Q – I have a large tree in my garden that I can’t remove but creates a lot of shade and has poor poor dry soil around it so what shrubs can I grow underneath it that will survive?

A – There are certainly shrubs that fill the bill, especially if you can make the effort to water them in dry weather and plant them with a generous helping of peat or compost. One ideal plant is Mahonia aquifolium, a reasonably tall ground-covering plant for really dry shade, it is good  throughout the year with lustrous, purple-tinted foliage in winter and spikes of cheery yellow flowers followed by dark berries with a blue bloom.

Another shrub that is relatively undemanding and isn’t fussy about the type of soil nor conditions is almost anything in the Berberis family. It doesn’t usually need pruning and the yellow flowers and bright berries brighten up any shady spot; many varieties have purple or even variated leaves.

Other shrubs that will tolerate dry shade are Buxus sempervirens (box), Daphne laureola, Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Lonicera pileata, Osmanthus decorus  and Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’. The main thing to remember is that none of these shrubs are going to do as well as if they were planted in deep, moist soil but they will survive and help cheer up an otherwise drab area. In addition it is a great touch to underplant any of these shrubs with groundcover and cyclamen.