Sun or Shade Tolerant Plants
1A. Shrubs –– dense weed-suppressing
Euonymus fortunei ‘Silver Queen’ Sprawling evergreen shrub with really striking variegated leaves with a broad creamy margin and a dark green centre splashed with pale green. Good against dark foliage or growing through a dark evergreen, it can be used as foreground planting to hang over a wall or for under planting. Given a wall it can climb to 10ft (3 m). Usually up to 2ft (60 cm) high with a 5ft (1.5m) spread.
Cotoneaster ‘Autumn Fire’ This is a big spreader or it can climb up a trellis. Dark green narrow leaves, small white flowers in June and plenty of red berries in autumn. Wayward shoots need shortening to keep the growth dense and the weeds out. It reaches 3 ft (90 cm) high and can spread to 10 ft (3 m) if you let it.
Cotoneaster salicifolius ‘Repens’ is neater and grows up to 18 in (45 cm) with just about the same spread.
Senecio ‘Sunshine’ (often called greyii) Does well in shade despite its name which refers to the yellow daisy flowers in summer. The rather rounded leaves are olive greeny-grey on the top and silvery grey underneath. It is more compact in sun and needs a trim in spring to keep it bushy. If you don’t like the yellow flowers with other plants around, then prune it hard in spring and only a few flowers will form. Usually below 3 ft (90cm) with a spread of 4-6ft (1.2-1.8m) or so. Very easy to grow and easy from.
Pyracantha ‘Soleil d’Or’ There are a lot of Pyracanthas or firethorns to choose from but this one has a good spreading habit. The usual glossy green leaves and off-white flowers in June are followed by an impressive display of orange-yellow berries. It is thorny but worth the risk of a scratch. 4ft (1.2 m) high with a 5-6 ft (1.5-1.8 m) spread. Most other varieties are taller with open growth, so insist on this one if you want a firethorn this size.
wulfenii (Shrubby spurge) The long narrow dark green leaves arranged all round the upright stems make the plant very striking. Last year’s shoots flower in the spring with long candelabras of green-yellow bracts often as early as February. These can be attractive into the summer and should be cut out when you tire of them. New shoots are always springing from the base of the plant. It is a very handsome filer’ for a niche or corner. All euphorbias have a white, gummy juice that can irritate your skin, so wear gloves when you prune. About a 4ft (1.2m) height and spread.
Olearia haastii (Daisy bush) A neat dome of matt olive green leaves is lit up in summer with slightly off white daisy flowers which are pleasantly fragrant. Very easy and reliable; grows about 4 ft by 4 ft (1.2m by 1.2m).
(Mexican orange blossom) Choisya really is Mexican and is related to oranges! The handsome, shiny, trifoliate (like a clover) leaves have the same spicy fragrance as orange trees when crushed. The sweetly fragrant lemon blossom comes in clusters at the ends of the shoots in spring with a smaller repeat in autumn. A good dome-shaped habit up to 5-6ft (1.5- 1.8m) and a little wider. The flexible shoots can be trained up a trellis to 12ft (3.5m) or so as in my garden.
Mahonia These are easy to grow in sun or shade so it is worth knowing about the different kinds and their different effects.
The shortest is aquifolium with glossy pinnate (like an ash) leaves and clusters of yellowin spring followed by blue berries. It spreads slowly by suckers to reach about 4 ft (1.2 m) high by 5ft (1.5m) wide.
There are two slightly taller types that can be used in larger plantings. Both have more flowers all the way up the stem than aquifolium. Undulata has very glossy leaves with wavy margins and is an exceptional, while pinnata has quite greyish leaves.
The biggest is japonica, which has stout stems and big spiny pinnate leaves that are bold and glossy. In early spring each shoot is topped with drooping strands of yellow flowers with aof the valley scent. These are followed by bloomy blue berries but if the shrub is growing too big be ruthless and cut the shoots back before the berries form and it will stay bushy. Grows 6-8ft (1.8-2.5m) by 6-8ft (1.8-2.5m).
1B. Shrubs — evergreen – need underplanting
Cotoneaster franchetii This gracefully arching shrub has sage green leaves which are grey underneath. The small white flowers in June are followed by orange berries which are very attractive against the foliage. Grows to 5ft by 5ft (1.5m by 1.5in).
Pyracantha watereri This firethorn and most of its relatives are rather tall and open but easily pruned. The usual glossy leaves and off white flowers are followed by brilliant red berries which make this a very desirable variety. Also good on a wall where it grows taller than the usual 6ft (1.8m) by 5ft (1.5m) spread.
Viburnum burkwoodii A tall, open-growing shrub with rounded dark green leaves, buff underneath. From January to May the clusters of pink budded flowers open white, with a sweet scent of cloves. Can reach 8ft (2.5 m) but not much wider than 4 ft (1.2 m) unless trained on a wall or fence.
