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Need Ideas for planting under a tree.

I'm currently helping my daughter plan her first garden and wondered if anyone had any ideas for planting under a very large sycamore tree.  She wants spring bulbs (daffs and bluebells) with a few hellebores but not sure what to go with to follow on and keep interest during the summer and autumn.

The tree is next to a fence and she would like to grow something to hide the fence, doesn't mind if it's a climber or shrub.

All ideas gratefully received.

Hi from Kingswinford in the West Midlands


  • Paul B3Paul B3 Posts: 3,121

    Daffodils , bluebells ,crocus and many other Spring bulbs will flourish underneath your tree ; Hellebores are early flowering , many prior to the tree canopy appearing . Erythroniums are good too .

    Have you considered the wide range of Hostas available ? These , interspersed with some colourful ferns , will give interest throughout the summer months . Be warned though , that the ground beneath a large tree can become exceptionally dry , especially at this time of the year !

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,466

    I have the same 'problem' and have found it hard to get much that will flower in summer as the shade is very dense and the ground is dry (even here!) so I have looked more to foliage interest.

    Aucuba japonica and laurel both grow happily at the back, as well as a Skimmia and a small gold and green Holly. There is also a camellia, but I am going to move that, as it never gets enough water to flower. My little Rhodie yakushimanum has flowered a couple of times, but that is getting moved too, as the lack of bloom there is mainly down to excessive pruning by sheep! As it is near the yard gateway, it is the first nosh stop on the way in for invaders!

    I have Pieris 'Little Heath' in a pot in full shade and it is quite happy, so that or another Pieris might  work there too

    As ground cover I have Lamium galeobdolon, a bit of a thug but not too hard to control, and the silvery leaves and yellow flowers are nice. I have Galium odoratum elsewhere that I am going to add, as it should do well, as wouild Vinca - the variegated leaf V. minor would be nice and lighten things up too.

    Ground elder grows there, of course, so you could try the variegated form of that too, if you dare! It is reputedly less invasive than the green version, but that is a relative judgementimageimage

    Last edited: 05 August 2017 08:58:31

  • Paul B3Paul B3 Posts: 3,121

    An evergreen fern , Blechnum penna-marina (fish-bone fern) from Chile , thrives in my garden in shade , sun , wet or dry . A smallish evergreen of interest would be Nandina ; these can tolerate dryness , and can give a good autumnal colouration .

    Hedera helix 'Goldheart' is a boldly splashed green/yellow ivy for shady areas . Good wildlife plant too .

  • YviestevieYviestevie Posts: 7,063

    Thanks for your ideas folks, some good ones there, will do a bit of online window shoppingimage

    Hi from Kingswinford in the West Midlands
  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,466

    I never thought to recommend Goldheart , but should have, as I've got it all over the front of my house! I can confirm its attraction to wildlife in that situation. It's overgrown again. as it is hard to find a window that combines half decent weather (not too wet or cold or windy)with having the time and there not being any birds nesting in it. Last time I cut it back I found 8 nests! The pied wagtail is in there again for the second year, he was still collecting grubs last week,  and there have been blackbirds, wrens and I think robins tooimage

  • Paul B3Paul B3 Posts: 3,121


    Sounds like a living and growing aviary !image

  • IamweedyIamweedy Posts: 1,364

    Cyclamen,  are worth a go in Autumn. Snowdrops, should do their bit before the leaves come out above . I am growing my snow drops under my Corylus avellana. (Corkscrew hazel). 

    I would suggest Hellebores but most of mine have dissapeared, probably to slugs.

    'You must have some bread with it me duck!'

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