'In shade it is possible to create interest in every season and such a feeling of peace and serenity that the area becomes a favourite part of the garden.'

Beth Chatto - Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden

'Woodland Corner' is an area only a few metres square, so definitely more 'corner' than 'woodland'. The corner is formed by a wooden fence, facing north, and a brick wall facing west.

An old Morello cherry tree, recently much reduced in size, grows against the west wall, and an equally well-established apple tree grows in front of the north-facing fence. The trees, particularly the apple tree, cast dappled shade on most of this area for part of the year, while they're in leaf. The rest of the year, while the sun is low in the sky, the light doesn't reach over the roof of the house, so the area doesn't receive direct sunlight.

Apart from the trees, there were only a few shrubs in this corner when we moved in. These were gradually moved or replaced. The area has changed a lot in the eight years I've been tending this garden.

Raising soil and letting in light

Raised beds have been built up, to allow for a better depth of topsoil to plant in. The soil here appeared to be imported topsoil laid in most areas on a bed of soft sand. The sand has been removed as much as possible, and the topsoil built up, with the addition of large amounts of organic matter, and, in particular, New Horizon peat-free compost, which I've found particularly good for this corner - the plants that would naturally grow in woodland areas seem to thrive in it.

The lower branches of the apple tree were gradually removed to allow more light through, and to make it easier to follow the narrow path that I made through this area. The path has been covered with bark chippings, topped up every couple of years.

Springtime flower and summertime green

In this area shade-loving plants and spring-flowering bulbs grow well as they get light early in the year, when the deciduous trees they grow under are just opening their leaves. The main period of interest in this part of the garden is March to May, as the planting is mainly spring-flowering perennials. By late May, Woodland Corner is fully greened-over, with barely any soil visible between the plants.

In the heat of the summer, the plants in this area are protected from hot sun by the tree canopy. As most of the plants here flowered in the spring, in summer Woodland Corner is mainly green. It is always a tranquil corner, and I don't try to grow anything brightly coloured here. I love the 'mainly green' of this corner, and wouldn't want it any other way.

Plants in Woodland Corner

Gardening books - in association with www.amazon.co.uk

The Complete Shade Gardener
I read this book originally many years ago, when I first started planting the shaded areas in my garden. It helped to answer many of my questions about why plants that were supposed to flourish in shade seemed unhappy in certain shaded areas. There are many types and degrees of shade, as this book makes clear, presenting detailed information and planting ideas.

Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden: Shade-Loving Plants for Year-Round Interest
Beth Chatto's garden is on a rather grander scale than mine, but I still found this book inspiring and informative. My list of coveted plants grew after seeing photos in this book of some beautiful plants that grow in shade.

Photo: 'Woodland Corner', spring 2005

Above: 'Woodland Corner', spring 2005

Top left: Hosta, in Woodland Corner, 2005

Planting in Woodland Corner, spring 2005

Above: planting in Woodland Corner, showing hosta, Tellima grandiflora and bluebells (May 2005).

Below: Woodland Corner planting - native fern, Myrrhis odorata and pulmonaria (May 2005).

Ferns and pulmonaria in Woodland Corner, spring 2005