If your garden is anything like mine, it has a lot of shady areas. This seems inevitable these days as many of our outdoor spaces are getting smaller and are often neatly sectioned off with hedges and fencing. Our planting has become taller too, with billowing cottage perennials at the fore, leaving lower plants with less sun.
There’s a wealth of opportunity when it comes to shade planting, and should be grabbed with both hands.
Woodland planting is really a lovely romantic term for our gardens’ dappled and deep shady areas under trees and shrubs, and places tucked away in corners under hedges, but it wonderfully describes the effect you can create, transporting you to an atmospheric country wooded area with seas of bluebells, for example.
If you don’t have a ‘woodland’ shade area it’s easy to create one with a few choice groupings of tall shrubs or trees, coupled with a handsome selection of smaller shrubs, perennials and bulbs. If you already have pockets of trees casting shade over their surroundings, you can maximise their under-planting beautifully. The best thing about shady gardens is the plants available are often more low maintenance than others, too.
First place your larger specimens in their final spots, so you can then work around them with lower-growing plants. Mahonia and hamamelis like deep shade and will light up next winter with their blooms, whereas skimmia or hydrangeas will flower happily with less sun in spring and summer respectively.
Ferns are one of my favourite plants – they’re so primitive and fascinating, are low maintenance and add easy structure and greenery to shady areas – go for evergreen tongue-like asplenium and purplish painted ferns for a colour contrast.
Add some hostas and hellebores, classic shade-lovers, as well as perennial spreaders campanula and lily of the valley. Atypical woodland bulb blooms such as snowdrops, cyclamen and anemones can be complemented in later months with bright flower colour from foxgloves and epimediums, bobbing in the breeze.
For plants to successfully thrive in these conditions, their ground needs mulch nourishment when planting and afterwards, as well as watering well in dry spells to avoid trees and larger shrubs taking all the moisture. I hope you enjoy your shady woodland sanctuaries as much as I do!
3 ways to… brighten a shady corner
- A colourful table and chairs in a shady spot will tempt you into the garden. £149, Homesense 01293 47356
- Lighting can make a huge difference in the garden; from pretty lanterns to solar strings. Ask for advice at your garden centre
- Look out for bright accessories. This fun birdhouse is £19.95 from Dotcomgiftshop, 0208 746 2473
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