithospermum, rhododendrons and azaleas, and most heathers (with the exception of some ericas).

Your garden’s situation affects its exposure to wind and temperature, factors which influence growth. There are hillside and seaside gardens in which it is almost impossible to develop a planting scheme until winds have been softened by shelter belts of evergreen trees and shrubs and carefully sited filter-fences.

Anemone blanda

Anemone blanda (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before you buy any plants, look in neighbours’ gardens and note what grows well. Talk to local experts and attend gardening-club meetings to glean all you can about the kind of plants that thrive in your district.

PLANTS FOR ACID SOIL

Lime-hating plants thrive on acid, peaty loam soils. Some, such as camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, also enjoy dappled shade and need shelter for spring frosts which can blacken their blooms. If you are trying to grow acid-soil lovers on ground which contains a trace of lime, water the foliage with sequestered-iron solution.

PLANTS FOR SHADE

All plants need light to survive, but not all of them need brilliant sunshine. Natives of woodland, in particular, are happiest when given some protection from the sun’s rays. All the plants listed below will tolerate shade to a greater or lesser degree. If the soil is too dry – that, for instance, under a large tree usually is -improve its moisture-retaining properties by digging in plenty of organic manure. Rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and hydrangeas are a few of many superb plants that thrive in little sunshine. If the right plants are chosen, there is no reason why shady spots should be dull places. Many foliage plants grow well in shade, including ferns, of which there are many fully hardy and highly ornamental kinds.

Acanthus

Acontium

Ajuga

Alchemilla

Allium moly

Anemone blanda

Aruncus

Asperula odorata

Astilbe

Astrantia

Bergenia

Brunnera

Camassia

Camellia

Convallaria

Corydalis

Cyclamen

Daphne mezereum

Dicentra

Digitalis

Endymion

Epimedium

Erythronium

Euonymus

Euphorbia robbiae

Gaultheria

Geranium endressii

Helleborus

Hosta

Hypericum calycinum

Liriope

Lysimachia clethroides

Mahonia

Meconopsis

Ornithogalum nutans

Pernettya

Polygonatum

Polygonum

Primula

Prunella

Pulmonaria

Sanguinaria

Sarcococca

Skimmia

Symphoricarpos

Symphytum

Thalictrum dipterocarpum

Tiarella

Trillium

PLANTS FOR DRY SOIL

Light and sandy soils have many advantages: they are easy to cultivate, they warm up quickly in spring, and they drain well after wet weather.

If sandy soil is all you have, and you want to grow plants that enjoy a modicum of moisture at the roots, there is only one thing for it: you must enrich your earth with plenty of organic matter-peat, compost, manure, leaf-mould and the like.

The plants in this list can usually tolerate dry conditions, but they will all need a helping hand in their youth. It is no good pushing their roots into dust and expecting them to survive. During the first year of establishment they will need to be soaked in dry spells so that the root system they develop is far-reaching and capable of searching for moisture. Organic matter is useful for these plants, too. And remember that when water is able to pass quickly through a soil, it often takes nutrients with it. Sandy soils are hungry soils: feed them regularly.

Acanthus

Achillea

Ageratum

Agrostemma

Alchemis

Artemisia

Astrantia

Aubrieta

Berberis

Bergenia

Borago

Buddleia

Calluna

Campulula

Cistus

Clarkia

Corydalis

Cosmea

Cotoneaster

Crocosmia

Cytisus

Dierama

Digitalis

Echinops

Echium

Erigeron

Eryngium

Eschscholzia

Gazania

Genista

Geranium

Godetia

Gypsophila

Hebe

Helianthemum

Helichrysum

Hibiscus

Hypericum

Kniphofia

Lathyrus

Lavandula

Lavatera

Liatris

Limnanthes

Linaria

Linum

Lychnis

Macleaya

Myrtus

Nepeta

Nigella

Oenanthus

Physalis

Santolina

Sarcocca

Sedum

Sempervivum

Solidago

Stachys

Tagetes

Tamarix

Vinca Yucca

PLANTS FOR MOISTURE-RETENTIVE OR CLAY SOIL

There’s no denying that clay soil is the most unpleasant kind to work, and the most back-breaking, too. But once plants are established within it they often do well, sinking their roots into a medium which seldom dries out at depth and so offers sustenance in dry summers, when plants on lighter soils are suffering.

