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Topics: Garden Q&A

QUESTION:  We have just moved to a brand new house and garden in an area which gets extremely cold in winter and has low summer rainfall.We have been advised to plant only really hardy shrubs, Do these all have to be deciduous types or are there evergreens which will survive the conditions?

Joan Small

REPLY:  Fortunately there are numerous, hardy evergreen shrubs which wlll grow under these conditions. The really hardy types include abelia, various kinds of juniper, hopbush, privet, rock rose and rosemary. Cotoneaster and pyracantha with their magnificent displays of berries should also do very well. Many other of the frost-hardy evergreen shrubs could be grown, provided you can give them enough water during the summer.  Don’t overlook the deciduous shrubs which are often at their best in the colder regions, much to the disappointment of gardeners in the warmer, more humid areas. particularly good varieties for your garden include Syrian hibiscus, mock orange, snowball bush and forsythia.

QUESTION:  What perennials can I grow in the shade under large trees?

Brian Jackson

REPLY: There are many perennials that will thrive in shady conditions, but before you plant them under trees you must prepare the soil very well, as they will have to contend with root competition from the trees. One way of overcoming the competition is to raise the bed about 20 cm using stones, bricks, poles or even railway sleepers. This will give your perennials sufficient soil which is free from the trees’ roots. Hardy shade loving perennials for colder areas include the fairly tall-growing Japanese anemones,  with there single or semi-double white, pink, or mauve-pink flowers; the ferny-leafed astilbes; various types of campanula, from the low growing varieties to the taller kind; the unusual hellebores (see our post on hellebores in the Perennial Category of this site); and of course the beautiful, indigenous white arum lily which will be the subject of a post in the near future.

It is important to remember that almost all the perennial plants that prefer deep shade also need plenty of moisture, and should not be allowed to dry out, particularly in summer, their main growing season.

QUESTION:   I like the aloe section. The soil in which my aloes are planted is poor. Should I add some synthetic fertiliser?

Clint Adams

REPLY:   No, like most plants, aloes do not really like artificial fertilisers. If you feel the soil is rally poor you can work some well-decomposed compost into the soil, or just use it as a mulch around the plants. Apart from giving them extra nourishment, the compost will help to ensure that the aloes are well drained if it is incorporated into the soil before planting.