Can you plant shrubs and flowers under trees?

Can you plant shrubs and flowers under trees?

Yes, you can plant shrubs and flowers under trees, but there are a few caveats and considerations to make. First of all, planting under trees is probably the hardest place to grow plants in your garden. Not only do trees leave no root space, but their leaves reduce light and they are thirsty, leaving little water for other organisms. They also tend to change the soil pH, taking away essential nutrients for other plants. All of these aspects make it difficult to grow plants under them and many, quite simply, won’t make it.

What can you do to make plants survive under trees?

Consider the following…

What type of trees are you planting under?
Large evergreen conifer trees offer the worst conditions to plant under! You will find they will have large shaded areas around them and the soil will be powder dry 12 months of the year. Your plants will need to be drought tolerant. Deciduous small trees with open canopies, such as Rowans (Sorbus) or most fruit trees, will be a smaller obstacle to overcome in all ways.

The age of the tree(s)
More established trees will also change what options you have available to you. Newly planted trees can be underplanted with shrubs that will establish without issue. By the time a tree gets greedy with resources your shrubs will have their roots down deep enough to get what they need.

The aspect of the area
Don’t overlook which side of the tree you’re looking to underplant. Only planting areas to the north side of a tree will be in full shade. The south side of a tree will be in full sun and so that completely changes the list of plants you can use. The west/east sides of a tree will be in part shade, with the areas only being shaded by the canopy of a tree for part of the day.

Money and time available
To successfully plant under large established trees, you will need quite a bit of free time and money. The larger the area, the greater the resources you’ll need to put into making the project a success. Often it can be cheaper to remove the tree altogether and instead install screening and/ or replace the trees with young less greedy species.

Other low cost and low maintenance options to consider: Make a barked seating area underneath your tree or even create a wildlife sanctuary where you can let nature take over by not removing weeds.

The Soil
Most planting areas under established trees will be acidic due to rotting leaf-fall. Soil under conifer trees may be dangerously acidic and severely limit plants you can grow. It’s always a good idea to do a soil test and even lime the soil if needed to bring the pH up to 6-7.
A clay soil is usually the wettest; under a tree it can become compacted and solid, not letting water through the top crust however this also means nutrients will be held onto better. Sandy soils will be easier to water but you will struggle to get nutrients to your plants. Beech and yew trees famously add toxins into the soil to discourage other plants. If these are the established trees you’re planting under, you will struggle.

Wind & Pests
With all new planting it’s important to consider damage from rabbits, hares, cats and wind. If these are not a problem where you live then you don’t need to worry. If in doubt either choose wind/ animal resistant plants or protect your new planting area with fencing.

Top Tips

For more top tips for growing plants around trees see our last blog: Top tips for growing plants around trees.

Choosing the right plants
Choosing the right plants will play a massive role in their survival. Each plant must be suitable for the situation around it.

To help with plant selection under trees, we’ve put together a list of plants that can be used in different situations:

Drought tolerant plants for part-full shade (for under evergreen trees):
- Viburnum tinus
- Viburnum x bodnantense
- Euonymus japonicus
- Sedum spectabile
- Pulmonaria officinalis
- Begenia cordifolia
- Eranthis hyemalis
- Narcissus (any)
- Cotoneaster (any)
- Berberis darwinii
- Choisya ternata
- Mohonia x media (don’t use in high winds)
- Populus deltoides ‘purple tower’
- Lamium maculatum
- Alchemilla mollis
- Galanthus (any)
- Hedera (any)
- Ilex (any)
- Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae
- Dryopteris wallichiana
- Matteuccia struthiopteris
- Cornus alba
- Cornus kousa
- Cornus mas
- Parrotia persica
- Acer pseudoplatanus ‘Atropurpureum’
- Sorbus hupehensis
- Buddleia (any)


Dry shade / part shade plants (for raised beds or under small deciduous trees):
- Everything in the list above
- Hosta (any)
- Rhododendron (any)
- Hakonechloa macra
- Anemone japonica
- Anemone blanda
- Astilbe (any)
- Leucanthemum (any)
- Thalictrum (any)
- Astrantia (any)
- Origanum (any)
- Acer Palmatum
- Acer campestre
- Carpinus betulus
- Liriope muscari
- Brunnera macrophylla
- Most ferns
- Symphyotrichum cordifolium
- Skimmia japonica
- Viburnum davidii
- Meconopsis (any)
- Berberis (any)
- Ophiopogon japonicus
- Acuba japonica (don’t use in high winds)
- Fatsia japonica (don’t use in high winds)
- Persicaria bistorta
- Phormium tenax (plain green variety)
- Filipendula (any)


Drought tolerant plants for full sun
(on the south side of a tree):

- Populus purple tower
- Santolina chamaecyparissus
- Kniphofia uvaria
- Stachys byzantina
- Nepeta (any)
- Jasminum nudiflorum
- Cupressus macrocarpa
- Sedum spectabile
- Cupressus sempervirens
- Perovskia atriplicifolia
- Rosmarinus officinalis
- Euphorbia characias
- Origanum vulgare
- Stipa tenuissima
- Helichrysum italicum
- Lavandula (any)
- Thuja orientalis
- Cupressocyparis leylandii
- Artemisia (any)
- Cytisus
- Euonymus (any)
- Phormium tenax
- Salvia (any)
- Phlomis (any)
- Ceanothus (any)
- Senecio viravira
- Thymus (any)
- Achillea filipendulina
- Cistus (any)
- Salvia officinalis
- Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine'
- Caryopteris x clandonensis
- Iberis sempervirens
- Rosmarinus officinalis
- Festuca glauca
- Elymus magellanicus
- Buddleia (any)
- Acer Rubrum
- Quercus ilex

For more information on planting design and garden design, contact Papillon directly. We have our in-house plant experts who can advise.

