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shrub for poor soil

15 years ago

I have an area in my garden (actually 2) where the soil is poor and the shrubs I have tried have all failed. The areas are terraced pockets on the edges of my yard, if that makes sense. They are not very large areas (2'x 2' rounded areas against a fence), and there is quite a bit of gravel there due to the stoned terracing, for drainage. I was planting things in compost, but I guess the roots aren't finding any nutrients past the compost in the hole I dug, because of all the surrounding gravel. (I also don't know if I should just amend with some plain old topsoil rather than compost). The area is neither too dry or too wet, and it gets part sun. I have tried a camelia (too much sun there), a Rose of Sharon (which just kind of languished and never grew), and an enkianthus. I pulled out the enkianthus today, as it looked dead, and it came out very easily, as it had never rooted in although it's been in the ground for 1 1/2 years!

I'm hoping to find some suggestions of a shrub that will work. I'm not picky, doesn't matter if it's deciduous or evergreen, but I'd like something that gets at least 4' tall but not too wide. I cannot remove the gravel because it is needed for drainage. I have 4 such pockets- 2 are doing well with a butterfly bush and a California lilac, respectively. The third has a clumping bamboo that is also languishing- it hasn't grown at all in 3 years and it's a bamboo, for heaven's sake! I did not do anything differently to the pockets with the 2 thriving shrubs, and those pockets are also the same size as the ones that are not producing. Thank you to anyone who has suggetions!

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