Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
I SHOULD think that there are very few gardens that are completely ideal, by which I mean you would have a sheltered, south facing garden with well drained rich acidic soil, but of course, you can with time and effort improve what you have and grow what you like.
There are many garden sites which prove to be a challenge but this is something that is not considered at the time as, naturally, the emphasis is on obtaining a suitable home. One aspect that you cannot change is if part of your garden is shady but there are ways of working around this.
In the shade
Some of the garden might be shady all the time or for a certain period and it is in these areas that we usually plan to put our garden shed, bin storage or other utilities. This can easily be screened off in conjunction with plants that tolerate shade. It is generally assumed that plants do not like the shade but there are surprisingly many that will be happy enough, as long as you give them the best start in life and not just shove them into the ground. I have to say that long term plants do best in the soil and not in pots or containers and after that make the planting hole larger than needed and include compost if the soil is poor.
If we are lucky, the next few months can be warm and balmy with the common phrase trotted out that “the good weather now will shorten the winter” and we can enjoy the fiery foliage of plants all around us. For those with shady sections, including north-facing areas, there are many plants that will compensate for lack of autumnal colour by way of coloured foliage, berries or flowers. I will list them out below without descriptions as space does not allow that.
These plants are great for covering small areas and are usually low growing, around 15-30cm (6-12”), depending on variety and include:- Ajuga, Alchemilla, Bergenia, Epimedium, Ferns, Geranium, Hellebores, Hosta, Lamium, Liriope, Persicaria (Knotweed), Pulmonaria and Tellima.
Plants that tolerate or grow well in shade include:- Aucuba, Berberis, Buxus, Camellia, Cotoneaster, Elaeagnus, Euonymus, Fatsia, Hydrangea, Ilex, Ligustrum, Lonicera pileata, Mahonia, Osmanthus, Pernettya, Pieris, Pittosporum, Prunus laurocerasus in variety, Rhododendron, Rhus, Rubus, Sambucus, Sarcococca, Skimmia, Viburnum (some) and Vinca.
The climbing plants that will tolerate shade include Clematis (some), Euonymus (some), Hedera (ivy), Hydrangea petiolaris, Lonicera (evergreen type), Parthenocissus (Boston/Virginia creeper) and Pyracantha.
It would be unusual to look for trees that tolerate shade but it might be buildings causing shade or large overgrown trees and in that case the following trees might be considered:- Acer (some maples), Alnus, Crataegus, Betula, Fraxinus, Prunus padus, Quercus (some) and Sorbus aucparia.
It is worth repeating here that the planting area should be well prepared to get the plants off to a good start and, while desirable in normal circumstances, it might be considered essential in less than ideal conditions such as shady areas.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Because many people are asking me about sowing seeds now, the short answer is I don’t advise this in the autumn and believe that the effort in keeping the plants alive for the next six months is just not worth it. The best plan is to assemble the seeds that you want and then begin to sow in late winter, beginning with the slow germinating types and moving on from there as the trick is to get your plants just at the right stage for planting out when the danger of frost is over.
I think there is plenty or nothing to do in the garden for the next six months, depending on your enthusiasm and available time, but I suggest doing gardening when the weather is pleasant and in that way all the preparation work can be completed in time for the busy spring.