What can you grow in the semi-shade beneath trees, under a hedge or beside a wall?  The very best way to choose plants is to go right back to basics and see what Mother Nature would populate the area with.

Take a walk on the wild side for inspiration

A walk in the woods is a good way to get a feel for what grows in semi-shade.  Woodland wild flowers are well adapted to lower light levels in the summer.  They tend to do most of their blooming in spring time.  That’s the “sweet spot”.  The soil has warmed up, the days are getting longer and the tree canopy has yet to fill out.

wild flower species thriving in varying amounts of shade

Many National Trust properties have woodland walks where wild flowers are actively encouraged.  They are a good place to go for inspiration and you can usually get good coffee and cake there too.  Wildlife reserves are helpful.  My favourite reserve in Norfolk is the little-publicised Ted Ellis Reserve at Wheatfen on the broads.  At the right time of year you can spot the rare Swallowtail butterfly and hear Reed Warblers singing.  You will need to take a flask with you as it is completely uncommercialised and therefore has no tearoom. But I digress.

Shade tolerant plants

Typical woodland plants include primroses (my favourite), red campions, wood sage, wild mignonette, violets and of course our native bluebell.  There are many more, including woodland grasses which are beautiful in their own right.

red campions a native wildflower that enjoys semi shade

Red campions are happiest in semi-shade and can often be found in deciduous woodland between May and July

Using plants as groundcover

In difficult areas of the garden it’s tempting to resort to hard landscaping or heavy mulching.  But that’s a shame when there are so many plants that can be used as groundcover.  If you have the right plant in the right place, maintenance is usually relatively easy.

Shade tolerant turf

If a lawn is what you fancy – somewhere cool and comfortable to sit on a summer day; There are shade tolerant lawn grasses on the market.  Turfonline.co.uk offers “Shadesman” turf or grass seed.  Shadesman costs a little more than standard turf but will be comfortable in semi-shade and therefore less likely to become mossy or weedy over time.

Read more here

Wild flower matting

Wild flower matting is a relatively new concept.  A mixture of wild flowers and grasses are seeded onto a matting system and allowed to germinate and grow.  Once they have reached a certain growth stage and have developed strong root systems and robust plants, they can be despatched to their new homes.  

Wild flower matting on the roll

This is what Meadowmat wild flower matting looks like. 
The rolls are 1 metre wide and 2 metres long and instantly provide dense groundcover.  Choose Meadowmat for Woodland Shade for use under trees or in semi-shade.

The matting is laid just like lawn turf.  And, just like lawn turf, they will provide instant groundcover. Also like lawn turf, the plants are perennial.  Provided they are happy where they are growing, they will regenerate and flower every year.

Harrowden Turf grow a wild flower matting called Meadowmat.  Of the five varieties on offer, Meadowmat for Woodland Shade is, as you can imagine, best suited to semi-shade.

Maintenance of wild flowers in semi shade

Management for Meadowmat for woodland shade is beautifully simple.  Lay the matting at any time of year.  Although, for best results, installing in the autumn will give you the best chance of seeing early spring flowers.

Allow the plants to do their thing unchecked between November and July.  They will reach around 1 metre in height and treat you to a succession of flowers.  If you are lucky, flowering will continue well into the summer, but that all depends upon the depth of the shade.

In mid-late summer, you can give the area a good tidy up by trimming everything down to around 10cm height.  It will look a little strange for a couple of weeks but the plants will soon draw breath and begin growing again.   If they get too rampant, you can do a second cut in the autumn but this is not always needed.

Learn more about using wildflowers as groundcover in semi-shade

About Meadowmat for Woodland Shade – full seed mix and product specification

 

What does wild flower matting cost?

 

How to lay wildflower matting

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