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What to put under established holly tree? Turf?

(8 Posts)
Hardtoknow Sat 08-Aug-15 21:39:50

We have a holly tree in one of our borders. It is a decent size (about 4ft at wide & 9ft tall). The canopy is about 3.5ft up. Under it is earth. I have tried planting under it with limited success (bulbs, lily of the valley, ferns...the only thing to have slightly flourished are the hellebores). I spent about two hours this afternoon, as I have to every month or so, raking up all the dead leaves, putting them in the bin & weeding under it. For now, it looks quite nice but, within days, will look messy again. I don't know what to do with it. If I put bark down, it would be impossible to rake up the leaves. Likewise gravel (which would also look out of place). Would turf take if it put it down? That way I could just mow the leaves along with the grass. Any other ideas?

Ferguson Sat 08-Aug-15 23:24:16

I don't think grass would do very well under the shade of a tree, and why do so many leaves come off if it's holly?

Pulmonaria might be OK if hellebores have managed it; maybe search for the more shade tolerant ones. And hardy cyclamen would be all right - we have thousands of those, but they only flower for a few weeks, then are decorative leaves for months, then dormant for months.

Hardy geraniums (cranes bill) might do, some kinds spread for ground cover, and some like shade; again, you need to research the varieties.

StaceyAndTracey Sun 09-Aug-15 07:29:24

I'd put down bark and ignore the leaves . As ferguson says, there should only be a few in May . I can't imagine how it could take 2 hours every month to rank up the leaves . I have Hollies that are 4m high and I've never raked up a leaf in my life ! I hardly ever have to weed under there either, as its not very hospitable .

I think that Pulmonaria might be ok, you could try brunnera too . It really depends how dense the shade is and how dry the soil . I'd put lots of garden compost / manure down first . Problem is you can't really dig it in or you will damage the roots

If it's at the back of the border , why don't you just plant something in front of it to hide the bare soil? Not too close, so it's not competing for food, water and light .

StaceyAndTracey Sun 09-Aug-15 07:31:24

Symphytum will grow anywhere - I have it as ground cover under some ugly conifers ( which I can't remove as they stop the entire garden blowing away)

Hardtoknow Sun 09-Aug-15 13:00:18

I did end up shouting at my Holly tree yesterday "you are supposed to be evergreen". I am surprised at how many leaves it drops whilst not appearing to be diseased or anything as I don't remember the ones at my parents' house doing that. There were enough yesterday to fill 2ft of our wheelie bin. It probably wouldn't have taken so long if I had been by myself rather than having frequent interruptions to referee the DC etc.
Thanks for the suggestions

DoreenLethal Sun 09-Aug-15 13:09:34

Leaves are there to rot down and provide food for the fungi that live underground - just leave them be and pop some bark over the soil; more hellebores if they are doing well under there.

Make life easy for yourself...just pull any weeds and chop them onto the leaves/bark and let them die back and provide more mulch.

The weeds are germinating because you are taking the leaves away. Leave them there and it prevent light from getting to the weed seeds = less weeds.

meglet Sun 09-Aug-15 13:21:11

Holly leaves across the garden are the bane of my life angry . I'm a barefoot person so am constantly pottering and getting my foot jabbed.

The tree has sentimental value, was a cutting from my late grandad, so it stays. I probably need to do some serious pruning.

shovetheholly Sun 09-Aug-15 17:41:16

No, not turf- it'll just go brown and orrible. Something that grows in dry shade in my garden is woodruff. It's a lovely little vivid green delicate plant with white flowers in late spring. Its delicacy belies a truly tough nature, though - it will spread a lot, so it'll need keeping in check.

As PPs have suggested, symphytum is lovely too, as are shade-loving geraniums. Lamium might tough it out under there also.

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