Anne looks at sum­mer plants for dry shady ar­eas

Amateur Gardening - - Content -

QWe have a dry shady bed backed by a ma­ture hedge with trees. Us­ing lists of suit­able plants I’ve at­tempted to in­tro­duce a few shrubs and peren­ni­als. Some have taken and pro­vide spring in­ter­est, but how can I make this more at­trac­tive in sum­mer?

Ter­ence Smith, Tet­bury, Glouces­ter­shire

ADry shade is a good mimic of wood­land con­di­tions, where for­est-floor plants come into leaf, flower and set seed from Fe­bru­ary to June. Dur­ing this pe­riod the soil is still moist from win­ter rain and light pen­e­trates to the ground be­fore a leafy canopy from de­cid­u­ous trees knits to­gether.

Af­ter this, many plants go dor­mant, dy­ing back to bulbs or tu­bers. The rest fall back on re­serves of fleshy roots to tide them over the dry pe­ri­ods. In a dry, shady spot, even plants like pul­monaria and epimedium will lose their looks by July and Au­gust. For leaves to stay hand­some, they need a moist, shady spot.

Dur­ing spring, the stars of my dry shady bor­der in­clude Lamium or­vala, whose dusky-pink blooms are much larger than those of weedy dead net­tles. As spring turns to sum­mer, Gera­nium phaeum opens ma­roon flow­ers. This is known as mourn­ing widow or dusky cranes­bill, though there is also a white­flow­ered form. I mean to add G. no­dosum, a rhi­zoma­tous spread­ing cranes­bill with pale-pink blooms.

High sum­mer is a chal­lenge for which I have three so­lu­tions. Cer­tain shrubs will thrive in dry shade, al­though their growth rate is slower than usual and they may suf­fer some dieback. The trick is to choose bright-leaved cul­ti­vars so they shine out from the gloom, such as a gold-leaved form of the Hi­malayan hon­ey­suckle Leyces­te­ria for­mosa ‘Ly­dia’ or gold-var­ie­gated hol­lies.

Ferns are a god­send, both for their spring un­furl­ing and their struc­tural sum­mer fronds. Try va­ri­eties of the soft shield fern Polystichum setiferum, hart’s tongue (As­ple­nium scolopen­drium) and male fern (Dry­opteris filix-mas).

The most suc­cess­ful way of bring­ing sum­mer colour is to plant up con­tain­ers with shade-lov­ing ‘bed­ding’ plants (be­go­nias, fuch­sias, im­pa­tiens, mimu­lus), place them in the bor­der on bricks or pot feet for drainage and re­mem­ber to wa­ter and feed.

Gera­nium Lily Lovell Lamium or­vala (large red dead net­tle) As our dry shady bor­der moves from spring to sum­mer, I’m re­mov­ing old fern fronds, clip­ping away dieback on the leyces­te­ria and adding con­tain­ers

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