Soil for Shrubs and Trees


First you must decide which shrubs are suitable for the soil conditions in your garden. For, big and strong and sturdy and tough as they are, in their own way they are just as susceptible to the chemical content of their soil as anything else that grows in it. Rhododendrons, for instance, dislike lime and are at their best on acid soil — the miles and miles of common ponticums you see along the peat-bordered roads of western Scotland tell their own story. Clematis, on the other hand, are reputed to be at their best where there is a fairly strong lime content. Almost everywhere you will be recommended to bury their roots in a small pile of builders’ rubble, but some authorities disagree completely.

Here we come up against the old question of which expert to believe. It is universally accepted that heathers are acid-loving plants, and one expert of my acquaintance says quite flatly that they will die in a chalky soil. But several highly respectable specialist nurseries will offer you heathers that are tolerant of lime. And for one more example, I have one list that mentions only three viburnums, including Viburnum plicatum tomentosum, that are especially useful on lime, and another declaring unequivocally that all viburnums will tolerate lime, with the single exception of Viburnum plicatum tomentosum. So what are you to do when the experts disagree?


The natural reaction, and certainly the best plan, is to look around your immediate neighbourhood and try to find out exactly which variety it is of any plant, tree or shrub that is doing well and takes your fancy. The owner will never refuse to tell you, if he knows: gardeners who are proud of their plants are always willing to tell you everything they can about them. This method does have the drawback that you will be growing only the same things as everybody else although yours may be a better-balanced selection, but if you have got your basics right you can afford to be a little venturesome and experiment with something different. Every garden has somewhere in it a pocket of soil slightly different in content and composition from the rest. The difference may not be significant, but it could be the key to your being successful with an ‘impossible’ plant.

If you are seriously planning a garden that is to be an individual one and not just run-of-the-mill, I would suggest that you carry out some soil tests, so that you can get a pretty accurate idea of what will thrive where, no matter what the neighbours grow. Until a few years ago soil testing was a very complicated business and you had to send away samples of your soil for analysis. Nowadays, however, every amateur can buy a kit that will give results that are accurate enough for the purpose.

28. April 2011 by admin
Categories: Soil Improvement | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Soil for Shrubs and Trees


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