Episode 144 - Show Notes & Advice


episode 144 | show notes & advice

episode description

In today’s episode, Sarah teams up with Carien Van Boxtel once again to discuss Carien’s favourite bulbs for naturalising in shady spots. Whether you’re working with an area of woodland, or a shady spot in the very corner of your garden, discover the best bulbs for planting this autumn for super spring colour. 

In this episode, discover

  • Carien’s top bulbs for a naturalised woodland garden
  • Specialist advice and top tips for enabling your bulbs to thrive

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Episode 144 advice sheet

Galanthus nivalis (Common Snowdrop) (2:20)

For those who find the winter a difficult season to get through, snowdrops in the green are a must for all sorts of shady gardens. Plus, snowdrops also thrive in a damp garden, which comes as an added bonus. 

Lords-and-ladies (Arum maculatum) (5:55)

Stripey patterned flowers which are a great backdrop for snowdrops and other woodland plants. Lords-and-ladies are pollinated by flies and not by bees. 

Aconites (6:54)

Carien prefers the Turkish variety to the European variety in a bright, golden yellow. These are immensely prevalent in the woodlands of the Netherlands. 

Erythronium (Dog’s-tooth violet) (8:19) 

With petals the shape of a canine’s teeth, they are often forgotten as they are pretty rare in gardens. Elegant flowers that look almost like a mini lily with acid green flowers. Plant in a group for maximum effect. These can be quite expensive and take a while to settle in.

Leucojum vernum (snowflake) (10:05)

Not to be confused with snowdrops, this small and special plant is particularly early, so ideal for brightening up the dark wintertime. Carien first saw these at the Arboretum Kalmthout in Belgium and has been in love with them ever since! 

Corydalis cava/solida (Bird in a bush) (11:35)

Many cultivars in many different colours, Carien uses this interesting plant in a lot of different mixes. Lovely fresh green leaves and pretty flowers in coral and bright red and purple. These look excellent around early tulips and will return for decades. 

Anemone nemorosa (13:47)

A wonderful shade-loving bulb, these are so self-seeding they are almost considered weeds. They also thrive in not so fertile soil, particularly in sandy woodland. These come in many cultivars in gorgeous yellow and pale blue. 

Scilla siberica (15:10)

This thrives in shade particularly in hedges and it has dark Venetian blue flowers. There’s a cultivar called ‘Spring Beauty’ which is much better for picking thanks to long stems.


Allium ursinum (wild garlic) (16:15)

In the parks in the Netherlands, the gardeners are very careful where they plant wild garlic. Although in the UK, bluebells and wild garlic often live side by side, with the garlic in the lower banks by the water and the bluebells higher up in the sunnier patches. 

British native Bluebells (17:40)

British native bluebells are great for adding colour and beauty to any woodland garden. 

Lily of the Valley (19:47)

Carien’s grandmother’s absolute favourite flower. It’s poisonous, so be careful not to plant it next to the wild garlic. Carpets of this look amazing in the parks in the Netherlands. Truly magical!

Carien’s tips for success (21:10)

As some of the bulbs mentioned above are quite expensive, follow Carien’s tips for success. 

  • Light and shadow – Often when you’re planting, there’s shade as the leaves are still on the trees, but do imagine what it will look like when your plants come to bloom. And don’t plant any of these varieties under evergreen trees, because the soil there won’t be good enough and there’s too much shade. 
  • If you have a woodland garden, paths made of seashells will provide a lot of the chalk properties for woodland plants to thrive. It’s relatively simple to do, so give it a go! The key ingredient is not too much acid, so lime up your soil. 
  • More is more – although bulbs can be expensive, swapping flowerings and plants with a neighbour is a good way to introduce more into your garden. Don’t forget to help nature by dividing plants up and try to buy more of one variety than ten of each.
  • If you have ivy, brambles, or nettles in the garden, try and take most of this away because the bulbs won’t love to grow alongside these more invasive plants. 
  • Don’t let pet dogs into your woodland garden! Your furry friends can often dig bulbs up, so it’s always sensible to preserve your woodland garden.
  • Avoid neat rows – throw two hands full of bulbs and plant them where they land. This is a lovely project to complete with children and gives a more authentic look and feel.