THE DRY SHADY GARDEN

Take a walk through a beech wood at almost any time of year, scuffing through the layers of fallen leaves, and count up the number of plants you can find growing on the woodland floor. It will be meagre. Ivy, brambles, half-starved hollies and various primitive mossy things which seem to have missed out on evolution will be the mam vegetation. The shallow-rooting trees are too greedy and their shade is too dense for many plants to find a living.

But there are always exceptional plants which grow in a difficult habitat, and you may be rewarded on your walk by occasional spurge laurel, ferns, sweet woodruff, wild arum, white helleborine or stinking iris which have made a home in the dry shade. It is the same in the garden. Dry shade is the least promising of all gardening conditions, but a few plants will succeed there, and I have suggested some of the most promising in the following section.

Dry shade is, of course, a variable condition. The dry shade under buildings is usually easier to plant than the dry shade of trees and shrubs. A shady courtyard can be a delightful oasis, and a bed under the north wall of a house will provide a good home for plants if you choose them well. The advantage of this kind of dry shade is that you can improve the soil. If you work in plenty of humus before you plant, and mulch regularly in later years with compost, manure, peat.

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