I'll second you on the wood spurge, Alison. I planted hellebore ten or fifteen years back in the dry north-facing border under my front bay. It still grows but hasn't flowered for years: the soil may just be exhausted and in desperate need of reconditioning. A Gloire de Dijon climbing rose survives but doesn't thrive there whilst a hypericum is very happy and corydalis positively flourishes. I've given it free rein in part of the border, but I should really do some soil improvement and try some other planting. The demise of a long lived cotoneaster horizontalis last year suggests that all may not be well.
Monty Don, or one of his co-presenters, recently got me interested in golden hellebores. I might give them a try, but perhaps not in that border.
It definitely sounds like the soil in that bed could do with improving Hugh.
I've found a really quick & easy way is to water really well then dig in some pelleted biochar fertiliser (Carbon Gold do a good one) before applying a thick organic mulch to the bed.
Here's some more information about biochar, if you're not familar with it.
I've been using it alot in India, as the soil there is so dry & sandy.
Thanks, Sally. I’ll take a look.
They seem to have three main products - compost, soil improver and fertiliser. Which in your experience might work best for the soil I described?
I'd recommend the pelletted fertiliser Hugh:
Natural plant-derived 5-5-5 NPK balance
5 Nitrogen (N) for active leaf and stem growth
5 Phosphorus (P) for strong, healthy root systems
5 Potassium (K) promotes vigorous flower and fruit development and disease resistance
Our biochar blend contains essential trace elements including manganese, copper, calcium, iron, zinc and sulphur. Also contains: Biochar created in a slow burn process; this charcoal delivers extremely positive long-term effects. Organically approved Seaweed and Wormcasts; plant growth stimulant and nutrient rich feed. Mycorrhizal fungi enable plants to take up more nutrients and water from soil."
Sounds great as fertiliser and I’d like some for that purpose. Thank you. But is it the best thing to bulk up the rather thin soil I have in that border?
You could add a thick layer of organic mulch over the top of the bio char fertiliser. If you make your own compost and leafmould those would be the best option - otherwise I find well rotted manure, spent mushroom compost or composted bark are all good. Over time earthworms will utilise the mulch, dragging it down into the soil to line their burrows & this will improve the soil structure for you.
As I said before it's best practice to water really well before applying the fertiliser & mulch - especially under a bay, where it gets so dry.
I love euphorbia's too - there seems to be one for every aspect & available space in a garden.
I have the delicate darker leaved European splurge, Euphorbia Dulcis 'Chameleon' scattered throughout my borders, as it self seeds around when it's happy. It tolerates shade & some dryness but grows better under a moisture-retaining mulch.
I also particularly like the Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fens Ruby' (Cypress Spurge) especially when it naturalises amongst other low growing plants.
If you like acid green I wonder if you've tried Smyrnium perfoliatum? It seems to have gained in popularity since this article was written:
Placing potted plants amongst your borders for additional interest is a great idea :)
Well it’s funny you should mention that Sally - Hugh and I had a discussion on this site about it a few years back, prompted by a visit to one of the big gardens in Enfield. I bought one which didn’t thrive but managed to get it to self seed so had a couple for a few years, but they didn’t thrive and have died out sadly.
I’ve tried growing it by scattering seeds, as I was directed too. Sadly none of them germinated.
Oh no - sorry to hear that Alison.
I've yet to figure out why they seem to grow like weeds in some gardens & struggle in others. I do understand that they come up best from seed which is fresh & that they don't really like to be sown in pots - preferring direct sowing - in situ.
I took a look at the older discussion about this plant on the site & as you say it's important to be careful when weeding - as the seedlings don't look like anything special & it's easy to pull them out without realising or mulch over the top of them when they're too small to push through.
I find it's best to mark where the seed's been sown just to remind myself to look for it.
There are adult plants & lots of seedlings in this garden (19 Coolhurst Road) but I haven't got any in my garden yet. I do plan to give it a go & found a packet of seed for £1 from an open garden in Highgate last week