We often get asked to recommend plants for shade. Most of us, lucky enough to have a garden, will have a shady spot and any of us who garden locally have to deal with free-draining soil and moisture-sapping trees as well. Here are our experiences of some ‘do-good’ plants for a year-round shady border in Grayshott.
Winter Border Winter is the season when the border needs to rely on structure the most. Mahonia, skimmia, viburnum, hollies, sarcococca, fatsia and euonymus all offer a tapestry of evergreens with textures that will define the border throughout the year. After all, most plants only bloom for 3-4 weeks of the year so choose plants that you like the look of for the other 48 weeks!
Spring Jewels Early Spring sees the awakening of the border floor jewels. Think snowdrops, crocus, miniature daffs, hellebores and you won’t go far wrong. By March/April many of the herbaceous plants come into their own. Try geraniums pratense, sylvaticum and macrorrhizum varieties, epimediums, primulas, ajugas, aquilegias, pachysandra, vincas and Polystichum or Dryopteris fern varieites. With a little more nurturing there are masses more that will do well such as astrantias, brunnera, erythroniums, tiarellas and tellima to name a few. Try scattering some Foxglove and honesty seeds to add some height and froth. For Spring flowering shrubs you might consider camellias, although not for an east facing site as the fleshy blooms can turn brown from the early morning sun after a cold night.
Hydrangeas which favour a shaded location bloom in high summer. We like the paniculatas with their cone shaped flowers but most will work well if the soil is improved to aid moisture retention. The oak-leaved leaved hydrangea ‘quercifoila’ is a particularly handsome specimen. There are a number of cultivated forms of the common hypericum with their jewel berries and in late summer a kirengeshoma bears lemon drop blooms on strong stems and is matched in height with the japanese anemones.
Autumnal Acers Here in Grayshott we favour acid sandy soil so for Autumn try one of the huge range of Japanese Acers available and watch the border glow in the burnishing colours of these brilliant plants. Another choice shrub to consider if you have the space is the Arbutus unedo. With dark green leathery leaves its clusters of white, urn shaped flowers appear at the same time as groups of strawberry-like fruit which ripen to a bright red.
And finally... Whatever you plant you will probably need to improve the soil with some good quality soil improver or compost. Plants are like us, they need feeding and watering, even though they might be able to cope with drier conditions doesn’t mean that you should starve them. You can dramatically increase water retention if you can afford to thickly mulch as well.
Whatever your dry shady border grows, we wish you very happy gardening!