Helleborus orientalis plant in flower

Boxtrees Nursery

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Cultivation of Hardy Perennial Plants

1. Growing Conditions  >  2. Selecting Plants  >  3. Planting  >  4. Maintenance

1. Growing Conditions

The soil type, soil moisture conditions, amount of light and exposure to or shelter from the wind will determine which plants will grow in your garden, and also which plants will not succeed.

1.1. Soil Type

  • Loam - The best soil for most plants. Retains moisture and nutrients well, good drainage.
  • Clay - Very good soil where it is worked well and the drainage is good. May need artificial drainage and often benefits from the addition of organic material or sand to improve the soil structure.
  • Sand - Dry, very good drainage. Ideal conditions for plants which grow wild in sandy soil. Large quantities of compost or manure can be added to try to make sandy soil more moist and rich.
  • Peat - Excellent soil. Can be too rich for some plants.
  • Rock - Loose boulders can be removed. Where the soil is thin, more soil can be imported.
  • Salty - Best look for salt resistant plants.
  • Chalk - Usually thin soil layer with very good drainage. Can import extra soil if required.
  • Acid - Usually found in areas with high rainfall. Good for growing ericaceous plants.

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1.2. Soil Moisture Conditions

  • Moisture retentive and well drained - The ideal condition. The retained moisture supplies the plant with water, and the good drainage ensures enough air around the roots.
  • Wet poorly drained clay soils - Poor drainage can result in the soil being saturated for long periods, especially in winter, causing many types of plants to die. This condition is often due to tightly compacted clay soils, which do lot allow rain water to drain away. Installing land drains will often greatly increase the number of plants which will flourish in this soil. The drainage can also be improved to a lesser extent by digging to break up the compacted soil, and by adding granular or organic material to the soil. If it is not possible to install drains, then constructing a raised bed on the poorly drained soil can help provide better drainage. If none of these improvements are possible, then there are plants, like lythrums and symphytums, which grow well in very wet in winter and dry conditions in summer.
  • Dry - Some plants flourish in dry soil, and some plants will only survive the winter in very free draining soil. Dry sandy soil can be made to retain more moisture by adding plenty of organic material, especially if this is done annually. Shallow dry chalky soil can be made richer by importing more topsoil. More irrigation in summer will tend to make up for the low natural soil moisture levels.
  • Boggy - Boggy ground can often be drained. However, it is also an ideal place to grow moisture loving plants like astilbes and gunneras which will not grow elsewhere.

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1.3. Amount of Light

  • Sun - An open sunny situation will generally produce healthy sturdy plants, and minimize the need for staking. Most of the plants that grow well in shade will also grow very well in full sun (eg hellebores and pulmonarias). There are some plants which are scorched by strong direct sun, for example certain ferns and primulas.
  • Shade - It is sometimes possible to make a site less shady, for example by cutting down a tree. However this is often not possible, and it is fortunate that there are a number fine plants that grow well in shade. These are generally plants whose wild relatives are found in deciduous woods, like hellebores, euphorbias, ferns and primulas. Many woodland plants flower in Spring, before the leaves are fully out on the trees. However, there are also a number of late summer and Autumn flowering plants which grow well in shade, for example some of the aconitums, anemones and asters.

1.4. Exposure to or Shelter from the Wind

  • Sheltered - A sheltered site will protect plants from wind damage, and also greatly reduce water use in summer and damage from cold winds in winter. Many famous gardens, especially those containing exotic and fragile plants, are in sheltered sunny sites. In an exposed garden, planting a hedge or shelter belt of trees, or erecting a wind-break fence, is often the first task.
  • Windy - Many plants will grow very well in a windy situation, especially those which grow wild in mountains and by the coast.

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Many thanks, excellent plant arrived in good condition, will shop with you again, Regards Graham (Banbury)

The Gunnera arrived safely today. Thank you for your careful packing, fast friendly service and great quality plant. Three days from seeing it on the internet to it growing in the garden has got to be a record! Lorraine (Leicester)

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Tel: 01359 250507  Mobile: 07813 894146  Email: bill@boxtrees.com  All text and images © Boxtrees Nursery