Cool and shady spots can be as rewarding as a sunny south-facing garden, finds GINA PARKINSON

ALTHOUGH sunny south-facing gardens are often seen as ideal, cooler shady spots can be just as lovely, especially in spring when the earth is damp and the garden is filled with new growth.

In dappled shade will grow primulas and pulmonaria at the feet of hardy fuchsias and hydrangeas. As spring progresses the sharp shoots of hosta push up, flushed purple and tightly furled. The eye of an experienced gardener will know that even this armoury isn’t safe against the attentions of slugs and the danger needs to be attended to with haste.

Dotted about these cool areas grow woodland violets, dark leafed and lilac bloomed and surprisingly tough. They will grow almost anywhere – and this is sometimes a problem – appearing in the cracks of paving and unwanted in pots and containers, in full sun and deep shade, in the lawn and in gravelled paths. But they are best in the semi shade under deciduous trees and shrubs where the soil remains reasonably moist.

I have spent the past couple of years in our garden gradually moving these violets from the places they choose to the ones I prefer, and slowly they are beginning to colonise otherwise bare patches of soil. As new perennials and shrubs have been put into beds, any violets already there have been dug up and replanted elsewhere. Seedlings or ones that have been damaged in their removal from a tight spot are potted up for a while to recover and grow before going into their permanent spots. Now the work is being reaped and we can spot small clumps about the garden in dainty flower this May.


Weekend catch-up

GOLDEN hop is a vigorous climber that needs some kind of support if the extensive stems aren’t to collapse under their own weight. It also has to be said that it needs strict containment to prevent a garden take-over, so regular checks are vital at this time of year.

If the plant is already in the garden, check its growth daily if possible but definitely once a week. Strong wires or trellis fixed to a wall or fence is ideal to fasten it to as is a reasonably strong arch. However, unless space is no problem, I would always plant this specimen in a very large container, a galvanised dustbin for example. Here the growth can be kept in check and wayward stems prevented from reaching the ground and rooting unnoticed. Ornamental hop is excellent at producing new plants this way.

We have a golden hop outside the back door, grown in a galvanised dustbin. The base of the bin was drilled with several holes before planting and it has grown happily in its home for many years after bursting the seams of a plastic bin.

Growth begins in April, by May the stems are long enough to twine around the lengths of wire fastened to the wall behind. A sprinkle of slow release fertiliser in spring and fortnightly feed of soluble plant food gives it the nutrients required for this rapid growth and by mid summer the wall will be covered and the hop will be surrounding the back door too. This early effort softens this utilitarian space for months and by autumn there may even be a few bunches of hops.


Open gardens


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme

Weathervane House, Mill Lane, Seaton Ross, YO42 4NE. Two-acre woodland garden with flowering trees and shrubs including magnolias, azaleas and rhododendrons and spring bulbs including erythroniums and trilliums. Also mixed borders, fruit garden, glasshouse and large polytunnel. Open 11am to 4pm, admission £3.

Sunday Low Hall, Dacre Banks, HG3 4AA. Walled garden with spring bulbs, rhododendrons, azaleas, water garden, asymmetric rose pergola under-planted with auriculas and lithodora, orchard and extensive herbaceous borders. Open 1pm to 5pm, admission £3.50.

Stillingfleet Lodge, Stewart Lane, Stillingfleet, YO19 6HP. Organic wildlife garden subdivided into smaller gardens around the house based on colour and foliage leading to a wildflower meadow, natural pond, double 55-yard herbaceous borders, modern rill garden by York designer Lizzie Tulip and adjacent well stocked nursery. Open 1pm to 5pm, admission £5 adult, £1 child.

Gazette & Herald:

The garden at Stillingfleet Lodge

Terrington Hose, Terrington, YO60 6PU. Formal three-acre garden with mixed borders, a shell house, brunnera, spring bulbs, azaleas, rhododendrons, split leaf beech tree, herb parterre and vegetable garden. Open 11am to 4pm, Admission £4.

Woodlands Cottage, Summerbridge, HG3 4BT. One-acre garden with wild bluebells in natural woodland, gritstone boulders, wildflower meadow, woodland rock garden, herbaceous areas, herb garden and fruit and vegetable garden. Open 2pm to 5pm, admission £3.50.


Gardening TV and Radio


8am, Radio Vale. William Jenkyns presents local gardening news and features at 8.30am, BBC2, The Beechgrove Garden. Sowing flower seeds.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening related news and features from around North Yorkshire.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. From Lewes, East Sussex with Matthew Biggs, Pippa Greenwood, Christine Walkden and Eric Robson.


8pm, BBC2, The Great Chelsea Garden Challenge. In a new four part series six amateur garden designers compete for the chance to build a garden at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. Each episode sees them tackle a different style of garden. Today they create cottage gardens at Harlow Carr in Harrogate. Presented by Joe Swift and judged by James Alexander-Sinclair and Ann-Marie Powell. Continues daily until Thursday.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Matthew Biggs, Bob Flowerdew, James Wong and chairman Eric Robson answer questions from the audience at Garden Show Ireland held at Antrim Castle Gardens.

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. The wildlife garden takes shape at Longmeadow and Monty is planting up a nectar-rich border to attract bees and other pollinating insects.