1C. Shrubs –– dense, weed suppressing
Potentilla ‘Longacre’ Dense, low-growing and mat-forming, making a good ground cover. The pale yellow five-petalled flowers are produced throughout the summer. It has small leaves with five leaflets. Grows to lft (30 cm) with a 3 ft (90 cm) spread.
Potentilla X ‘Elizabeth’ This is a more dome-shaped variety with bright yellow flowers over a very long period from early summer. Reaches about 3ft (90 cm) high with a slightly wider spread. Very dead and twiggy-looking in winter but quite acceptable against evergreens.
Salix lanata This willow is very unlike the usualor weeping willow. The round leaves are covered with a grey felt and make this a valuable foliage shrub. The pussy willow catkins come in April. 3Ft (90cm) by 4ft (1.2m) of good dense growth.
Viburnum plicatum tomentosum ‘Mariesii’ Stunning white flowered shrub with wide-spreading horizontal branches in tiers. The heads of white fertile flowers are surrounded by white sterile flowers and are placed elegantly along the branches in May. In a dry autumn the long leaves turn reddish purple. It can grow up to 5 ft (1.5 m) and spread 18ft (5.5m) or so. ‘Lanarth’ is similar but a little more vigorous. They can both be trained up a wall or trellis to provide a very striking cover.
ID. Shrubs – deciduous – need underplanting
Daphne mezereum (Mezereon) A neat growing shrub with the special attraction of deliciously scented purple-pink flowers from February to April. The red berries that follow these are poisonous. The light green leaves are quite a good summer foil for underplantings of dark green leaves. It grows to 3 ft (90cm) by 2-3ft (60-90cm). There is a beautiful white variety ‘Alba’ with pale orange berries, also poisonous.
Fuchsia magellanica gracilis (Hardy Fuchsia) Leafy and arching with long narrow leaves, this fuchsia has plentiful slim purple flowers with red sepals in late summer and autumn. The variety ‘Versicolor’ is very distinctive, as the leaves have a narrow creamy-white variegation and are a soft grey, rose-tinted when young. With the (lowers this produces a lovely soft colouring that goes with almost anything. Both attain 3-4ft (90cm- 1.2m) with a 3ft (90cm) spread. If they are damaged by frost after a cold winter, cut them back hard and they will continue to grow vigorously.
Weigela florida ‘Variegata’ Another good variegated foliage shrub and very easy to grow. The leaves have creamy-white margins and pale green centres. The pale pink funnel-shaped flowers in May and June add a gentle touch of colour. Up to 5ft (1.5m) high and wide but easily pruned.
Rosa rubrifolia (glauca) This graceful wild rose from Central Europe is an open-growing shrub with beautiful leaves of purplish red, overlaced with grey more muted when in shade. The young shoots are reddish tinted and the mature ones are purplish red, so it gives a warm glow even in winter. The rather small pink and white flowers are followed by round, shining hips from August onwards. Rubrifolia mixes well with many colour schemes and has very few thorns. 7Ft (2 m) high by 5 ft (1.2 m) wide, but easily kept smaller.
Magnolia liliifolia nigra A handsome, bushy magnolia that will tolerate quite a bit of shade. The dark purple flowers have a paler inside to the petals which shows as the flowers open up when they mature. The special attraction is that the first flowers come just before the leaves open in March and they carry on well into summer when they contrast with the big deep green leaves. If your soil is alkaline the leaves will be a disappointing pale green. Can reach 1ft (2 m) and spread 6 ft (1.8m), but is often more compact and can be pruned in spring.
IE. Herbaceousfor ground cover
Heuchera sanguinea (Coral bells) The low cover of jagged leaves is a fine background for the light plumes of little red bells about a foot (30 cm) high. ‘Bressingham Blaze’ and other varieties are very bright coloured and they all flower longer, in early summer, with good soil.
Saxifraga umbrosa (London’s Pride) The deep green rosettes of scalloped leaves cover the ground and are topped by little spires of white and pink flowers about a foot (30cm) high. Very dainty in spring.
Tolmeia menziesii ‘Taffs Gold’ (Pig-a-back plant) The hairy leaves with pointed lobes form a good ground cover lavishly splashed with yellow. In shade there is rather more green but still a strong contrast of colour. Little plantlets form at the junction of leaf and stalk and can be potted up very easily. The foot (30 cm) high spikes of brownish flowers are more curious than attractive. Easy to propagate.
Centaurea montana (Mountain knapweed) The leaves are a bit weedy, long, pointed and rough but are a good cover in a sunny or not too shady spot. The real attraction is the blue cornflowers really early in summer. There are also pink and white varieties. An easy going plant about 18 in (45cm) high.
