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Woodland species that can tolerate strong sunlight?

Hello all.

When i moved house I rapidly gave up on the "soil" that I inherited with it. I still am still stuck with it in the lawn, but for all the borders I dug out two feet down and replaced it entirely with woodchip - 36 tons in all.

(If you haven't seen this method, it's sometimes called the "back to eden" method - you get your local tree surgeon to supply a few van loads of woodchip ( total cost in my case was £30) and then lay down a layer between 1 foot and 2 foot deep - either in raised beds or doing what I did and removing the soil first. The original thinking was that it emulates the forest floor in terms of composition and there has been a lot of very good scientific study into it. At a really high level, the plants grow like crazy, all of my nutritional values are at the top ends of the scale, I *never* have to water - ever (because you're planting into the biggest sponge in the world) and weeding is trivial.... all in all I will never ever grow in soil again in any future house I have and, even just for the ease of weeding and never needing to water, I don't know why more people don't do it).

Anyway - I have a substrate which is essentially identical to a forest floor, but I have all my borders available - my south border is right now the most empty. 

Can anyone suggest some woodland species that can tolerate high levels of sunshine in a south facing border? I think it might be nice to have something in a very different location to normal.


Many thanks in advance




  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,556

    No Steve, no suggestions, woodland plants grow in woodland.

    Trial and error I should think, get some cheap and cheerful perennials and see what does best. 

  • punkdocpunkdoc Sheffield, Derbyshire border.Posts: 11,927

    I am confused [ nothing unusual there ]

    Did you put the soil back on top of the wood chip?

    Was the wood chip well rotted? Otherwise it may well have a high nutritional content, but would tend to "burn " plants until it was rotted down.

    Planting into  a sponge is only any good, if you want to grow bog plants, otherwise plants may drown.

    As others have said, woodland plants need some shade, what you have is a sunny border, and should be planted accordingly.

    Consequences, altered cases
    Broken noses, altered faces
    My ego altered, altered egos
    Wherever I go, so does me go
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,556

    I have areas where chippings have built up over the years. One problem is lack of soil structure and I haven't found it acts as a giant sponge, maybe it would in a wet,shady area but that's not what you've got (or what I've got). Those biennial euphorbias, E.lathyris, germinate in it and grow OK until the gales come then they fall over.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544

    Don't they sell wood chippings as weed suppresing mulch?image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,556

    Yes, it works very well pansyface.

    I've never bought any but my shredder makes tons.

  • They also recommend wood chippings for soft paths - I can't imagine what would like to grow in them.  Our local tree surgeons deposit their chippings in a nearby field - great mounds of them - and nothing seems to grow over the heaps, not even grass or moss.  I would have thought it would need a decently deep layer of soil over the top.  What does your "back to Eden" manual say Steve?

    The forest floor is not made of wood chippings, but from well rotted leaves.....isn't it?

  • Punkdoc : In the first year, a fair deal of the wood - perhaps 1/2 - was totally fresh white wood ( the wood a mix of hard and soft species). Plants and seeds were sown directly into the woodchip - no soil was added back in.

    In the first year the growth from all plants apart from a few outliers (beetroot and wisteria ) were about the same as I would expect from a good, well fertilised soil - i.e plenty of manure and compost. Beetroot grew to about 3x - 4x their usual size ( and tasted stringy) and the wisteria was a little stunted. I watered once that year and did not feed at all - the day after I laid all the woodchip. I was more than happy with that result because the weeding was so trivial and I was doing at least as well as I ever have before in previous gardens

    In the winter of year one, the mycelium went crazy - and a lot of breaking down occured. By the spring it was more like woodchip with a fine tilth of compost all the way through it and the average border was around 1 inch lower than when I first laid the woodchip (break down and rain compaction). All plants apart from Lupins and Alphafa grew far better than I have ever experienced before - veg yields were around 25% better, most annuals grew far larger than I expected - to the point where my carefully planned planting scheme was just a mess - and the typical flowering time was between 1 and 4 weeks longer than expected in most plants. The lupins grew to silly proportions and the alfalfa grew totally out of control as well - lupins are critical to any garden so this year I am going with dwarfs only and I won't be using any alfalfa at all.

    I did not water at all last summer and nor did I feed. I knew from others experiences I would do better than growing in soil - which is why I did it in the first place ( well - that and getting to use the digger of course ) but I was still a little surprised at the results. in a 0.25 acres garden I spent less than 1 hour in total weeding for the entire year just because it's so easy. 

    Soil checking at the end of autumn with a full panel soil test shows that I am right at the top end for NPK nutrients, and either at the top or over the top of the micro nutrients which is good. The "soil" is rammed full of worms which I take as a very good sign seeing as the previous soil was essentially barren in them, but more importantly for plant growth the mycelium is still booming - the woodchip is pure white underneath the surface in places. This shows in the enormous root systems of the plants which is why they are doing so well.

    Apart from adding new species, I wouldn't expect to feed or water the garden for the next few years at least - at which point a lot of the woodchip will have broken down and I'll need to add another few van loads of woodchip and maybe a little manure. Weeding will stay as easy as it is now.  None of that is boasting - there are 10's of thousand of people growing gardens like this - I'm following a very well trod path - some of them have been doing it for 20+ years.


    Many thanks for the advise of the plants - I have dappled shade in my east and west borders - I'll see what I can add to those. Does anyone have any suggestions for something a little un-usual?

  • punkdocpunkdoc Sheffield, Derbyshire border.Posts: 11,927

    When wood chippings eventually rot down, they will make a good soil improver, but fresh they are not good for plants.

    Consequences, altered cases
    Broken noses, altered faces
    My ego altered, altered egos
    Wherever I go, so does me go
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 79,303
    gardenning granny wrote (see)

    .... The forest floor is not made of wood chippings, but from well rotted leaves.....isn't it?

    Lots of well-rotted leaves, some small decomposing twigs and the remains of any rotten fallen trees which have been broken down by fungi and bacteria - I believe that the presence of the fungi and bacteria makes a large contribution to the fertility of the woodland floor.

    At a push foxgloves can cope with some sunshine if their roots are happy - however I'm not sure that they will be happy in woodchip.  image


    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544

    If wood chips work for you, SS, then they work for you. I wouldn't want to try it myself. Soil, good, bad or downright rubbish, contains many more things than wood chip does. It's a bit like a strict vegan diet, it works if you are very very careful.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
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