I have moved into a lower-ground-floor flat that is shaded by trees. The garden is uneven, sloping and covered with brambles. What should I plant?
Grass will not do well in such conditions. You may get a semblance of a lawn, but it will always be mossy. Many woodland plants work well under shade if you dig in extra matter, as trees tend to rob the soil around them of nutrients and water.

Bugles such as Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’ or ‘Multicolor’ and intermediate periwinkle (Vinca difformis) make easygoing ground cover. Bergenias are invincible, with fleshy, evergreen leaves, but can harbour slugs. Ivy-leaved cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) makes a lovely carpet of autumn colour. A few Geranium macrorrhizum would also work as a loose ground cover to keep weeds at bay; G. nodosum will do the same. Skimmia, sarcococca and ruscus can all take competition from tree roots. Deschampsia cespitosa is a woodland grass that looks lovely. Add a few foxgloves (a good perennial is Digitalis obscura), as many bulbs such as snowdrops and grape hyacinth as you want, and the odd hellebore, and you’ll have a lovely garden to play with. Email askalys@theguardian.com

Rachel De Thame

Gardener at BBC Gardeners World
Rachel de Thame is a UK gardening expert and TV presenter, born in Camden in London, England, popular on the BBC Gardeners World program.