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In the depths of winter, Carol Klein cannot wait until the spring when she can wander through the woodland area of her Devon garden to see what gems are emerging.

"I love that feeling of intimacy in my woodland garden," she enthuses.

"I've chosen plants which typify the setting, starting off the year with snowdrops. They look best in crowds. Left to their own devices they will colonise and spread."

Woodland gardens traditionally welcome plants which thrive in shade or at least dappled shade. Snowdrops are followed by a succession of other bulbs, hellebores and pulmonarias, primroses, springtime trilliums and erythroniums (dog tooth violets), woodruff, wood anemones and bluebells in the shady garden.

Epimediums are among Carol's favourite woodland plants. They will thrive even in dry, dense shade.

When planting them among tree roots, add plenty of humus-rich material around the roots but avoid strong manure.

"In March, our native primrose is at home among oak leaves and ferns," she says. "Perfect pale flowers with an egg-yolk centre held on stems the colour of baby birds above rosettes of dark, crinkled leaves - the primula epitomises the coming of spring.

"In its natural habitat it seeds itself, each new plant becoming an established clump, spreading out gradually. Initially in the garden, though, it needs a helping hand. It always looks its best in colonies."

If you have a shady spot with a canopy of trees, rake up the leaves in autumn and make as much leaf mould as you can, she advises, which can be used as a mulch or to enrich other parts of the garden. Use some around trees and groups of larger plants, but keep mulch away from young plant stems, as it can rot them if too much comes into contact.

Research the plants you want to incorporate in your woodland area, as some have different needs to others. Whatever your soil type in your woodland space, the ground will need to be well prepared. Weed areas and dig wellrotted manure or compost into the ground. Once they are planted, water them in well and cover them with a mulch of leaf mould or compost.

Even in small woodland corners, make space for a rustic seat where you can relax and enjoy this dappled shady spot.

Life In A Cottage Garden by Carol Klein and Jonathan Buckley, pictured above, is published by BBC Books on January 6, price pounds 20.


PRETTY Primula vulgaris - great in a woodland garden
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2011
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