Challenging Gardens

Potted plants in Alitex greenhouse

Most gardens present us with a challenge of some form, be it a shady corner or a steep slope, a heavy soil or a boggy patch.

The main concern is usually difficulty with growing success. But whatever your challenge out there, rest assured there is usually an answer. 

It is worth remembering by gardening we are tailoring nature to please us. With this in mind, stick with a planting palette based on what is thriving in the locality. Carefully chosen suitable plant varieties will not only stand a better chance, they will form a visual link to your surroundings. 

There are few garden sites as challenging as steep, sandy slopes - especially when the client is keen to have colourful herbaceous borders and a productive kitchen garden!

This garden in the Surrey hills is home to the now iconic grand scale Alitex greenhouse, seen in their current advertising campaign. With a few acres of sandy slopes to work with, here’s how we dealt with the challenges we faced. 

We decided to create at least one level, productive area and work with the curves and banks everywhere else. An existing sunken garden gave us an anchor point and I laid out the vegetable parterre design to echo the layout of this feature alongside it. The sunny bank sloping away from the parterre was utilised for growing fruit. 

Dry stone wall terraces were extended across the steepest banks and repeated next to the tennis court to create spectator terraces. Each border, including raised beds in the productive areas, were subjected to a heavy application of screened topsoil and compost as a 60:40 mix.

Borders are now mulched and fertilised yearly with good organic compost andnatural fertilisers. 

Our herbaceous palette was nothing short of ambitious, and its success has been down to some specific points:

  • A palette of robust plant varieties based on those already thriving
  • Mass block planting of each variety to accommodate failures and ensure visual impact
  • A backdrop of grasses and shrubs chosen to tolerate the conditions 
  • Soil enrichment – nutrients leave sandy soil fast, especially on a slope where they just wash away. 

The garden has evolved into a very beautiful space, resulting from some dedicated input. 

Being a gardener and designer has taught me to embrace challenges; after all they give us our greatest skills. 

And what better joy than a problem overcome and a space made beautiful! 

About our guest blogger: Rae Wilkinson Design

Rae Wilkinson works as a garden designer and consultant based in Sussex. She provides sophisticated classic and modern design with a naturalistic feel. Sustainability and informed planting design combine with a naturally creative approach to the landscape. 

Registered Address: 286a High Street Dorking, RH4 1QT No: 5601295 VAT Reg. No :882064712 

Click here for Rae Wilkinson Design.

Tags: alitex, alitex greenhouse, rae Wilkinson design, guest blogger alitex