Dicksonia squarrosa
Plant Lists

Tree ferns have proven to be tough as old boots, capable of growing in deep shade to full sun so long as they have enough water. They are not particularly prone to any pests or disease. As the garden is maintained periodically I would recommend the use of drip irrigation to ensure that these plants do not dry out. Liquid soluble fertilisers can be applied as often as you like to improve the size and condition of the canopy. Prices start from £99.00 to as much as you would like to spend, however I would avoid Haskins as their stock appears to be double the prices of anyone else. Mail order prices are competitive but you do not get to see what you have bought until its arrives in the post.

Dicksonia antarctica
Apart from the tree ferns, all of the ground floor plants will need to be shade tolerant. The selection I have chosen specifically have bright, or eye catching foliage to help maintain interest in the lower light levels below the canopy.

Dicksonia antarctica and the slimer Dicksonia squarrosa are the forms to choose from.

Dicksonia squarrosa does not seem to be available anywhere except from Trevena nurseries. You will need to call for current availability. Their website isn't working properly either but it appears that you will need to contract a courier to collect. Availability should return next spring.

Hosta cultivars

Hosta 'Patriot'
The chosen cultivars will be those with specifically bright variegation such as Hosta ‘Patriot’, White Feather and Autumn Frost. Availability is extremely variable and while there are hundreds to choose from only a dozen or so cultivars at best are on display in the garden centres at any one time. Prices vary from £7.99 to £14.99 per plant depending on size and quality of the cultivar. Specific forms may need to be mail ordered from online specialists.

Slug and snail damaged on Hostas will need to be managed.

Brunnera cultivars

Unlike Hostas there are only a few good cultivars suitable such as Brunnera macrophylla 'Alexander's Great', Jack Frost and my favourite Brunnera 'Looking Glass'. They cannot be grown in the sun as they will scorch and almost shine when planted in shady borders.

Availability is generally good while slug and snail damage will need to be managed. Unlike hostas which only produce new foliage in the spring Brunnera will often produce new foliage if the spring growth becomes eaten. 

Priced range from £ 7.99 to £ 12.99

 Japanese painted ferns

These are starting to be seen more and more in the shops but for specific varieties like the gorgeous Athyrium niponicum 'Ursula's Red' they will probably need to be obtained online. However I have seen them for sale periodically at Haskins, prices are between
£ 6.99 to £ 14.99.

These are very easy to grow if not a little slow but they have proven in my garden at least to be extremely resilient so long as they ground is kept moist.

Regular Ferns

For the traditional green ferns I am looking at the hardy, mostly evergreen ferns with a good range of architectural foliage.  Asplenium - Harts Tongue Ferns are particularly unusual, Dryopteris forms are nicely compact and Polystichum have great sword like foliage. They are mostly left unharmed by slugs and snail although Asplenium are known to be damaged if unprotected.

Ferns have been popular in this country since the Victorian period and so long as the soil is kept moist, especially during the first summer of planting they should be trouble free. To improve the looks remove old growth in the spring.



Heuchera cultivars
If any of the proposed selections offend your eye then don’t worry as there are two further shade tolerant foliage plants that can be substituted – cultivars from the genus Heuchera and Pulmonaria.

Heucheras come in some fantastic colour morphs but were not considered in the initial design as they can be temperamental in their vigour. However if they are ‘happy’ where they are planted then they will perform as excellent specimens. Prices range from £5.99 to £9.99 per plant depending on colour form and size.


Some of the lungworts also have some decent foliage and also attractive pink and blue flowers in the spring. Some forms such as Pulmonaria ‘Moonshine’ and 'Apple Frost' have excellent foliage but they were not in the original design as the foliage on Brunneria is better although the blooms on Pulmonaria are more attractive. The foliage can also 'tire' as the season progresses, but this is not a big problem as they will die back in the winter to provide fresh growth in the spring. Prices from £ 6.99 - £ 9.99.

Flower colour

Hosta blooms
Plants with excellent flower colour that thrive in shade are relatively limited however I have listed a suitable section which can be planted at the edges of the bed. All will be spring flowering.

These are not showing in the initial planting design as they are too small to show effectively. 

Note that Hostas also are in the initial design and will produce attractive bell shaped blooms which appear in July


Snowdrops are early spring flowering and can be purchased as bulbs in the autumn or as pot grown plants in the spring.  Prices are approximately £ 1.99 for a bag of bulbs or 1.49-1.99 for a pot.

The bulbs should be planted as soon as they are available in the shops as they tend to dry out, affecting the quality when they sprout out in early spring. Although more expensive snow drops are best purchased as pot grown in the spring

Anemone blanda – the wind flower

Like the snowdrops, Anemone blanda is spring flowering and can be purchased as bulbs in the autumn or as pot grown plants in the spring.

Once established, Anemone blanda can be lifted and planted elsewhere in the bed or larger garden

Prices are approximately £ 1.99 for a bag of bulbs or 1.49-1.99 for a pot.


Hellebores cultivars now have some fantastic blooms although the foliage will become dull and tired for the rest of the year once the blooms have finished. The blooms are long lasting and to improve their show the previous season's foliage can be removed.

However there are a few forms with some foliage colour such as Helleborus x 'Penny's Pink' Prices £ 7.99 to £12. 99

The more commonly found Hellebore white Christmas rose may be preferable as the flowers will stand out far more in the shade. Prices start from £ 4.99 - £ 7.99

Cyclamen Laser

Available from the end of November, Cyclamen laser are surprisingly hardy however they are forced into bloom in the nurseries over the winter.

These will usually flower in Feb-March and so when purchased they will need to be hardened off of 10-14 days or so before they can be planted outside.

Usually £ 1.99 for a small pot.

Slug and Snail control

The most effective method of snail control is the blue metaldehyde pellets, however these are still not 100% effect. Therefore I would recommend using two or more methods of control such as beer traps, environmentally sensitive pellets and sacrificial plants such as lettuce. When using sacrificial plants the slugs and snails can then be collected and disposed of in a fashion that suits.

The following article may be of further interest:


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