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Hi, I have just brought a house and need help with the garden. It is a typical terrace garden so long and thin. It slopes gradually and has 3 large established trees which I can't afford to remove, 2 are at the bottom of of the way. I wanted to put a border in along the fence but the garden is full of roots from the current trees, old established shrubs that have been removed and Ivy which is growing under the fence from the neighbours garden. Do you think covering the border with slate and putting pots on would be the best idea or are there strategies for dealing with a shady border, on a slope that is full of roots.

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It would be a great help if you could take a couple of photos so we can see how things are. I fear that simply covering the border with slate would not prevent the ivy coming in. Do you know what the trees are? Did you remove the shrubs or were they removed already - if you did it do you know what they were? What kind of plants were you hoping to be able to grow? How shady is the border - does it get any sun and if so when? sorry about all the questions but it helps to know.

2 Sep, 2014


Photos would be very useful, as Steragram says. I'd like to add that in a long, narrow garden such as you describe, a border along one side isn't a good idea - much better to create beds on alternate sides rather than a long straight border, which will make the garden seem even more like a corridor. If its very long, say 100 feet, and only 15 feet wide, it's also an idea to section it with planting or trellis at right angles to your fence, with planting in front.

3 Sep, 2014


I did a little hunting for you - have a look at this for example, that shows what a difference Bamboo's suggestion makes

My own advice would also be to avoid the weed membrane and gravel solution but that's just me.

3 Sep, 2014


Re the roots you're finding, photos would help to decide where you need to concentrate your efforts to remove the roots so that you can plant.

3 Sep, 2014


Thank so much for all your help. That link is really useful but I am really not convinced digging is feasible in any part of this root riddled garden. I have attached some pictures here showing the evolution so far. In the last picture I have removed most of the shrubs and the uneven path down the garden so I am now in a position to start altering things.

3 Sep, 2014


Okay, need to check one more thing - when you said you'd removed most of the shrubs, does that mean you simply cut them down to the ground? I can't actually see any shrubs in that right hand border in the first picture anyway...

3 Sep, 2014


Interesting. You might consider changing the shape of your new border to disrupt the straight line that emphasises the narrowness of the plot. How about bringing it round in a curve at about the level of the debris on the lawn, and having a rounded end to the lawn at that point? Then you could plant it at that point, perhaps with a couple of small shrubs and some perennials, or perhaps backing it with some low trellis. Then you could replace a few of the slabs to make a hard surface round to the other side. What you could plant there depends rather on how much sun the area gets - you didn't say which way the garden faces. You won't get anything much to grow without removing old roots - sadly there are no shortcuts on this. They will impede any planting holes and as they rot off slowly they may well produce a crop of toadstool
Curving the lawn at the house end to a rounded shape would give you space for some attractive planting near the patio too. The tree is smaller than I thought - what sort is it please? (If you don't know a few pics of leaves and larger branches would help)

What you need to do at all costs is to avoid echoing the straight lines of the fence.

3 Sep, 2014


Hi, in answer to your questions:

1. The trees that are in the way are Cherry and Laurel. I don’t know what the ones were that were taken out as they were just stumps when I moved in.

2. I think the garden is east facing as the sun is at the bottom of the garden in the morning and on the other side of the house in the evening. It is always to the right of the garden though and due to the fences and trees the back half of the border gets no sun, the front has some but it is limited. The other side of the garden where the Cherry tree is has full sun but everywhere you look you can see the tree roots penetrating the grass.

3. I don’t mind what plants I grow. I was thinking of having a fern garden near the fence as it is in shade all day and having woodland bulbs towards the front. I do really like Allium’s and Hebe’s though so anything like that would be fine. Mostly green bushes with a dash of colour would be ideal.

4. The shrubs that I removed I cut down the ground but I have been working on removing them since. Sorry but I don’t know what they were.

I am not planning on staying in this house too long as it is only a little started home. I am hoping to make changes that improve the garden and can be enjoyed in the short term. I am happy to put in hard graft but think that spending lots of money would be a waste. As the roots are everywhere I was thinking that container gardening might be a better solution. However, if you have any smart ways to remove roots I am willing to try anything (I have already broken one garden fork).

4 Sep, 2014


Pity to think of the cherry as in the way though, why not think of it as a feature? - it should have lovely blossom. But they are very shallow rooted so I see the problem.

So the border you have just dug over will be in shade most of the time and ferns are a good option - is the ground dry or moist? If it is dry Polysticums are the best fern. If its moist you have a wide choice. There are one or two brightly variegated shrubs that would go well with them in the shade and if you buy young ones you might be able to clear a large enough area to plant them. Try Euonymus fortunii - you can get silver or gold variegations and they look good all year round. If you plant one near a fence it will tend to make long vertical shoots up it but I think they look better near the front.

Hebes like plenty of sun so perhaps not the best choice for just there. There are lots of perennial geraniums that would be happy though and crocosmias seem to grow just about anywhere.Send me a PM.

4 Sep, 2014

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