Woodland Wonders
Amateur Gardening|February 27, 2021
Most gardens have a shady area that can be difficult to make beautiful. The answer lies in the amazing woodland plants that just love to be in the shade says Camilla Phelps
Camilla Phelps

THE dream garden plot always seems to be sunny, warm and south-facing, but the reality is that many gardens, particularly in towns, will be in shade for part or all of the day. However, shady spots don’t have to be a problem. If you embrace those dark corners, a whole world of plants opens up to you. Many of these are woodland plants and there is an amazing array to choose from, many of which come into their own in spring.

Woodland plants often flower before the trees are reclothed with leaves, making the most of the available light before the full shade of summer. There are spring-flowering bulbs to add a burst of colour, from erythroniums, winter aconites and snowdrops, to bluebells of course – who doesn’t love a bluebell wood in spring? Ground-hugging foliage plants add another layer and then there are the textures and myriad greens of ferns and grasses. With taller feature plants to illuminate dark corners of the garden, you can transform a shady spot into a mini woodland or create a gorgeous container that will brighten up a dark corner.

How long in the shade?

Of course, shade is not an easy option. Dry shade is the gardener’s bugbear often by a wall or under a tree. Many shady corners are not in full-shade the whole day, so it’s worth noting how many hours of direct sunlight your shady spot gets on a normal day.

Tough, spreading plants

However, there are plenty of tough plants that will cope with tricky shade for part or all of the day. They are often spreading plants that reward with seasonal flowers – glossy-leaved purple ajuga for groundcover contrasts well with strappier, grass-like liriope. Other stalwarts include hardy geraniums, heucheras, tiarellas, evergreen pachysandra and the tough Euphorbia var robbiae. All of these will help to colonise the bare soil under trees and shrubs and gradually build up a nice shady microclimate.

Then there are the shady plants that transform a problem into a celebration. From bleeding hearts, to Solomon’s seal, anemones, cyclamen and violas emerging in spring, to aconitums, Japanese anemones and toad lilies at the end of the summer, you will want to spend time out of the sun, looking on at these exquisite woodland blooms.

3 groups for different situations

Glamour plants

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

The bleeding heart, Dicentra spectabilis, produces heart-shaped flowers on arching stems from late spring to early summer. These look good emerging above groundcover such as sweet woodruff. H:90cm x S:90cm.

Thalictrum delavayi

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