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What can I plant in my back garden?

What can I plant in my back garden?

Sun or shade, dry or wet, there is a plant to suit every location. When looking for inspiration on what to plant we often turn to the internet or TV programmes. Our imagination can run wild. We don’t know whether to go for a country cottage look or a minimalist modern style. Or maybe a low maintenance planting scheme with summer interest for the gardener with no time.


Image result for sunny garden

Sunny sheltered garden

Gardens in Ireland nowadays tend to be either large gardens in a rural setting, say half an acre to an acre, or smaller gardens in urban settings. Homeowners come to gardens at different stages. Some inherit a garden with hedging, trees, and plants already mature. This is an opportunity to use existing maturity while adding a modern garden design style. Others move to a new home that has a totally blank canvas, this is an opportunity to design and build a garden from scratch and watch it mature over the years.


Whatever image you have in your head for your garden it all starts with the soil, in order to be successful with the plants you use, knowing what type of soil you have is essential.

Before you even think of planting, walk the garden, examine what you have, this will help you make good choices when buying, positioning and planting your garden.


Here are some handy tips on how to assess your garden before you start designing:


  • Dig some test holes in the garden. What depth of topsoil is there? Is it crumbly or sticky soil, boggy or stoney? What colour is it?

Test the soil

  • Check out the lawn, is it full of moss? As sure sign of poor drainage. Does it dry out easily in summer? Poor soil depth…
  • Get a ph test kit in your local garden centre and test your soil. This will have a bearing on what type of plants will succeed in your garden. Ideal pH is 6.5-7. Below 7 is acidic and above 7 is alkaline. Acidic loving plants would include Rhododendrons, Camellias and Pieris. The range of alkaline loving plants is far greater and would include Berberis. Ceanothus, Achillea and Alliums to name but a few.
  • Track the sun. Get a good idea where the sun shines in the morning, where the last of the sun is to be found in the evening. This is important when deciding what plants to use and where to position them, but also where to best position a summer evening seating area, or a patio entertainment area or maybe a wildlife water area.


  • Are there existing plants that are dominating the garden? Do they need to be pruned or removed.
  • Check out what is growing locally, note plants that do well in your neighbours garden.


When you have a firm grasp of the soil type and aspect of the garden you will be able to make smart planting choices.

When designing a garden I like to start with the skeleton of the planting which is the boundary planting (hedges, screening and shelter) then move to hard landscaping elements (patios, driveways and footpaths) and then the planting around the living areas of the house. This would mean planting outside the areas that are part of the everyday living of the house. In today’s Ireland this would include planting outside large glazing elements of the house or around the patios.

Modern glazing and planting outside

Posted on 12th April 2018

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