A Dark and Shady Corner

Dear Readers, I’m sure many ‘proper’ gardeners would throw up their hands in horror at the sight of the side return to my house but I must admit that I rather like it. My garden is north-facing, but this little narrow sliver between my house and my neighbours seems to have become a ‘weed sanctuary’, a home for all the commonest ‘weeds’ of East Finchley, and, in my view, nothing that I could plant would ever thrive as well.

So, what do we have? First up is Greater Celandine, a member of the poppy family, and a more cheerful plant you couldn’t wish for, even though it is poisonous. It was believed to be a cure for warts, and as my maternal grandmother was a great curer of carbuncles and skin complaints of all kinds, it will always have a place in my garden.

Then there’s Yellow Corydalis, a member of the fumitory family. I love the flowers but I have a particular fondness for those wispy, delicate leaves. This is another common North London weed, most often seen growing out of tiny crevices in a wall.

And then there’s our old friend Herb Robert, the first plant that I ever did a Wednesday Weed about back in 2014. It’s a cranesbill (or species geranium), its leaves smell of burning rubber, and the leaves and stem turn to bright red – it made the railway lines at East Finchley station look very fine a few years ago. I just love it.

And peeping out below the Herb Robert in the first photo is some Green Alkanet, although this is happier in the sunnier conditions in the front garden.

And then there are a few plants that have ‘blown in’ – these tend to be at the sunnier, garden end of the side return. I love these forget-me-nots, planted about three metres away but now making themselves at home here. The original plants were from my dear friend J, and so I always think of her when I see them.

And finally, how about these? This is Tellima, otherwise known as fringecups – I originally planted some right at the other end of the garden, where they did rather badly (I think it was too dry under the whitebeam). And now they’re back, and a happy bumblebee was feeding from the rather inconspicuous but nectar-heavy flowers.

At one point I was planning on getting some containers to plant up along the side of the house, but for now I think I’m going to let it be. It can be a bit tricky to walk along in the height of summer, but how pretty it looks with all its pink and yellow and blue. And last year an enormous white foxglove pinged up next to the hosepipe, so it’s always full of surprises. So, while the garden may not win any Gardens Illustrated awards, it makes me (and the creatures that I share the garden with) happy, and that’s good enough for me.

11 thoughts on “A Dark and Shady Corner

  1. Ann

    Fringecups sound interesting. How would I get one or two started? Discreetly, I guess, as they might not appeal to the other gardener here. Hope they aren’t thugs, like green alkane.

  2. Andrea Stephenson

    My yard has a shady part where i keep tring to grow things but the most successful has been the bracken that seeded itself in one of the pots and is quite a nice specimen!

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Sometimes we just have to go with the flow, I think, rather than trying over and over again (as I have) with plants that should be happy in a dark corner, but simply aren’t. Bracken can be magnificent, I’m sure it’s enjoying its prime position!

  3. Jay

    After struggling with my north-facing, shady garden for some years, I began to take an interest in insects and gradually changed it over to a wildlife garden, heavily geared towards invertebrates. I learned the hard way that it’s no good planting wildflowers where you want them, they need instead to be the right variety in the right situation, and they will move themselves if necessary! And so, I let them grow where they wanted and rearranged my garden to suit. I now have a beautiful ‘woodland edge’ style garden, with new species turning up every year. I love your side return, and would have done exactly the same! We have Greater Celandine here, too. It just … arrived!

  4. Kathleen

    Hello Bug Woman. I have only recently found your blog and love reading it. When I saw this post I had to comment. Your little path is just the sort of area I like and I love all your plants. I have a north facing, rather shady garden too and found the best way to ‘manage’ it was to do the minimum clearing up and leave it to do its own thing. We now have a lovely wildlife garden. Gromwell and meadow saxifrage ‘just turned up’ this spring.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      Hello Kathleen, thank you for your lovely comments – I would love to see gromwell and meadow saxifrage, and I love how they’ve just ‘turned up’. Gardeners sometimes spend so much time planting stuff that should be happy, and isn’t, or nurturing plants that will never really be happy in the prevailing conditions. And isn’t it fun to see what turns up? There are so many pleasant surprises…


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