It’s difficult to choose plants which will survive in shade and in particular beneath a tall hedge where the roots are close to the surface and there is little soil to cultivate.
There are many boring plants, but finding a few which are interesting and ones which will provide interest through the year takes thought.
One of the best spring flowering bulbs are hyacinths. These can be planted now for flowering next March.
Or what about tritelias, which are also called ipheon? They’ll make lots of leaves with little white flowers with pale blue lines. They’re not the sort of thing you would buy. It’s the kind of plant someone else would be glad to get rid of. The point is, it will grow and be no trouble.
If hedge roots are close to the surface, chop some off with a stainless steel border spade. Use the contents of old growing bags on top of the ground. Mix this into the area where the roots have been cut off. This gives more depth for the roots of other plants which will provide a mass of colour.
For a super spring show, you won’t beat wallflowers but the variety is important. Mixed will be fine, but the object is to add lightness or a band of sunshine along the hedge’s base.
So avoid mixed and try to find Golden Bedder or Cloth of Gold – ideal if planted eight inches apart in three rows. We have just planted ours.
This spring display can be followed by a summer spectacular. You know how wonderful bedding begonias are in summer – one of the best display plants in shade. However, the truth is they love water too and it may be a lot of work having to keep them moist because a hedge will try to pinch all the water available. My point is that you don’t have to rely on boring rubbish when you have a wide choice.
There are some perennials which will be good in dry shade. One of these is Lady’s Mantle (alchemilla). It grows to 15in with a misty cloud of greenish yellow flowers and has a fan-shaped leaf. If planted next to iris unguicularis (formerly stylosa) which flowers in winter, the two contrast well. You won’t get many flowers on the iris but the lady’s mantle will compensate.
For berries, what about cotoneasters? They would grow on the moon. Of all the plants, these are the most tolerant species. Autumn Fire is the smallest with the largest leaf and it’s only about 15in high. The leaves look like weeping willow leaves and there is the bonus of bright red berries.
The round-leafed Coral Beauty has orange berries. Again, it’s very short, perhaps the ideal berry underneath that hedge.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Buy two pots of parsley and thyme and put them in the edge of a border and you will have fresh herbs for Christmas stuffing. Much better than the stuff in packets.