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With a bit of planning, even small, shaded suburban plots can be transformed into an enticing woodland garden. Watch wildlife inhabit the area, benefiting from the sheltered habitat. The best part is that once established, a woodland garden is relatively low maintenance - less weeding is always a bonus.
A woodland garden is all about layers. Start by planting a few small trees close together. Rhododendrons, maples, camellias, magnolias and prunus all make good canopy trees that provide shelter and shade.
Use shade-tolerant shrubs to create a layer beneath the canopy, adding diversity and year-round interest in the garden. These can be a mix of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, such as Skimmia japonica, Hydrangea macrophylla and Viburnum plicatum.
Herbaceous perennials and springtime bulbs form a layer beneath the shrubs, adding pops of colour and attracting pollinating insects. Anemone, Helleborus, Hosta, Scilla, Galanthus and Erythronium are all good options.
Finally, fill empty spaces and suppress weeds with shade tolerant ground covers, such as Iris cristata and lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). Try to select non-aggressive species to keep gardening lower maintenance and use mulch to retain moisture and add nutrients. Otherwise, occasional pruning of shrubs and trees may be required, but overall you can relax and enjoy your new sanctuary.
Garden Life is produced by Dunedin Botanic Garden. For further information contact Kyla Mathewson.