It’s a pretty dull day here today, but very mild and there’s that feeling in the air that things are starting to stir in the garden. Undoubtedly there’ll be a cold snap and we’ll be plunged back into proper winter and the garden will be still again. Meanwhile until we’re sure that spring is really on the way it’s a perfect time to plan how you want your garden to look and what plants you’d like.
So let’s take on what many people tell me is the most challenging aspect of planting …… what to grow in dry, shady areas.
The first step is to prepare the soil, this takes a lot of will-power because you just want to improve the area by getting the plants in place.
It feels a bit like having to do all the preparation before you decorate a room, but please don’t skip this stage. Plants in this situation need a rich, welcoming soil, especially in the early stages while they becom established and produce a good network of roots.
So get hold of plenty of soil improver, this could be your own compost, well-rotted horse manure or compost, usually labelled soil improver, from the garden centre.
Dig generous amounts into each planting hole and lay a nice thick mulch 4 in/10cm deep of the same compost over the area between the plants. This will help the soil to hold onto valuable moisture when needed and drain away any excess moisture.
Now for the plants:
These are both real stalwarts of dry shady areas of the garden.
Mahonia aquifoleum ‘Apollo’
An evergreen shrub with glossy dark green leaves, it has bunches of yellow flowers in spring.
Aucuba japonica ‘Rozannie’
Light reflecting, shiny evergreen leaves that have splotches of cream on them, they also have red berries.
1 x 1m
Epimedium peralchium Froenleiten
Heart shaped leaves, new ones have tints of amber, it forms a mound shape eventually reaching 80cm wide, but just 30cm high. It has small yellow flowers on wiry stems in early spring. One of my favourites, pretty and reliable
Nurture you’re new plants until they’re established making sure the soil doesn’t dry out in spring and summer, this may take a couple of years. Keep them happy and healthy with a generous layer of mulch in spring and again in autumn.
By using the right plants, not only will your garden look much better, you’ll be doing your bit to garden sustainably by not using up valuable resources replacing plants.
images: Jill Anderson