Dig heavy soils in autumn so that the winter frosts can help shatter the clods and break them into more workable crumbs, and add as much organic matter and sharp grit as you can. Planting on soils like these is nearly always best carried out in spring.

TENDER PLANTS FOR WARM, SHELTERED POSITIONS

A good selection of frost-tender plants from warm countries will thrive in sheltered southern and western regions of the British Isles if we site them carefully. Their big enemy is wind frost, the killer that shrivels leaves and bites deep into the soil. The answer is to shield such exotics as bottle-brush (Callistemori) and lobster’s claw (Clianthus) by setting them at the foot of a south or west facing wall, or in some sun-drenched corner.

PLANTS FOR GROUND COVER

Gardeners have been planting things closely together for hundreds of years, both for the matlike effect of growth as well as to keep down weeds. Today the idea has caught on as a labour-saving device.

The earth must be well cultivated, weeded and fertilised and the plants given every encouragement to grow well from the outset. This means that they will have to be thoroughly watered in dry spells, and that they will have to be weeded among until their leaves meet to form an impenetrable rug of growth.

When it comes to calculating how many plants you will need, bear in mind the ultimate spread of the species chosen. Plant so that the individuals will overlap slightly when they have been growing for a season or two. .

PLANTS FOR SEASIDE GARDENS

Coastal gardens have the great advantage of a fairly stable climate, thanks to the presence of the sea, whose temperature fluctuates very slowly. Such gardens, however, are apt to suffer at the hands of the wind, which lashes them with salt spray in autumn and winter.

Some plants can cope with this kind of treatment, and even though many of them look badly burned after a severe gale, they will soon produce new leaves when favourable weather returns.

Gardens right on the sea front are the most difficult to plant, and it is essential that some form of windbreak is provided before planting gets underway. Wattle hurdles and other semi-permeable barriers should be erected before salt-tolerant hedges, such as tamarisk and juniper, are established to make a more durable shield.

That done, the gardener can experiment with a varied group of plants, even though his season may be shorter than that of gardens inland. The first gales of autumn are always awaited with dread!

HEIGHT, SPREAD & SHAPE

When you plan your flower garden, think carefully about the various elements in the total scheme and how they will relate to each other. There is, for instance, a great and obvious contrast between the hard, angular lines and solid mass of the house and the slender, flowing shapes of flowering plants. The visual transition from one to the other can be made less abrupt in many ways – by training climbers on the house walls, for instance, or by extending paving outward from the house and stocking it with container plants. In the same way, different parts of the garden can be made to merge into one another, the eye being led from one to the next by carefully sited visual ‘signals’ – a decorative urn, perhaps, or stepping stones curving across the margins of a lawn.

The view from the house windows is important, especially in winter. Here flowers come into their own, whether they are herbaceous plants, bulbs, flowering shrubs or roses. When you are choosing them, their season of flowering, as well as their colours, are important.

VARYING THE LEVELS

A variation in levels and a variation of plant heights all help to add interest; for instance, a herbaceous border can all too easily have a single horizontal level. Break it up with the smaller, vertically growing conifers, juniper ‘Skyrocket’, the fastigiate Irish yew or evening primroses (Oenothera). Use shrubs as a change from herbaceous plants; go in for bulbs – these can vary from the tiny front-of-border snowdrops and crocuses to the 900 mm (3 ft) crown imperials and summer hyacinths (Galtonia).

The herbaceous border, when first conceived, contained plants graded in height so that the lowest were in front and the tallest at the back; it was meant to be looked at from only one side. When successful it was superb, but it was difficult to achieve and often difficult to cultivate. The modern idea has commuted this a little to the ‘island border’. This is a bed of irregular curving shape, cut in turf or surrounded by paving, containing perennials arranged so that the tallest are more or less in the middle, and the carpeters at the edges. The shapes of these beds can be very pleasing and, being islands, they are more easily cared for, particularly if no-staking perennials are grown.

This last point is not to be overlooked in planting. The more time you have to spare, the more you can improve the garden, and enjoy it, too; a garden which is always needing attention becomes a tiresome job which has to be done, instead of being a place for pleasure and interest, as it should be. Shrubs are plants which do not need a lot of care, on the whole, but which can provide much in the way of flowers, fruits and foliage. Ground-cover plants will fill in spaces between perennials and shrubs so that the weeds cannot spread; ivy, periwinkle, heathers, London pride, St John’s wort (Hypericum), creeping thyme and saxifrages, once established, need virtually no attention.