Hostas (Plantain lily) Very fine big-leavedthat spread slowly from a tight clump and the leaves, 1-2ft (30-60 cm) high for those listed below, give a good weed-proof cover. Spires of white, mauve or purple flowers overtop the leaves in summer but the leaves die away completely in winter. They can be moved or divided when in full leaf if well watered in.
Hosta sieboldiana ‘Elegans’ has big, rather crinkly, intense grey-blue leaves a foot (30 cm) or so across. The pale lilac flowers in July and August are on rather a dumpy spike.
Hosta crispula has broad dark green leaves with a conspicuous white margin. ‘The pale lilac spires of flowers come in early summer.
Hosta fortunei ‘Aureomarginata’ (’Marginata’) has a greyish overtone to the leaves and a thinner yellow margin. Handsome lilac mauve flowers.
Hosta ventricosa ‘Variegata’ has broad green leaves with a wide and irregular cream margin. The violet purple flowers come in late summer on striking spikes and are more dumpy than the usual funnel-shaped flowers. One of the latest flowering is Hosta lancifolia, with narrower, lance-shaped leaves which overlap and arch over a little to build up a handsome clump. The flower spikes carry on into September. They do not set seed so it is less pressing to cut off the old flower stalks.
Geraniums (Hardy cranesbills) These are all the leafy ground cover kinds that have rather round, deeply divided leaves, over spreading clumps, overtopped by flowers of blue, mauve, pink or white. Geranium endressii ‘Wargrave Pink’ is very reliable and has a long flowering period from early summer of silvery pink flowers over fresh green leaves.
Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ is closely related to the blue cranesbill of country lanes. This one has slightly darker flowers, again over a long period from early summer. A taller one is Geranium magnificum (also ibericum or platypetalum) with soft furry leaves and taller stalks of violet blue flowers. It is a hybrid and docs not set seed, so it is less important to cut off the old flower heads.
The lightest of all is Geranium ‘Kashmir White’, with deeply divided leaves and white flowers with a thin pencilling of purple to liven them up. The totally reliable ground cover on its own or under anything is Geranium macrorrhizum. The leaf cover is under a foot (30 cm) high and the flowers just overtop them. The crushed leaves smell rather like pot plant pelargoniums (geraniums). Ingwersen’s Variety is a good pale pink and album is white with a faint pink tinge.
Bergenias (Elephants’ Ears) The big round leaves are evergreen and these are accompanied by broad spikes of magenta pink, pink or white flowers all through the spring.
Bergenia cordifolia has big foot-and-a-half (45 cm) leaves and flowers of magenta pink. These are darker in ‘Purpurea’ and its leaves also go purple in winter if it is growing in sun in a dryish soil (or next to a low wall). ‘There are a lot of named varieties and the pink flowers of ‘Schmidtii’ and the white, faintly pink tinted flowers of ‘Silberlicht’ show up well in the dull days of spring. In Ballawley the flowers are almost crimson.
Alchemilla mollis A symphony in green. Rounded leaves up to 9 in (22.5 cm) across which are lobed and then lobed again. Little beads of water catch in the smallest lobes after rain. The fluffy plumes of pale green flowers cover the clump from early summer. Cut these off as they darken and form seeds if the seedlings become a nuisance. About 18 in (45cm) tall.
podophylla Big striking leaves divided into narrowly fan-shaped sections with jagged edges and on 2ft (60 an) stalks make this a distinguished foliage plant. The coppery colour of the young leaves returns in late summer. The puffs of small pinkish flowers don’t add very much when they appear in summer.
IF. Herbaceouswhich form clumps
Geranium renardii The neat, rounded leaves are lobed and puckered, have a greyish tinge and form a neat clump about afoot (30cm) high. The white flowers over the leaves appear briefly in early summer and are lightly veined with violet blue. Tolerates a little shade.
Euphorbia polychroma (or epithymoides or pilosa) This spurge shoots up to 18 in (45 cm) high in spring and quickly forms bright yellow bracts on top of a neat dome of foliage. The bracts fade to green as summer advances and the leaves go yellow in autumn. Very attractive in spring and nice and leafy in summer. More ground covering in habit but best inas an individual clump. The sap is poisonous.
Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh poppy) A clump of soft green foliage covered by striking clear yellow flowers in late spring/early summer, with some flowers later. The orange variety has equally clear coloured flowers. There are double forms of both which do not have the simple elegance of single poppy flowers. Reaches a foot (30 cm) or so high and seeds about a bit.
Malva moschata The native musk mallow is a very lovely plant with straight stems, deeply cut leaves and rose pink flowers in summer. ‘Alba’ is a very beautiful white-flowered form. Both seed themselves gently about the garden.
