Getting to the roots of your Cumbrian garden – slate

Getting to the roots of your Cumbrian garden – slate

Slate Walls in Windermere

The geology beneath Cumbria is complex with everything from sedimentary limestone and sandstones to volcanic igneous and metamorphic slates and granites. The rock foundations affect drainage and the acidity (or otherwise) of the soil and will influence the stone types used in any garden design.

Slate is the main feature of the geology of the central Lake District and we’ve worked on some beautiful gardens in this area, often using slate from the previous garden or elsewhere on the site. I try to echo the house and garden walls by using similar slate in any features so that the new garden will look established and “at home” immediately. In the garden shown, we used local slate for walls, for paths and even for seating areas and it worked beautifully.

For new paving and features, local quarries across the county can supply what you need and we’re very lucky in Cumbria to have access to sources of slate such as Honister Slate Mine with its distinctive green rock.

In slate areas, including centres like Keswick and Ambleside, the base rock has volcanic origins and tends to be acidic. Acidic or ‘sour’ soils lend themselves to ericaceous plants and most people think of rhododendrons. New favourites on slate include Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Firecracker’, Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Blue Shadow’ and Pieris japonica ‘Passion’. All three thrive in acid soils and establish themselves quickly in a slate environment.