LAYING OUT A MIXED BORDER

The size, shape and levels of a mixed flower border will be largely influenced by the existing site. Depth and breadth of the bed should be taken into account as much as the proposed colour schemes and season of interest, and the height and character of the plants should relate to each other and their surroundings.

A simple plan for a border in front of a hedge could have tall plants placed at the back and shorter subjects to the fore. With large borders it is better to set plants in groups rather than individually, or a spotty effect may be created. Tall spiky plants like delphiniums and verbascum contrast well with round-headed flowers like achillea and phlox, or with plants such as helenium that form a mounded clump.

The duration and times of the flowering season are important: borders close to the house need subjects that provide year-round colour, although a traditional herbaceous border usually has a short but splendid season in summer. Small evergreen shrubs introduced in a mixed border provide a useful framework and give year-round interest.

Strong hues of red or yellow contrast well against shades of green and blue. White and cream blend harmoniously with most flower colours. Bronze, orange and pinks create a warm effect, compared with the coolness of blues and lavenders. Grey foliage blends or contrasts with red, cerise, pink and white shades.

THE BACKCLOTH

SHRUBS

An herbaceous or mixed border of shrubs and hardy perennials needs a contrasting backcloth – a wall, fence, hedge or informal arrangement of evergreen trees or shrubs.

A yew (Taxus) or arborvitae (Thuja) hedge is ideal. Clipped once a year, in August, it doesn’t grow out of hand and the deep-green foliage contrasts superbly with the orange-red tones of crocosmia and kniphofia, the sun-yellow blooms of achillea and helianthus, and the snow-white of the bellflower (Campanula lactiflora ‘Alba’).

Other evergreen shrubs include berberis, attractive and easy-to-grow. One of the best is the charming B. darwinii. Californian lilacs (Ceanothus) are blue-flowered shrubs which bloom in spring, summer or autumn.

Another very attractive flowering shrub is Mexican orange blossom (Choisya ternata). Grown mostly for the beauty of their foliage, Elaeagnus are hardy, with tiny, scented flowers in spring or autumn. The oleaster (E. commutata) has deciduous silver leaves and bears small, silvery fruits.

Escallonia grow particularly well in seaside gardens. E. x edinensis has pink flowers in arching sprays; E. x ‘Apple Blossom’ pink and white, ‘Donard Brilliance’, crimson. All flower in June-July. Another good shrub for seaside gardens is Euonymus japonicus ‘Aureus’, with glossy, gold-centred leaves.

Yet another good hedging and backcloth plant for seaside gardens (and towns) is the daisy bush (Olearia). Probably the best is the hybrid O. x haastii, whose flattish clusters of daisy-like flowers bloom in Tulv.

Osmanthus delavayi, a rounded evergreen shrub, has strongly scented small white flowers in April, and small glossy, dark green leaves.

The firethorns (Pyracantha) are evergreen in reasonable winters, and very spiny. They are quite hardy and grown mostiy for their fruits.

Most garden senecios have grey or silvery foliage and yellow flowers in summer and early autumn. The best garden species is Senecio ‘Sunshine’, whose leaves are white-felted.

HERBACEOUS PLANTS

Point up your medium-size and low-growing border plants with a backcloth of tall, elegant herbaceous types, preferably self-supporting up to a height of 1.5 m (5 ft) to 2 m (61/2ft), depending on the size of the border.

Delphiniums, reliable and popular herbaceous border plants in English gardens, are also among the most handsome; they contribute some of the most vivid blues to the garden scene. The blues of the large-flowered hybrids show infinite variation, from the palest powder blue to deepest navy, with violet, lilac, mauve and pink tingeing the petals; white, cream and yellow are also represented. Outstanding amongst the magnificent Pacific Hybrids, which reach at least 1.8 m (6 ft) high, are the blue ‘Ann Page’, pink ‘Astolat’, and white ‘Pacific Galahad’. The Belladonna cultivars are smaller, and with looser

The plume poppy (Macleaya microcarpa) is quite unlike a poppy in its flowers. It is a tall plant whose habit of growth provides a welcome airiness amongst the denser foliage and flowers of most perennials. The large rounded, scalloped-edged leaves have silvery undersides; the small, yellowish buff-coloured flowers grow in large feathery clusters at the top of each stem.

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07. June 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Plants, Top Tips | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Plants for Dry and Acid Soils

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