Shade Gardening & Shade Garden Plants

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Shade Gardening & Shade Garden Plants

Hello I’m Catherine crouch, BBC gardener of the decade. So today I’m going to show you how to plant up a north-facing border on this slightly unpromising patch of ground here. But don’t worry by the end of the day it’s going to look gorgeous. A real shade garden

Soil Preparation

Well looking at the weeds here there’s nothing too serious. A few dandelions bit of hairy grass but nothing truly awful like ground elder or bindweed. So let’s grab a fork and get cracking. Phew his diggings warm work. Now if we were around this a month ago we could have sprayed all this lot off and just turned in the soil. But life’s not like that. We’ve stripped off the top two inches. Don’t throw this away. This is the most fertile soil in your garden. Put it on the compost heap. when he’s sorting out weeds and the moss from the turf and the soil you can use a spring tine rake a bit like a small sieve and just get all this tat shakin out and into the barrow.

if you only have a small amount of weeds or some moss on the surface of his soil you can always strike it off using the Dutch hoe. it’s also a useful tool for awkward corners to scrape out weeds. Right, now we’ve cleared the top surface of weeds I’m going to use the garden spade to get as deep as I can to turn the soil, over get some air into the soil. As you can see it’s turning over and bringing to the surface some slightly poorer quality soil. See how pale that is but it’s still a good texture. Once we’ve added some compost this will be absolutely fine as a growing medium.

Shade Garden Cultivation

Now another useful tool and what I like like to use is the cultivator. This is great for knocking these lumps into submission and going through like this is much better than using a rake. A rake when the soil is like this tends to pull all the lumps towards you and we want to break them up. So you just got to work through until you’ve got a nice crumbly tilth ready for planting. Now you can see how the soil that we’ve turned up, although it’s a lovely texture it’s a little bit pale and we’re going to be adding some compost to enrich the soil. If the poor plants have to be in a position with not much light and not much water the least we can do is give them a good start in life in the shade garden with some good feed.

Once you’ve gone over the soil with the cultivator or fork then you can use your rake just to get the top level just nicely broken down. Tweak out the old stone and just get those little bits sorted. Those weeds out, any roots and bits and pieces you don’t want and get a nice level basis before we start planting. OK we’ve spent most of our day preparing the soil. As you can see this end of the border’s turned over really quite nicely, good till. By the time we got up by the house it’s really a bit claggy in this part gritty in the back part. We could spend another few hours really getting it up to speed but what we’ll do is we’ll put the lion’s share of the compost in the end of the border. Give it a good stir in.

Fertilizer spreading

It’ll be okay. First of all I’m going to spread some general fertilizer on just to give those plants a flying start in life and two kilos will be ample for this area. I’m just going to fling all. Okay let’s get some compost on this border. So here’s the result of four hours hard digging and raking and composting and cultivating one place in the shade ready to plant. Now we’ve got a really lovely selection of plants and as you can see now the afternoon has worn on this end of the border. Behind me is in full sunshine but don’t forget in the winter this will have no sunshine at all.

So it is still going to be a shade planting although the things that need a little bit more light will be put this end of the border. Plants that can tolerate total shade will go in the far end of the border. Now for the fun bit. I brought the selection of shade garden plants with me. I know all these will tolerate the conditions that we’re putting them in. We’re going for a lovely gold and white and green theme but I’m going to start at this end with the larger plants. This first section is what I call the chorus line.

Shade Garden Planting

Okay our first plant is Ocular Japonica Variegata which is the spotty Laurel tough leathery evergreen. Once established will take any amount of shade and drought. This can get to a good size. I’ll show you a bigger one later but you can prune it. Placed here it will disguise that manhole cover as you walk up the path. This will fill up the borders quite nicely. It won’t be very long before we’re awash with all the lily of the valley, everything coming up.The Acer will get quite tall. The Laurel will also bush out but at the moment we can fill up the spaces using ground cover and bedding plants.

Now an awful lot of bedding plants really prefer full sun, like pelagonians, petunias all the basket plants. There are some that will take the shade. Now turn your plants out of the pot. This one’s so tough. I can just grab it by the hair and out it comes but can you see how it’s really quite root bound. There’s a lot of congestion of the roots there so you can just use your fork to just tease out some of these roots to give it a better chance of making it out into newly prepared juicy fertilized composted soil and that will grow away absolutely fine.


Can you see how already its rooting where it touches the ground and that will spread in a really lovely map that will flower for quite a long season. Now this yeshua is in lovely condition. Look at that. Plenty of root going all the way around the pot. So we’ve got a solid root ball but yet you can still see plenty of the compost. It’s not got completely root bound. I’d just pop this straight into the soil. No need to tease it out really. Now for the planting depth. Because we fluffed up the soil it will settle once the rains come and we water it in. So I suggest that you plant just a little bit deeper.  Firm it in nicely and then we’re going to give everything a watering.

Once we finish all the planting firm it in so the rootball has good contact of the soil. No need to stamp on it. Don’t set it in concrete. There we go, one foxglove from a bare patch this morning. We’ve now gone to the end of the day with all our plants in. Now we’ve got to give them a good water even if you saw on this damp. Give it a good watering. Because this settles the soil around the roots to ensure that they have good contact and grow away into nice comfortable moist composted fertilized soil. I hope we’ll be able to come back here in the summer. I think you’ll be amazed at how fast things will grow now they’ve been established and given a really good start in life in the shade garden.

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