Planting under trees Conditions under a tree are especially challenging. When in leaf, the crown acts as a huge umbrella, shedding water to the outside and leaving the central area dry. The roots reduce the depth of soil for planting and compete for the limited supply of nutrients and water. Dense leaf fall in autumn can smother and rot underplanting. In spite of all this, a surprising number of species can succeed under trees, including cyclamens, bergenias, lungworts, periwinkles, lady’s mantle, ivies, foxgloves and the gladwin iris (Iris foetidisshna), with its orange autumn berries.


A patio is as much a part of the garden as the plants, and it can enhance a gardens appearance and charm, as well as increase its use as an extension of the house.

T oday, almost everyone who has a garden wants a patio, to enjoy outdoor life during the warmer months with all the comfort of indoor living.

If you are going to add a patio, think carefully about where to put it – a patio will he a permanent feature and quite costly to build. Most patios are sited next to the house, for shelter, privacy and easy access, and to benefit from warmth reflected from the building. Patios next to the house are often combined with French or sliding glass doors, and so become potential focal points for the adjacent room. If young children use the patio as a play area, supervision is easy, and it is quite simple to install outdoor electric lighting.

With an L-shaped house, it’s tra-ditional to fill in the space between the two legs with a patio. And in a small town garden, the central area is often paved, leaving a border round the edge for planting.

However, if the area next to the house is predominantly shady, you may consider siting the patio in the sunniest corner of the garden, with a good path linking it to the house. You could even consider having two patios – one by the house, the other to catch the sun.

At the end of the garden

A second patio at the end of a plot gives a view back over the garden towards the house, and a sunny seating area if the patio next to the house is in shade. This gives a choice of aspect, for breakfast or an evening drink in the sun, or a quiet retreat, screened by tall border plants, at the garden’s end.

Near the house

A patio within easy reach of the house is ideal for impromptu meals outdoors – low planting between patio and garden gives a subtle sense of enclosure. For flexible use of the space, fold-away furniture can be quickly stowed.

A wall can be used to advantage as the backdrop for a patio; it provides shelter and privacy, and can support climbers. Tucking a seating area into a widened path leaves an uninterrupted sweep of garden.

A tranquil corner

However open your garden, you can create a secluded patio by choosing a quiet spot, perhaps a corner, and backing it with tall, dense planting. Climbers such as roses or honeysuckle add a lovely fragrance.

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