Conifer Corner in Poor Shallow Soil

Conifer Corner in Poor Shallow Soil

There are 7 or 8 different conifers in this photo from a total of 16. The whole bed is roughly rectangular 6 yards by 5 yards. It has one unusual feature in that the soil is very shallow and poor.

The Beds Origin

  • Originally the area was a tarmacked drive that was not used or needed. The answer should have been to dig it up, and almost one third of it was, but my tactical bad back intervened.
  • The solution was to buy a large lorry load of top soil and make a hump of soil that we called our rockery. The drainage from the start was excellent.
  • The depth was 1′ at the edges and may be 2′ in the middle. With a few rocks it looked like an alpine garden without the real height.
  • Alpine enthusiasm waned after several years and some dwarf conifers were planted for coverage in the now compacted and impoverished soil.
  • Little or no fertiliser has been used in 20 years but in dry summers there has been some occasional watering.
  • Despite all this the conifers survive and the prostrate spreading junipers grow year on year.
  • The rockery stones provide stepping off points.
  • Some bulbs were planted but only grape hyacinths seem to have thrived. Patio roses succumb to black spot.

As was 10 years ago at the start of the conifer plantation era.


  • Plants want to grow and will adapt to many conditions as this bed demonstrates
  • Losses have been minimal and most conifers still seem happy.
  • It remains to be seen how the roots of any shrub to be replaced will have grown through the tarmac and substrate. It may be hard to dig out but not as hard as clearing all the original tarmac in one go. The disposal of just a part was a job in it’s self.
  • The lack of soil depth has turned the taller growing conifers into partial bonsai and all the better for that.

Overhead view of the same garden bed five years earlier.

Comments are closed.