GINA PARKINSON has nothing but praise for a dainty plant that quietly goes about covering the soil in a shady spot.

IN AN inhospitable dry shady spot in our garden grows a dainty plant, stealthily covering the soil with its starry foliage. There isn’t much to see at the beginning of the year, but as the weeks pass, dots of green emerge which quickly develop into leaves.

By May the area is carpeted with the fingered foliage, above which rise delicate spires of white flowers that shine in the shade and enjoy the occasional shaft of sunlight that manages to filter through at certain points of the day.

Sweet woodruff or Galium odoratum is a low-growing, spreading perennial that dies back in winter. It is useful to grow in shaded areas under trees and shrubs, and is able to cope with quite dry conditions once established, although watering can be necessary during an especially hot and dry summer.

A layer of mulch spread over the area in autumn or early spring before new growth emerges can help to prevent drying out.

Sweet woodruff is at its best in May when the fresh foliage is joined by a white flowers. A few self seeded bluebells and a pale pink aquilegia have joined our display and they look good together. These unplanned combinations are always a pleasure to discover.

Galium odoratum prefers to grow in a sheltered east or north facing site away from direct sun. Although dainty looking it is a vigorous mat forming rhizomatus perennial that can cover an area of a square metre or more. Because of its potentially invasive nature it is best grown in an informal area rather than a flower bed with other shade loving but larger plants such as ferns and hostas.

Weekend catch-up Tender vegetables that have been hardened off during this month are beginning to make their way into the vegetable garden and it is beginning to look like a productive space. Outdoor cucumbers and climbing French beans have been there a week and will be joined this weekend by courgettes and dwarf French beans, as well as a few tomatoes.

Most of the tomatoes have been put into the greenhouse but as so many germinated there are some left over. They will go in a sunny spot by the shed and, a good summer willing, should do all right there.

Tender annuals can also be potted up and put out for their summer display. Like vegetables the plants should have been hardened off by now. If they haven’t yet experienced the outdoors, there is still time to toughen them up by putting them out during the day for a few days before increasing it to night time too.

This gets them used to variations in temperature as well as the movement of the air. Soft plants grown indoors can be spoilt by the wind as much as an unexpected frost.

Open gardens


In aid of the National Gardens Scheme

Old Sleningford Hall, Mickely, HG4 3JD. Large garden with mature trees, woodland walk, fernery, lake, watermill, kitchen garden, border, large hedges and award winning permaculture forest garden. Picnics welcome. Open noon to 4pm, admission £5. Also open tomorrow.

Yorkshire Arboretum, Castle Howard, YO60 7BY. 120-acre garden of trees set in a beautiful sheltered valley. The collection of trees is accompanied by wild flowers, birds and insects and there are trails and walks, tours, family activities and a woodland playground. The arboretum is not suitable for wheelchairs but motorised buggies are available. These need to be booked 24 hours in advance on 01653 648598.


The Court, Humber Road, North Ferriby, HU14 3DW. Romantic garden with roses and clematis climbing up walls and trees, a long tunnel of wisteria, clematis and laburnum, pond, waterfall with secluded arbours, stumpery and a grown up swing. Open 1pm to 5pm, admission £3.

Nutkins and New House, Hornsea, HU18 1UR. Two gardens open in this seaside town. The ¾-acre garden at Nutkins has borders, bog and woodland gardens, pergolas and a gazebo. New House is more compact with island beds and borders planted with hardy and tender perennials and shrubs, ponds, succulents in a greenhouse and a vertical growing wall. Open 11am-4pm, combined admission £5.

Old Sleningford Hall, details above.

Thursday, June 4

Skipwith Hall, Skipwith, YO8 5SQ. Four-acre walled garden with an ancient mulberry, extensive mixed borders and walled areas by designer Cecil Pinsent, kitchen garden, pleached fruit walks, herb maze, woodland, shell house and orchard with espaliered and fan trained fruit trees. Open 1pm to 4pm, admission £5.

Friday, June 5

Shandy Hall Gardens, Coxwold, YO61 4AD. Two walled gardens around the home of C18 author Laurence Sterne. One acre has perennials inter-planted with tulips and old roses in low walled beds, while a further acre of old quarry has trees, shrubs, climbers, bulbs and wildflowers. The wildlife that inhabits the area includes more than 350 recorded species of moths. There will be moth trap, identification and release during the evening. Evening opening: 6.30pm to 8pm, admission £3 adult, £1 child. Wheelchair access to the wild garden by arrangement on 01347 868465.

Gardening TV and Radio


8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoor. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

8am, Radio Vale. William Jenkyns presents local gardening news at 9am, BBC2, The Beechgrove Garden.

9am, BBC Radio York, Steve Bailey. Gardening-related news and features from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Bob Flowerdew, Bunny Guinness and Matthew Wilson advise gardeners in Newcastle.


3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. Eric Robson and team are in the Isle of Wight where they answer questions from an audience in Cowes.

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Carol Klein visits a garden that is opening this weekend under the National Gardens Scheme.