Planting problem areas sorted
Every garden has one – the bit that doesn’t quite work. Maybe it’s too damp, too dry, too hot … It’s the spot where plants wilt and hope fades. Don’t give up. There’s always a solution.
New homes and old semis often have narrow walkways beside the house, sometimes barely a metre wide. These are usually the only access to the back garden without going through the house.
Before making any grand planting plans, make sure there’s enough room to walk freely carrying items or wheeling bikes or bins. Use pavers or crushed granite for an easy-care surface and add groundcovers around the edges to provide greenery and suppress weeds. Half-circle hanging baskets on the fence add colour and texture, and are easily moved when needed. For wider passages, take advantage of narrow trees and shrubs and espalier them along a wall.
What to plant
Creeping thyme and golden oregano are brilliantly fragrant in sun, while succulents and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’ shine. Dianella ‘Tiny Titan’ will grow from sun to shade, and bugle (Ajuga), ferns and ivy suit deeper shade.
For height, camellias are perfect in shade, or Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ in more sun. Ballerina apples and nandina also fit the bill, or string a climber along wires.
You will find these problem spots around tree roots or under the eaves of a house – shaded areas with little rain that are often marked by patchy lawn or bare earth. But nature provides a range of understorey plants that thrive in these tough conditions.
What to plant
Silver shield (Plectranthus argentatus), with silvery leaves and white flowers, enjoys dappled shade and copes with sun, while Plectranthus ecklonii prefers deeper shade and flowers in white, pink or purple-blue. Both spread swiftly, but are easily controlled. Liriopes and clivias form a good strappy contrast, or epimedium works as a lower groundcover with spikes of ethereal flowers. Several bromeliads, including Bilbergia nutans, Vriesea and Aechmea, are ideal in frost-free climates, and for Brisbane and north, succulents are perfect. If you want height, look at euphorbia cultivars or Fatsia japonica.