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Small dark front garden.

Our front garden faces North West. It is bounded by the NW facing front of the house, and another 6 foot wall on the left hand side facing North East. It gets very little sunshine and always feels quite dank.

To add to that, we are at the bottom of a hill and when it rains heavily if floods to an inch or two of water. As you can imagine not a lot grows in it! We have a few weedy bushes, in Spring some snowdrops and bluebells, and in summer a thriving Solomon's Purse plant which is gradually taking over. My husband plants Cosmos in the Summer which grows to a good height drawn by the wall, but is still quite sparse. 

I have recently retired and would like to make 'something' of it. I have never gardened before, as my husband takes care of the back garden. Does anyone have any suggestions for plants/shrubs which might have a chance of growing in this very unwelcoming spot?

Any suggestions would be very welcome.   


  • BiljeBilje Posts: 796
    When we moved into our home there was a small lawned are between the front of the house and the back of the garage N West ish  Eventually we had it half blocked paved with two large border areas, the grass was rank, never grew properly and the soil was always wet…does those conditions ring a bell? 
    We have planted hostas and between and underneath the hostas we planted snowdrops and early botanical crocus ie the smaller flowered ones.
    Currently here in NE England the snowdrops are through just the earliest signs of flower bulbs, then the crocus will show and flower. Eventually the hostas will unfurl and completely umbrella the bulb leaves which are dying back by then.
    I feed the bulbs a couple of times with tomato feed but that’s all the attention the beds get other than clearing the dead Hosta leaves in Autumn. 
    Hope this helps.
  • punkdocpunkdoc Posts: 14,966
    Many ferns
    Luzula nivea
    How can you lie there and think of England
    When you don't even know who's in the team

    S.Yorkshire/Derbyshire border
  • jf_f1jf_f1 Posts: 22
    @Bilje I do love hostas, thank you. I am making a list of possible plants. 

    @punkdoc OK wow! None of these things mean anything to me, but I am going to have fun googling and planning my new front garden.  Thank you. 😁
  • Songbird-2Songbird-2 Posts: 2,271
    Fritillary and lobelia grow well in the shade and slightly  dampish areas.( They do in my garden). I've also grown some Chives  in the shady part of the garden this year and they did really well.. Bees love them too.Also, believe it or not, this year a sunflower I just popped in a spare space, did really well alongside a foxglove. Have an experiment and see what does well.Enjoy!and good luck!
  • @jf_f1 If the front garden is north-west, then the back garden should be on the south-east side. If I had this combination "another 6 foot wall on the left hand ", I would add a sitting place in the front garden that allows to stay cool over summer. Nothing is more daunting then a sun-baking garden.
    Even our North-side garden gets full sunshine in summer. I wish I had I place where I can sit in the shade in the afternoon.

    I my garden.

  • I’ve experimented a lot with a similar border in my garden. 

    Shrubs that do brilliantly in those conditions are hydrangeas. My favourite Incrediball/ strong Annabelle and Limelight 🤍

    if you have acid soil Rhododendrons and Camellias also do great and most are ever green. 

    For training up a wall Clematis Nelly mosser and pyracantha great in shade. 

    For smaller plants brunnera (flowers April) bleeding heart (also April) burgenia (March) Euphorbia Robbiae (April/ May) Astible (July) and of course hostas and ferns 💚
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,872
    A photo will always help with suggestions. Plus, your rough location/climate  :)
    Do you want to improve the area that floods? That will affect the choices. Most plants won't thrive in wet soil that then dries out in summer.
    Neutral soil is fine for Rhodos, Camellias etc - they don't need acidic soil  :)
    Pieris will also do well, and Skimmias. Many Spireas will also be fine in shade and Potentillas are too. Ilex [holly] Mahonia, Berberis - all fine with a good bit of shade.

    Acteas will be fine as long as the soil doesn't dry out. Ligularias are the same but like a decent amount of sun, while Acteas are mainly shade loving.
    Dicentras, Campanulas, Polemonium [Jacob's Ladder] and Polygonatum [Solomon's Seal]are all shade loving. Thalictrums, Iberis [perennial candytuft] and Japanese anemones all grow in damp shade. 
    If you can let us know which aspect each area has, that will help. NW facing gardens can actually have quite a bit of sun, and conditions are based on summer hours of sun.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • GardenerSuzeGardenerSuze Posts: 5,637
    edited December 2022
    Nothing will survive if standing in water for any length of time. No point planting anything if this needs to be addressed. Different shrubs that are not growing well indicate that you will not able to create a thriving garden with these conditions.

    You mention growing cosmos in the summer, they prefer a poor, fairly well drained soil in full sun. The fact that you were able to grow them may indicate that the garden dried out over the summer?

    Polygonatum hybridum  has done well and I think I would definately keep it in what appears to be fairly hostile conditions at present. P hybridum striatum might be worth considering as it will brighten a dark corner. 

    I am not sure you will make much progress without looking at the things mentioned by @Fairygirl above.  To me this is the way forward.
     Retired Gardener, new build garden, clay soil, South Notts.

    The more I garden the less I know but the more pleasure I get from it. Monty Don 
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,690
    edited December 2022
    Plant choice is important, but consider what you want to do with the space; does it need a focal point, a path or space to stand, a bench, pots and ornaments to look out onto?

    Susanna Grant's instagram account is a great place for shade plants and design ideas, she runs a small nursery in London specialising in shade plants for small gardens.

    LINDA (@hellotherelinda) • Instagram photos and videos
    "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour". 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,872
    I agree with @Loxley - a lot hinges on how the space is going to be used, or if it's just to be an easy to care for space etc.  :)
    There are lots and lots of plants which will grow in the site, but we need more info, including the size of the area.  :)

    Heucheras, Pachysandra, Saxifraga urbium, Ajuga are all plants that grow in shade. Hellebores too. 
    Alchemilla mollis will thrive, and don't forget other bulbs too - Convallaria [lily of the valley] for example will be fine. Both of those can be invasive for some people, but that will also depend on the site. I grow all of those. Hardy geraniums will also be fine. Foxgloves, hardy cyclamen, and many more  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
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