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What to plant in a difficult site.

At the end of my east-facing garden are several very tall oak trees, with a row of conifers in front. Next door's sycamore also overhangs much of the end - I know I could cut the branches off (and give them back to them) but it would be a massive job and nothing is ever going to turn this into a sunny spot.

Under the conifers I'm trying to establish whatever I can. In front of that is a bark mulch 'seating area' - though we never actually sit there! In front of that again, next to a row of conpost bins on the north-facing side, we did try a wildlife meadow but after three years just ended up with plantain and five-foot high docks. So I came up with a plan to divide it into separate beds, thinking they'd be more manageable, and OH laid some old edging stones we had beautifully:


Then I changed my mind, and rearranged them all again. You can imagine how pleased OH wasimageimage

I was thinking of laying it to lawn in a rough semicircle (to match the lawn on the other side of the path), but I'm still tempted to try growing something more interesting. I've put a few aquilegia vulgaris in, and some hardy geraniums and alchemilla mollis which had self-seeded in gravel elsewhere. I also have four fuchsia 'Berry' in pots I'm thinking of trying here, but would love any suggestions (including 'give up now and lay it to lawn'). As well as being very shady (I timed it as around 3-4 hours sun a day in August), it is dry, sandy and acid. We also have a huge population of voracious slugs & snails who destroy anything they find remotely palatable.

Thank you in advanceimage

Last edited: 12 September 2016 20:16:06


  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,425

    Hellebores do well under an oak. Slugs don't seem to bother the leaves, but sometimes attack the flowers. Also pulmonarias, and hardy geraniums with hairy leaves that the slugs don't like.

  • You could grow lots of spring bulbs in there and if you plant the right ones, they'll take you right through to June. They don't mind the shade at all. Also how about Bergenia there are some lovely ones and Ajuga also go for some Digitalis, the slugs do lilke them but once they get going, they're grand. You could start them off in pots maybe. I definately would'nt grow grass on it, it looks like a great spot you have there and the edging is lovely. Good luck, let us know how it goes. 

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    Check the RHS site for plants that will grow in dry and shady areas although I have to admit if I had 4 hours of sun here in Scotland I would be calling it dry and sunnY!!!!!

    I think you should only think of it as shady if it is permanently under the canopy of trees and only gets dappled sun if any. So just look for plants that will survive in dryish conditions - you will be amazed at the variety,

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • JudyNJudyN Posts: 119

    Thanks peeps - some good ideas. My lungwort up the far end got slugged, and a bergenia there looks rather sad. There's a few hellebores that are struggling... but I'm hoping if they don't actually die they'll eventually get established. Probably the dryness is more of a problem than the shade, but I'm planning to dump a load of farmyard manure & soil improver over the whole area.

    OH loves digitalis, but he only wants the common-&-garden bog standard ones and I'm drawn to 'improved' ones. I can't remember the variety that came in an offer from GW last year - it was supposed to be like Pam's Choice but better - but I've got a few of them scattered around the garden.

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,998

    If you plant some native purple foxgloves and some of the 'alba' variant, in a few years you'll have a lovely mix of pinks and purples because they cross image

    There are some ferns - dryopteris flix-masis one - that will be happy in dry shade once established (keep them watered and mulch well in the first year or two). Bit of foliage drama 

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,348

    Another recommendation for under your conifers is Euphorbia Fen's Ruby. It will cope with virtually anything - especially dry soil. I have it under a conifer and it grows very well. Not evergreen but very useful. I can grow quite a bit under conifers because I get plenty of rain, but these thrive even if no rain is getting through. 

    Some people will say they're invasive, but in that situation, I think it should be ok

    Last edited: 13 September 2016 18:20:05

    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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