Article: Camellias - An introduction: Soil!, 1 by NEILMUIR1
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Dear Sue, you say a soil pH of 6-6.5, London silt with clay on chalk underneath it, has a pH of 6.5-7 so I do not consider that a strictly acid soil as 7 is neutral.
I was doing a big job on an old wharf near tower Bridge in London, which had been converted into expensive modern apartments. The garden was being built on top of the underground car park, the roof of which had just been built. It was to have a moat around the outside and an island in the middle! Due to the building (mortar , concrete etc), when they dumped the so called top soil on the top the mortar etc it got mixed with the soil, they then filled the moat up with London tap water, bad mistake! For once the topsoil was in the rest of the project was mine, to sort out. Finally I was given the design, by the so called designer, at which point I fell about laughing!
She could not understand, what was funny, I could for her pretty design was as normal done by a designer who knew nothing about plants whatsoever! I had worked for a famous Garden Designer in west Sussex, so I knew how to design and a lot about plants. I had done an entire soil test of the whole site, using a very expensive electrical pH meter. The soil was in most places had a pH of 8 or above to nearly 9 in one spot.
I found out later this is where they had dumped all the cement and mortar, that had gone hard, and then just covered it with a bit of topsoil. Of course I had no idea the moat was leaking into the soil as well, which did not help matters either. The reason I was laughing was simple; the design had Azaleas, Camellias, Rhododendrons, and Pieris in large groups! These also had Japanese maples dotted through certain areas.
Plus some Magnolia grandiflora as well. An impossible thing to plant big expensive ericaceous plants, in that soil. There were a lot of other plants as well but even they were doubtful.
I told her but she would not listen to me, she kept saying it was her colour scheme and that is what she wanted. If I had put them in that soil the only colour scheme she would have got was a very yellow to brown dead one. So I had to go to the big Boss and tell him. Luckily someone noticed the moat was leaking badly into the car park, so they had to remove all the soil and then redo it. This time I put peat blocks down, so we could plant into them. I got the job done and it was alright for sometime, although I do not agree with drastically trying to change your soil as Nature will win in the end.
Here is a picture of a bit of it sometime later when the end of the moat collapsed into the car park and the Aston Martin owners were not very happy about that! This is when they were trying to rebuild it for the second time!
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