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Deep Shade alleyway, what can I do?

Hi everyone

I have this long alleyway down the side of my north facing house. It gets no direct sunlight at all. I was wondering if anyone had any ideas or tips on what I could do with it? Maybe a fern garden, but I’m unsure if anything will grow. I’m a novice gardener at best so any help would be greatly appreciated! 


  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,469
    The greenery on display is testament to the fact that some plants will grow there.  There are some lovely ferns, especially the evergreen ones (such as Dryopteris Erythrosora, Cyrtomium Fortunei), Epimediums, Hosta's, shade loving Geranium's (the Nodosum varieties), Cylamen.  Acer's would possibly do well too.  The main thing would be to make sure everything is well watered, as such narrow spaces tend to get less rainfall then a more open site.  I used to think shade was the worst thing you could have, I would love to have such a space in our (sun-baked) garden.  
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 39,151
    Hi Ellis - I take it you need to keep the woodstore?
    You could lift some, or all of the paviours so that you can plant directly into the ground, which would give you more scope for planting. The ground would need some restoring in terms of nutrition so that plants would get off to a good start, but they would need less maintenance. If you lift all the paving, you could then use a golden gravel to create a firm base in between the planting, and to help brighten up the area. Golds and whites, or pale colours, in particular are good in shade,as well as variegated foliage. Hostas, Euonymous and Heucheras are all plants which will do well. The latter two are evergreen, so that provides interest all year. Bulbs for late winter and early spring will also brighten it all up.
    Alternatively, you could construct a few raised beds. The bigger you can make them the better, and the placement would depend on what access you needed for windows etc. Once built, and filled with suitable soil/compost, you can plant with shade loving plants, and there are plenty.
    You could also add some troughs/hayracks onto the walls [assuming they are all yours for attaching onto!] and they can also be planted with perennials like the Heucheras, and bulbs, or even just variegated ivies, to give a green wall effect. 
    There are climbers which would also be happy enough there, and that would cover a bit of wall. A basic support of wires on vine eyes into the wall, would do, or you could go for some trellis to give a smarter look. 
    You can keep the planting simple, with lots of repeats, and add a statue, birdbath, or similar focal point to give interest when any deciduous plants are dormant. 
    Hope that's of some help  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923
    have a look at woodland gardens, or gardens for dry shade. it'll give you a lot of ideas
  • sabeehasabeeha Posts: 276
    edited April 2019
    I have something similar (lifted pavers to create a bed for planting, North-East facing) - although it is 'brighter' at different parts of the day. Is it low light throughout the day?

    I have Euonymus and Japanese anemones. I also have Winter jasmine (jasminium nudiflorum) - although this one gets quite big but I suppose if you trained it very well as it grows, it could look good.

    If you could get a climber that would look good, it would be brighter on the top of the wall. My Euonymus has grown and covers the top, and brightens the fence up.

    Have a browse here too:
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 3,959
    edited April 2019
    Is it your only / main outdoor space?

    If there was also a garden that got plenty of light, I'd probably treat it very minimalistically, one or maybe three very large pots with suitable statuesque specimen shrubs mulched with pebbles... and otherwise keep it ultra-tidy. Tree ferns could be an option if you can commit to watering the crowns! I'm guessing the area is mainly going to be viewed from the windows, so arrange things to be seen from indoors.

    A climbing hydrangea or a really choice ivy variety could cover the wall if you can keep it in check (i.e. stop it getting onto the house!)

    The blue brick paving looks very smart.
  • FfoxgloveFfoxglove UkPosts: 514
    I have a good old victorian House with side return and I've planted several climbers down there...

    There's a rose at the very end: simple life by harkness. It flowers well considering it gets no direct sunlight. I also have a thriving pyrocantha orange glow down there. Next up I've got a solanum Crispin glasnevin which is young but in flower.. Then another rose where a bit of sunlight gets in by the entrance Tess o the durbivilles.

    I'll see if I can find some pictures. 
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,048
    HOSTAS!! Lots of them. 
  • FfoxgloveFfoxglove UkPosts: 514
    Here's the tess rose 

    Here's the simple life rose at the very end 
    Here's the pyrocantha which loves life down there in flower and in Berry. It's much bigger now. 

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 26,207
    Whatever you plant, in pots or newly refreshed ground, if you paint the walls either side a very pale grey or a creamy colour, you will make it much lighter and brighter and bounce any light around.  

    I would also consider smartening up that log store and making it sturdier with, perhaps, an extension for stashing recycling bins.   Prettied up and made sturdier it could become part of the support system for training climbers.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • DaveGreigDaveGreig West Fife, ScotlandPosts: 42
    Ferns would, do and look great there as KeenOnGreen said but remember to leave space for walking past because after it rains on brushing past the wet foliage you’ll think somebody has poured a bucket of water down your legs. Presumably not everyone passing through the space will be as careful as you either and barging through the wet foliage will damage it, leaving the plants looking a bit sad.

    In addition to the excellent advice given previously, also for consideration, Campanula  persicifolia which will self seed and flowers freely in some pretty shady spots in my garden. Also Astilbes, some of the geraniums, Iris foetidissima, , the list is long. 

    For me, shade gardening has a fascination all of its own. Have fun.
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