The tiny bit of sun that makes it into the garden at this time of year sadly doesn’t reach very far. So I find sitting on the terrace near the house that I am in semi-darkness. I am used to this, and have learned over the years to love what the shade can offer. Just after the construction of the wall I decided to turn my attention to the area of dense shade in the corner of the garden outside Nazzy’s bedroom window which borders the terrace.
This part of the garden has languished for years under the shadow of an unnamed evergreen tree and is deprived of sunlight for a full twelve months of the year. During this time the earth turns from spongy bog to arid dust as the weather warms, and the moisture is drained by the thirsty tree.
I removed its long term occupants; a shed and a compost heap, and dug deep into the solid earth, uncovering and extracting enough old rubble to fill twelve sacks. I nourished the soil and laid a path using the reclaimed bricks and some old York Stone. This seemed to give the area an identity, and I felt it deserved the distinction of a title. What was, for the best part of ten years, a forlorn and forgotten patch of darkness, was now formalised as the ‘Shade Garden’.
Generally things have worked well in this tiny space. Some of its new occupants have done particularly well. The purple hazel, Corylus maxima ‘Purpura’ for example has grown huge. However, Its dense canopy of arching branches have deprived the Osmunda of light so completely that the poor ferns did not make it. In addition to this, the lack of sunlight in this corner of the garden has meant that the richness of leaf colour I was expecting from the Corylis has never really been achieved. The dark purple leaves which appear in early spring gradually turn a dull dark green. Vita Sackville-West’s advice on such matters was To take a radical stance. ‘There are plants to be scrapped’ she warned. ‘Scrap what does not satisfy and replace it with something that will’. So I will take Vita’s advice and apply it to the Corylus.