Anemone japonica (hybrida) (Japanese Anemone) There are a number of varieties with deep pinkish to white flowers which grow 18in-5ft (45cm- 1.5m) tall. They are especially good in shade but also thrive on sun. The usual white ‘Honorine Jobert’ has big, open anemone flowers in late summer and autumn, on long stems. ‘Prinz Heinrich’ is much shorter, with pink and red flowers which have extra, narrower petals. The common pink is usually called Anemone tomentosa and spreads extensively. It starts to flower in late summer and the pink petals have a darker reverse. All these anemones are very welcome for their late flowering.
Polemonium caeruleum (Jacob’s ladder) Another native that seeds about the place and is very easy to grow. The 2ft (60 cm) spires of clear blue flowers (or white in album) in early summer appear above a clump of neat leaves with a lot of leaflets. If you come across foliosissimum, it is neater, with darker blue flowers and a longer flowering season.
Rosa ‘Albertine’ A strong-growing rose that has healthy, dark foliage and a big display of richly scented, coppery pink flowers in June and July. Can also be grown as a weeping standard as suggested for the front garden. Although often called a rambler it should be pruned as a climber. Allow 12 ft (3.5m) by 12ft (3.5 m) if grown as a climber.
Rosa ‘Alberic Barbier’ Rather like ‘Albertine’ but with smaller and glossier leaves. The double creamy yellow flowers in June and July are repeated on a smaller scale in autumn.
Rosa ‘The New Dawn’ Delicately scented, pale pink flowers in June and July and a big second flowering late August onwards. Fairly vigorous, growing to 10ft (3 m) by 10ft (3 in). Good healthy pale green leaves.
Rosa ‘Felicite et Perpetue’ A rambler with small dark green leaves and flexible stems up to 15 ft (4.5in) long. The flowers, in June and July (though mine have flowered in November), form a neat white rosette opening in clusters from red-tinted buds. The leaves stay evergreen in a mild winter. Cut out old flowered stems right to the ground.
Rosa ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ (the thornless rose) Not only is it thornless, but ‘Zephirine’ has a long succession of magenta pink, sweet-scented, semi-double flowers. It will grow in a part shaded site but unless it has good soil and adequate moisture in the summer it can suffer from black spot and. If you think the colour is too bright, then a sport of it called ‘Kathleen Flarrop’ is a clear, pale pink. Slightly stronger coloured, without the magenta, is ‘Martha’ which is just becoming available, having been re-discovered recently.
Rosa ‘Mermaid’ A rather vigorous and very thorny rose; only a little pruning is desirable, but luckily not essential. The glossy foliage is almost evergreen and beautifully sets off the single creamy yellow flowers, with a boss of reddish anthers, which continue from June to the autumn. A very classy-looking rose.
Rosa ‘Bobbie James’ There are a number of wild roses of very vigorous growth with masses of big clusters of small single white flowers in June and July and a sweet fragrance that carries on the breeze. ‘Bobbie’ is a seedling of one of these and has semi-double white flowers; it needs 25ft (7.5 m) to develop in or the support of an old tree or a big, dull conifer.
Jasmine The oldjasmine is Jasminum officinale. It is a vigorous climber with small pinnate leaves and sweetly scented tubular white flowers in summer. Train it a bit in its early years or it will get in a hopeless tangle. The variety affine has slightly larger, pink tinted flowers.
Jasminum stephanen.se is unusual in having pale pink flowers in June and July and some leaves pinnate, while some are undivided.
is the winter flowering one with yellow flowers but no scent. The shoots are green all winter. Needs tying up as it is not self-supporting. Prune after it has flowered. It reaches 10ft (3 m) or so. If grown as a shrub, do not bother to prune.
Honeysuckles A wonderful plant, but beware, there is a wide range of species and some do not have scented flowers.
Lonicera periclymenum ‘Serotina’ Our native woodbine has yellow flowers but Serotina has them flushed reddish purple on the outside. The flowers are borne from June to September, with the characteristic sweet scent in summer evenings (to attract night flying). A very vigorous twiner, so keep it away from young trees or shrubs.
Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ This Japanese is evergreen and rampant. Ideal for a bare wall or fence – if trained, or on a trellis. The small white flowers age to yellow and are not very conspicuous but are scented. ‘Aureoreticulata’ has leaves netted with golden veins and is a good foliage plant but seldom flowers.
Lonicera ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ Non-scented but with striking hanging scarlet flowers in July and into the autumn. Good on a background wall where the scent ivill not be missed.
Forsythia suspensa Not really a climber but a forsythia with long flexible shoots easily trained on a wall where its summer dullness can be covered by frontal planting. The usual striking yellow flowers in spring. Shorten the shoots after flowering.
Clematis macropetala A moderate growing clematis that can reach 12ft (3.5m) if exceptionally well placed. Besides liking its roots in the shade, like all clematis, this one will tolerate some shade where it grows. In spring the plant is covered with many-petalled violet blue bells which are followed by feathery seed heads. Flowers on old wood so docs not need pruning.