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Vibe's gardening expert George Long on lightening the shade this autumn
SUMMER may be retreating rapidly, but that doesn’t mean you should head indoors and neglect your garden. Vibe’s resident horticulturalist, George Long from Sydenham, has some advice.
Lighten up the shade
If you have an East, West or North-facing aspect to your garden or lots of trees, there will be parts that get little or no sunlight.
Yes, it is true that the most showy colour combinations will be achieved in borders that get full sun but you don’t have to feel that a shady border is a hopeless cause.
As a designer, even I think I will struggle at times to find interesting planting combinations to fill those spots but re-planting gardens for clients recently reminded me of the countless shade loving plants that can give you interest throughout the year. As usual there are so many to choose from but here is a list of some of my favourites, all of which tolerate full shade:
Winter and Spring
Fill your borders with Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebells) and Convallaria majalis ‘Bordeaux’ (Giant Lily of the Valley), the time to plant these is now.
These will quickly colonise and the classic scent from Convallaria will fill your garden.
Brunnera macrophylla is an excellent alternative to Forget-me-nots. It’s subtle blue flowers appear in Summer against pretty foliage, try the variety ‘Jack Frost’ for silver and green leaves but be careful as it has Plant Breeders Rights attached to it so no propagation is allowed.
Other spring flowering plants are Polygonatum x hybridum (Solomon’s Seal), Geranium phaeum (which will bloom in late spring and go on through summer), Glaucidium palmatum and Trillium grandiflorum.
Summer and Autumn
For summer colour try Dicentra eximia (Wild Bleeding Hearts) showing pretty heart shaped flowers and fern-like leaves. Climbing Hydrangea petiolaris is excellent for covering a shady wall and grass-like Liriope muscari adds beautiful purple spikes of flowers and thrives in a shady border under taller plants.
All year interest and Ground Cover
Asplenium scolopendrium, Polystichum setiferum (Ferns) and Fatsia japonica provide visible foliage all year round. Vinca minor is a great plant for ground cover that spreads through your borders bearing purple flowers from spring, lasting until autumn. However, my favourite is Daphne laureola, it is a small evergreen shrub with pale green flowers, it may not be much to look at but it holds one card up its sleeve, it smells beautiful!!
Top tips to do in October
Planting: Plant the last of your shrubs, perennials and spring bedding plants.
Maintenance: Lift and store summer flowering bulbs, especially Dahlia. Dig over empty borders (not when it’s raining as can be detrimental for the soil). Take hardwood cuttings. Harvest the last of your fruit and vegetables for winter storage. Last chance to trim coniferous hedges and repair/grow lawns.
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