Getting to the roots of your Cumbrian garden – sandstone
Sandstone areas, like those around Penrith and Carlisle, tend to have soil that is generally neutral. Mind you, given the complexity of Cumbrian geology, we always take pH measurements across a garden, just in case we’re on a border between different rock and soil types.
Soil pH (the measure of acidity and alkalinity) can vary a lot over a short distance and will make a big difference to which plants thrive. Once we’ve checked that the pH is consistently neutral (around 7) around the garden, we can work on planting schemes that will thrive in that soil. Most plants will tolerate a small pH range which helps with selection.
My favourite plants in a sandstone garden include Geums, Brunneras and Pulmonarias for their spring colour and also for their striking year-round foliage. Check out East of Eden Nursery in Ainstable which has a great range and describes itself as the Home of Geums.
I also love using local sandstone, especially the rich red around the Eden valley, in garden features, such as walls, enclosures and paving. This image from a garden in Culgaith shows a sheltered seating area that we worked on a couple of years ago. The rock feature echoes the shapes of the nearby North Pennines.