Brian Kidd says you should hedge your bets when planting in deep, dry shade

Wallflower Cloth of Gold
Wallflower Cloth of Gold
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It can be difficult to choose plants which will survive in dry shade, particularly spots beneath a tall hedge where the roots are close to the top of the ground and there is very little soil to cultivate.

There are quite a few boring plants and finding a few which will provide a bit of interest throughout the year takes some thought.

One of the best spring-flowering bulbs would be hyacinths believe it or not. These can be planted now for flowering next March.

But if that’s going to be beyond your budget, what about tritelias which are also called ipheon?

They’ll make lots of leaves and have dear little white flowers with pale blue lines. However, it’s not the sort of thing you would buy, it’s the kind of plant which someone else would be glad to get rid of. The point is it will grow and be no trouble to you.

If the hedge’s roots are close to the surface, chop some off with a stainless steel border spade –­ a great Christmas present –­ and use the contents of old growing bags on top of the ground.

Mix this into the area where some of the hedge roots have been cut off. This will provide a bit more depth for the roots of other plants which will provide a mass of colour.

For a super spring show you can’t beat wallflowers, but getting the variety right is really important.

Mixed ones will be fine, but hang on a minute, the object here is to add lightness or even a great band of sunshine along the base of the hedge.

If this is the case, avoid the mixed and try to find either Golden Bedder or Cloth of Gold. I’m sure you’re attracted by names and believe me they are super for the job.

If planted eight inches apart in three rows they will be really wonderful next April.

There are some perennials which will be really good in dry shade and one of these is ladies’ mantle which will be found as alchemilla.

It grows to 15in high with a misty cloud of greenish yellow flowers and has fan-shaped leaves. If planted next to flag iris the two really do contrast well. You won’t get many flowers on the iris but the ladies’ mantle will make up for that.

For berries why not have a look at cotoneasters?

These will grow on the moon if we could get them there and out of all the plants these are the most tolerant species ever grown.

The types available are really variable but if they are needed for covering the ground in poor soil under dense shade, two are really good.

Autumn Fire is the smallest one with the largest leaf and it’s only about 15 inches high. The leaves look just 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 ideal underneath that hedge.

All of the woody salvias will thrive. They are pungent too and we can even include the common culinary sage.

What about elephants’ ears grown with lavender cotton? Yes, very common, but they contrast nicely shape­wise and are excellent when kept in a neat shape by regular pruning in spring.


Give yourself a little treat, buy a cyclamen plant in a pot from your garden centre.
Keep it in a light place but not in a hot room. If kept in a cold light room it will have flowers right up to the end of February.