What to do
The problems usually associated with limestone-based soils stem from a high pH and a lack of topsoil depth. Nutrients, mostly manganese and iron, are less available and water drains through quickly. Breaking through layers of rock and adding topsoil is certainly effective, although time and effort-consuming. The primary focus should be adding organic matter to the soil: this will help with water retention and increasing nutrient availability.
What to plant
The easiest way to cope with any garden situation is to use the plants that will thrive in the area.
Cotoneaster frigidus ‘Cornubia’ is somewhere between a large shrub and a small tree but does well in both situations. A semi-evergreen with small, dark leaves, it is popular for screening. With white flowers in spring and bright red berries in autumn, it has a feature for all seasons. Although it can reach a good height, it is prunable if necessary and the tiny ‘Hybridus Pendulus’ is best for very small gardens.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is a beautiful, big, native tree. The light, bright, glossy leaves shine bright on a sunny day and the smooth grey bark tends to remind me of an elephant’s leg. Stunning as a statement tree within woodland planting, Beech also works well as hedging or topiary, meaning there is no garden that wouldn’t be improved by planting beech.