A Problem With Clay Soil ?

This might seem a strange image to post next to a blog about clay soil. Find out why…..

 

I took this photo of Sossusvlei in the starkly beautiful Namibian Naukluft dessert earlier this summer.  ‘Deadvlei’, this particular location, means dead marsh. What was once a marsh and prone to seasonal flooding, is now a dried out clay pan (clay soil) surrounded by towering sand dunes and containing dead Acacia trees dating back  possibly 900 years.  The river that used to flood this region changed it’s course and the climate was so harsh that the trees, rather than decomposing became petrified. Understandably it is one of the the most photographed regions in sub Saharan Africa.

clay soil - Caroline Benedict Smith Garden Design Cheshire

Clay pan, petrified Acacia trees and husband

Wouldn’t it be great of we could say the same about our own waterlogged or dried out clay gardens !

Having visited Namibia with it’s dead trees and vast clay pans I feel inspired to  write something positive about clay soil……

So, lets hear it for clay soil…….!

1.It is extremely rich in nutrients and very fertile

2.When mixed with organic matter it doesn’t dry out in the summer months….less watering

3. When it rains, clay holds on to the nutrients such as Potassium and Nitrogen, essential for plant growth. In sandy soils these are leached away and need replacing. So no need to add supplements each year or after heavy rain.

 

Lots of plants absolutely love clay soil. Here are a few….

Roses - clay garden - Caroline Benedict Smith Garden Design Cheshire

ALL ROSES

Clay Soil - Silver pear tree - Caroline Benedict Smith Garden Design Cheshire

SILVER PEAR TREE/CLIPPED BOX/ PERSICARIA/ GERANIUM

Fragrant honeysuckle in Caroline Benedict Smith garden Cheshire

FRAGRANT HONEYSUCKLE

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clay Soil - Betula utilis Jacquemontii-Silver Birch - Caroline Benedict Smith Garden Design Cheshire

SILVER BIRCH / BETULA UTILIS JACQUEMONTII

Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire- clay soil

CORNUS SANGUINEA MIDWINTER FIRE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we look at some of the amazing plants that thrive on our clay soil, it’s hard to understand why not everybody wants to garden on clay !

But of course as we know it can have many issues for the gardener, and knowing how to tackle it is 90% of the battle. In my next blog I will look at some of the solutions available to winter waterlogging and summer drying out.

 

Below are a few clay soil loving plants;

 

TREES

Acer (Japanese maple), Amelanchier lamarkii, Betuala (birch), Crataegus (hawthorn), Euclayptus, Malus (crab apple), Pyrus Salicifolia Pendula (weeping silver pear)

Thuja plicata, Taxodium disticum, Picea (pine), Abies (fir)

SHRUBS

Roses, Viburnum, Spirea, Hydrangea, Buddleja, Cottoneaster, Mahonia, Berberis

CLIMBERS AND WALL SHRUBS

Pyracantha, Rose, Hyrangea petiolaris, Lonicera japonica & periclymenum (honeysuckle), Kerria japonica, Garrya elliptica, Cottoneaster horizontalis

GROUND COVER

Bergenia, Euonymus fortunei,Geranium, Juniperus communis, Persicaria affinis & bistorta, Vinca

HERBACIOUS PERENNIALS

Anemone japonica & hybrida,Astrantia, Hosta, Sedum, Geranium, Astrantia, Asta novae-belgii, Alchemilla mollis

For more information about plants for clay soil please visit the RHS website