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Structural plants for woodland garden

Kay MKay M Posts: 3


I'm looking for some recommendations for structural plants for a woodland garden.  I have a long narrow border in my garden, which is situated in shade (only a couple of hours sun in the morning).   Dimensions are approx 1m wide by 6m long.

I previous planted two phormium there but as you'd expect, they are simply too large for that space - I've admitted defeat and removed them.  I'd like to plant something in their place, something evergreen/structural to compliment the other planting I have - hostas, ferns, dicentra, foxgloves, lady's mantle etc. 

I'm not afraid of planting something large, but something that won't grow too big i.e. max 5ft.  Any recommendations on what I can replace these with?  I want to get them in asap for the start of growing season......

(I've tried to upload a photo - hope it works.  This is when I first planted it, so it's more mature now....)



thank you!


  • Hi, I've got a long shady spot under trees too, and many shady plants are low/small, appreciate your dilemma!

    I've also had to move some unsuitable plants out and after some investigation am trying out this year for a bit of height some Mahonias - Soft Caress and a few types of flowering quince -  such as Geisha Girl, Pink Lady and Yukigotan. Some grow bigger than others, but I believe you can trim them. It's too early to confirm if these work in my shade (sorry) but the quince recommendations for shade were from an old Monty Don article.

    I find Photinia standards cope well in my shade and allow for underplanting too. Also Fatsia Japonica is doing well and is evergreen so great structure.

    You could try roses that cope with a bit of shade such as Rosa New Dawn, as it may scramble up for the light and you can train it/keep it along the wall perhaps. 

  • darren636darren636 Posts: 666

    Clematis alpina

    Clematis viticella luxurians alba

    Clematis Montana

    Rosa madame Alfred carriere

    Dwarf azalea





    Sarcococca hookeriana


    Clethera dwarf


    Itea virginica



    Amelanchier - the smaller ones.
  • Kay MKay M Posts: 3

    Thank you 8000wildflowers and darren636 image

    It is a dilemma and after trying a few 'disasters', it's also finding the right plants for the soil/conditions.  I'm improving the soil but it's still quite heavy and there's little air flow next to thew all, so roses just don't like it - they get mildew very easily.  You can't see from the photo, but I do have some clematis over the arbours but they're not structural/ever green as a main basis for the border.  Much as I love them!

    Perhaps the Pieris or Rhodie is an option - I already have others in they tend to thrive.  I do have a Mahonia too but will look at these (again, have to be careful as they can grow very large!).

    I'm not familiar with a couple of darren636 list so I'll look in to these too.  If anyone else has more suggestions, keep them coming!

    Thanks once again for the suggestions.....

  • StevedaylillyStevedaylilly Posts: 1,087
    If would plant some Piers possibly silver flamingo. They will not grow too big and will give you superb colour in late spring and throughout the season. Prefers an acidic soil and good shade from early morning sun
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,358

    Just be cautious as to the eventual size of some shrubs Kay. Clay is a great medium so plants can be bigger than in less suitable soil. Anything that you can successfully prune will be fine though. You don't want shrubs encroaching on your nice path or obscuring your pergolas, and whatever planting you put there image

    I'd also recommend Osmanthus burkwoodii. 

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Kay MKay M Posts: 3

    Excellent, thank you.  Pieris definitely sounds like an option and I have one in a border nearby - however I will check the soil.  I'll certainly look at the different varieties and avoid making the same mistake twice!

    Never thought of Osmanthus Fairygirl, I will look at this along with acteas (which is new to me Verdun).  I'm off to do a little research......image

    Thank you.....

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