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Shaded back of the garden

 The very back of the garden needs a complete make over. The area is about 10 m wide and 7 m in length, I am only talking about very end of the garden. I have tree at back and next door has conifers and a massive eucalyptus. The garden is north facing in London. Gets some sunlight but not much. Currently needs a clearance done with old tree branches and leaves plus weeds everywhere  (I will need to find someone to do the job for me). The whole width of garden has a concrete base (10m x 5m), I believe the previous owners had some out buildings, I also have bare patch with no grass, nothing grows there, i too have a tree. I have no idea what to do at the back. Not much light, leaves falling all the time, big chunk covered in concrete, bare patch where nothing grows. I suspect the tree I have and next doors eucalyptus sucks up all the moisture. Sadly whatever I have to do must be on a limited budget, pension can only go so far. Any thought and ideas would be welcomed, looking for low maintenance, happy to have some container plants but not sure what else I can do. Thank you very much.


  • WAMSWAMS Posts: 1,521
    I would put all the leaves into plastic bags and let them sit somewhere. In a year or so you'll have glorious leaf mould to enrich your soil.

    Perhaps  a nice shady seating area? Is there birdlife in those trees? It can be very pleasant just to sit and listen...

    I do sympathise. One neighbour has massive conifers and they do block out a lot of  sun all year round, a bit obnoxious for a terraced garden IMO... but I also enjoy their shade at the height of summer and I enjoy watching the birds go in and out of them. You just have to try to see the good side in the bits you can't control, I suppose...

    Unless your tree is protected you can always get someone in to cut it down. That will give you more options.

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 21,710
    The tree looks like a laurel. The leaves take a long time to compost and they always drop. Not a lot will grow underneath. I would cut it down unless you want it to shield you from neighbours. It can be heavily pruned. I had one cut down and now there is a flowerbed there.

    You can cut off the conifer branches that are overhanging your garden, but always best to have a chat with neighbour first.

    If budget allows you could always plant some woodland and shade loving plants in that corner, like dryopteris ferns, some hardy geraniums like Phaeum and Macrorrhizum, Brunnera Jack Frost. Look up plants for dry shade.
    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,096
    I agree - it won't be easy to have much growing, because of the concrete, unless you're able to have some large containers built, or get some of the concrete removed. Both options will be expensive if you don't have a decent enough budget.
    A storage area for a small shed, or the aforementioned leaf bins or compost bins, would work, and if you could stretch to a simple screen between that area and a bit that does have soil, you can have a climber on that for a bit of colour.
    Dry shade can always be quite difficult, but if you take a look at this site, you might get some ideas
    You may find a small raised bed in that bit will give you a bit more scope if you add plenty of organic material, or just fresh topsoil, and it would then be easier for plants to establish, and thrive. 

    Re birds, as @WhereAreMySecateurs mentions - a little area for feeders and a bird bath would be nice, and provides lots of enjoyment.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • dbhattukdbhattuk Posts: 106
    Hi @WhereAreMySecateurs - yes conifers are a issue, if you look at the pic, there is a big branch which is broken and resting on my back fence, next door have no interest in my concern. But there is plenty of birds and squirrels life to watch, maybe a bistro table and chair would be ideal, thank you. 

    @Busy-Lizzie - yes it is a Laurel and I do love it, but the leaves are a big issue, maybe a cut it down a bit. It’s does screen my garden from flats at the back. Thanks for plant selection I will have a look. I was thinking hosta’s and ferns under the Laurel, and gravel with some potted plants on barren areas. On the concrete area have several containers perhaps. Yes I need to find someone to cut the branches for me. I am so so worried about getting someone to do a job like this. I need overgrown stuff cleared but nervous getting a trusted source, been bitten a few times. Perhaps it’s just me. Thank you. 

    @[email protected] - thank you. Thank you for the link, I will have a look. It’s too expensive to dig up the concrete, so will stick to containers I think. Next door (the other side) had their shed raided twice, so not planning putting a shed there but I am looking for some sort of a potting shed, so that maybe a good idea. Raised bed sounds interesting, thank you. 

    Thank you everyone, it’s a amazing learning experience as always. 
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 2,676
    I would tackle the laurel first by crown lifting and thinning. Basically remove all leaves and thin branches up to about 6 feet high and remove some of the thinner outer branches entirely. That would give you a more architecturally interesting plant while maintaining privacy from overlooking.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,179
    I would ask your friends and any friendly neighbours whether they can recommend somebody to clear the garden for you and prune the tree. Do you belong to any church or garden club - you may be able to get some free help from their members perhaps. You could perhaps find an old wooden chair or two in a charity/junk shop quite cheaply and they ought to last at least a couple of years, especially if painted. 

    Good luck with your project, try not to be daunted but just do one bit at a time as and when time and budget allow. 
    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • dbhattukdbhattuk Posts: 106
    @steephill, thank you, love your idea. Never thought about crown lifting the Laurel, sounds great. Thank you.  

    @Lizzie27, thank you for the support and encouragement. Yes I will ask around for help. I have a vision which I hope to realise. Thank you again. 

    I just went to a local allotment and asked folks if they wanted leaves as I am clearing out the garden. Happy to drop a few sack fulls. No one was interested. I guess leaves are a plenty. 
  • Arthur1Arthur1 Posts: 538
    There are plenty of plants that are shade tolerant but they will grow better with some TLC. I agree that containers or raised beds will help. Pallet collars are cheap and would raise the garden above the problem roots. 
  • dbhattukdbhattuk Posts: 106
    @Kate 7, thanks. Raised beds is an idea for sure. I have plenty of TLC for plants, they are my pride and joy not to mention therapeutic for the mind and soul. Thank you. 
  • borgadrborgadr Posts: 618
    edited May 2022
    I have a couple of dry shady areas,  up against northeast facing fences in the shade of trees or shrubs. Here's my experience so far.

    Aquilegias seem do to well, I grew them in pots from seed which costs next to nothing then planted them out. Don't expect much in the first year, but 2nd year they're huge and flowering beautifully.  Epimedium too - buying them small can be quite cost effective but don't expect much in the first year.  Also I found forget-me-nots flower nicely in dry shade (again, seeds with flowers in Y2) but then quickly become mildewy as the flowers go over where it's dry (just let them seed then pull them up), and certain geraniums. Dog-tooth violets (erythronium) do fine too. 

    Finally ferns - someone sent you a link to plantsforshade - they advise what's good for dry shade. I've ordered from them - they're good, don't be disappointed if the ferns stay quite small in year 1 - they shoot up nicely in y2.. you need to keep watering them until they're established then you can just leave them alone. 
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