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Redesign of end of garden in dry shade

The end of our garden is currently an eyesore, and in almost complete shade, with pretty dry soil due to the neighbours’ conifers and the middle laurel. It’s looking a whole lot better than when we started though, which was 5m deep in thorns!

The left is where it’s most ugly. We’ve already had the neighbours chop their conifers on the left down to 10m so now they don’t affect the light too much, however you can see it’s so brown from our side, so I’ve reluctantly planted another leyllandii in front of them (which we promise to keep controlled!) in the hope that it will give some cover in the next 5 years! Still, we’re left with the back of an ugly shed covered in thorns and ivy coming over the fence (different neighbours, and their garden is out of control). I’ve planted a buddlia in front of the ivy, but I think it’s needs more, and I’ve realised this won’t get up to the height needed to cover the back of the shed. The one saving grace of this side is that it gets light for a couple of hours in the morning.

The right side is not so much ugly as boring. I don’t want to look down the garden at a fence. However, that area is always in shade and I fear nothing will grow.

We want to put the below playhouse in somewhere for our little one and I thought the shade on the right might therefore be a good spot - but if we can find something that would survive that area, then maybe the playhouse would be better on the left for instant cover of the shed?

Any and all advice appreciated please, for structural planting to cover up the shed and fence, and maybe even add visual interest. What can grow? Where would you put the playhouse?

Just to add, the front 2/3rds of the garden has light and I’ve got lots of lovely plants for visual interest starting to establish there. It’s just that the eye is currently drawn to the end!


  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 8,238
    edited April 2019
    Lovely playhouse @S110 ! My instinct is to put it on the left hand side. Not only would it hide the shed, the soil that side would be much harder to deal with because of the conifers taking what little moisture there is, and also it would distract from the bare conifer trunks.
    There are many plants suitable for dry shade, it's all in the preparation of the site before you start to plant. Are you thinking of having a flower bed ? If so, l recommend making it a good size, it looks like you have a fairly large plot there ?
  • S110S110 Posts: 11
    The playhouse is the stuff of my own childhood dreams!

    Do others agree with playhouse on the left? I think I’m with you @AnniD, I am just taking a while to readjust to the idea because I had envisaged it on the right.

    Please can people recommend plants to go to the right?
  • After many years of trying , what works for me has been the following:
    Phormium cream delight
    Forget me nots , which self seed quite nicely.
    Lots of foxgloves
    Acers in pots

  • This is my dry shade area which is under a huge sycamore. It's just a little frustrating that foxgloves take 2 seasons to come to flower and so require so much advance planning. But they have been the most worthwhile in terms of providing a good display where nothing else would.
  • The clematis was planted by the previous owner of the house. Somehow it seems ok. I'm trying to put another there in addition.
  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 6,490
    We bought the crooked house from them for the grandchildren, Hubby is a perfectionist, he added opening window, it was carefully painted, and re-painted last year, it was put up 6 2013, we have just removed it, and were absolutely staggered how rotten it was.  Mind you we bought a summerhouse from Skinners last year, only 5 months ago, again used the "Protec" they said, 3-4 coats, and theres been a lot of movement, seems stuff doesnt last these days, no matter how much you pay for it.
  • DianaWDianaW Posts: 59
    My back neighbours (whose garden faces due west) put their children's elevated playhouse into the back left corner (under their left-hand neighbours' old apple tree), which looked great. The same situation should work well for yours, since the soil is poorest there.

    Forget-me-nots will thrive there - their roots are very shallow and they self-seed busily - as will foxgloves. If you build up the soil on either side of the playhouse, ferns etc could also be grown there; yesterday evening's 'Gardener's World' used centrally rotted sections of tree-trunk like open-bottomed planters. Large pots of bulbs would brighten up that corner for a season at a time, too; if you lift the bulbs when they die back, you can reuse the pots to hold different bulbs etc later in the year.

    For deep shade planting generally, I recommend shrubs with architectural foliage and light-coloured flowers: mahonia, which flowers in midwinter with gorgeous lemon scent, fatsias (mine are overgrown house plants, originally sold as aralia), also acanthus. One can also grow variegated bamboo successfully in shade; it's much less invasive there.
    You could raise the entire far end of the garden, to increase available soil depth - or, since the playhouse doesn't need that added height underneath, just build up the remaining back area by fronting it with a dwarf wall of some kind. A low brick wall could double as shaded seating, or unmortared stones would provide planting crevices - take your pick. But do cut away the back corners of your lawn to allow for deeper planting areas in those corners; much more attractive than just narrow borders all round the grass.
  • I've just read your post. I'm really struggling with a really dull part of my garden.I have a deep shade area around a sunken pond which is spring fed and has stone sides. The soil is v.poor(can be improved I have plenty compost) shaded by a willow tree that houses a colony of bats and can only be trimmed bck it also has a tatty fir tree which we want to remove in winter .there's also a lovely Acer which I have taken some of the lower branches off .saying that its still shady but needs some colour and perennials as well as the annuals I put in.taken on board suggestions of previous posts anyone think of anything else. It is quite a large space to fill.we have open gardens in two years time and would like it looking loved by then
  • PeggyTXPeggyTX Posts: 553
    edited July 2019
    The left corner appears to be more shaded, so another vote here for the left for the playhouse.  The bit of sun showing in the right corner will beat down on the playhouse roof and make it quite hot for wee ones to play in.

    RE: what plants, you folks know best what works in shade in your part of the world.  I can envision some lovely blue Cape Plumgabo in the rear right.  Mine thrived in the shade from spring until first frost.  they die back in hard freezes but usually come back off the roots in spring (albeit late spring). 

    The ones I planted in planter boxes atop 6' stone fence pillars (full sun) both burned died in one season of Texas hot summers.  The literature for these plants say they love sun, but I found those in part to full shade did much better.  The plant in this photo got only 1 hour bright sunlight, dappled at that, around noon each day due to overhead trees.  

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