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Summer 2002
 
John Cushnie On...
 

Undercover Planting
1 September 2003

Anemone blanda Trying to get plants to grow immediately below mature trees can be a headache. There are three main problems. Firstly the area will be shaded. If the trees are evergreen there will be deep shade in winter. Then you have the problem of dry soil. The tree canopy acts
as an umbrella and tree roots absorb any rain that does make it through to the ground. Finally, the roots themselves are a physical barrier to making planting holes. There are ways of improving the conditions under mature trees..Adding lots of leaf
mould, compost, spent mushroom compost or old, well rotted, farmyard manure in 1-2 inch layers annually will build up a root free zone of moisture retentive soil.

Cyclamen coum Where possible the head of the tree may be raised by removing the lower branches. This allows more light to penetrate to ground level.
At planting time incorporate bone meal at 4 ozs per square yard into the soil as a slow release fertilizer. This will get the plants off to a good start and help replace the nutrients removed by the tree roots over the
years. Avoid planting where they are densely packed. Cutting a few roots won’t damage a mature tree. Once planted, water the whole
area daily for three days to make sure the top 6 inches of soil is damp. Some of the early, spring flowering bulbs are ideal for impoverished, shady sites. They will become dormant before the driest period.

Snowdrops are easily satisfied and providing they are planted in spring while the leaves are still green they will flower in late winter and multiply annually. Cyclamen coum (above left) will self seed producing its marbled foliage and petite, icing sugar, pink flowers in winter and spring.

Winter aconite The flowers of Winter aconite (right) resemble those of the buttercup, flowering a few inches above ground level. Planted with the bright, blue flowering Anemone blanda (top right) they make a colourful display in late winter and early spring. Lily-of-the-valley loves a dry situaton in shade. Flowering in late spring, its pure white, urn shaped flowers are incredibly fragrant .It will quickly spread forming a mat of roots close
to the surface.

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