New town garden offers low maintenance with a contemporary look

New town garden offers low maintenance with a contemporary look

Papillon has recently completed a town garden design & construction project in Garthdee, Aberdeen.

The design was built to fit with the lifestyle of the owner, giving them a garden to relax in, without the burden of a high maintenance space.  The steeply sloped garden was transformed into a relaxing open space to include planting beds, retaining walls, stone paving and a patio.


Garden design for Garthdee project
Decking area in Garthdee project - Papillon Garden Designs
Stone globes in town garden- Papillon Designs & Landscaping

To add to the contemporary style, a stone globe water feature was positioned as a focal point next to the main patio.  To complete the look, black decorative screens were added to create interest and screen the main patio area. On sunny days, the sun can be enjoyed on the composite Millboard decking that has deliberately been positioned to maximise sunlight.


Garden features:

  • Retaining walls with contemporary bricks
  • Natural sandstone paving area & steps
  • Composite Millboard Decking area
  • Composite Decorative screens
  • Stone water feature with light built-in
  • Planting to soften the hard landscaping

Before pictures...

Before pic - Garthdee garden project, Aberdeen
Before Garthdee, Aberdeen

For more information on garden design and landscaping, please contact Papillon directly.

5 Great ideas for outdoor garden rooms

5 Great ideas for outdoor garden rooms

The addition of an outdoor living space within a garden can bring many benefits for home owners. Probably the most obvious benefit is that they provide a welcome shelter from the elements. Whether seeking shade on sunny days or shelter come rain, sleet or snow, they offer a place within your garden that you can enjoy in comfort all year round.

However, they offer much more than simply a place to retreat to in bad weather. Indeed, outdoor rooms will often become a focal point within a garden; a popular place to entertain and dine with friends and family, or to escape to for peace and tranquillity. For younger family members they can be fantastic playrooms and great for parties.

For keen gardeners, the addition of a glasshouse or an orangery, will provide them with their very own indoor botanical garden, creating opportunities to grow and protect all sorts of flowers, plants and vegetables; the perfect place in which to pursue their horticultural passion.

It’s also worth noting that an outdoor living space will very likely increase the attraction and value of your property, so it can therefore be a good investment too.

In short, there are numerous benefits to adding an outdoor living space to your garden. If you are keen to do so, then what are your options and what should you consider before deciding what to go for?

Here are our garden room ideas…

1. The Biossun Pergola

The innovative and elegant Biossun Pergola offers a contemporary outdoor living space with unrivalled flexibility. Whether it is weather to be enjoyed or to take shelter from the wind or rain, the Biossun can be adjusted for your comfort. The structure, which comes in all colours, can be situated within your garden or can be attached to your house. Made from strong and weatherproof aluminium, they are a fantastic addition to any home or garden.

Featured here, is a Biossun that Papillon installed in Bishopton recently.  It adds character to the property, as well as additional outdoor living space. The electronic blind feature gives the owners the flexibility of closing off the west-facing section to create privacy or opening it up for more air on warmer days.

Although the Biossun comes in many colours, the black chosen here works really well with the style of building and natural stonework.

ossun installed at Bishopton by Papillon Garden Designs & Landscaping
Papillon blog - example of orangery by Vale Garden Houses

2. Orangeries

From the Biossun’s innovative design and technology, we move onto an outdoor room with a long heritage and an enduring appeal, the Orangery. Indeed, the origins of Orangeries can be traced back to 15th century Renaissance Italy, when the concept of bringing the garden into the home became popular. Orangeries, as the name suggests, were primarily used for the growing of citrus trees, although are now widely used for plants of many varieties. Modern day Orangeries retain many of the Roman features and will add a classical elegance to any garden or house.

The Orangery shown to the right is a bespoke design by Vale Garden Houses.  Adjoined to the property, it creates additional space for the home and a sitting area for the garden, which is accessible through French doors.

3. Victorian Glasshouses

Victorian Glasshouses make a lovely addition to any garden. Of course, for gardening enthusiasts, as with Orangeries, their primary role will be for growing and protecting plants, flowers, vegetables and fruits. A British design icon, the classic features have changed little since the Victorian era, however, modern glasshouse are made using superior materials and methods, making them sturdy and weatherproof.

Pictured (right) is a Victorian Glasshouse that Papillon built earlier this year in Hatton of Fintray, Aberdeenshire.  The glasshouse was part of a complete garden design and construction project that included both hard and soft landscaping. Adding further character to the garden, this beautiful Victorian glasshouse was built in blending colours.  As well as adding visual appeal, it provides an area to grow further plants and vegetables and offers its owners a relaxing sitting area to enjoy the garden in all seasons.  Working with suppliers, Hartley Botanic, Papillon built the brick base in advance of the glass panel installation.

Summer house in Ballater built by Papillon Designs & Landscaping

4. Summer Houses

As with gazebos, summer houses come in many forms and styles, from rustic wooden huts to sophisticated living spaces, fitted with all the mod-cons. As such, they can be used in many ways. Whether you’re looking to add an outdoor room to your garden for work, rest or play, then a summer house could be the best solution.


The summerhouse pictured, was built by Papillon in 2017 in Ballater, Aberdeenshire.  It provides a sanctuary for the owners to enjoy all year round.  Used as additional living space and an art studio, it is tastefully decorated and fully fitted with lighting and heating for extra comfort.

5. Gazebos

Gazebos come in various guises, but are generally stand-alone temporary structures, situated within a garden, that provide shelter from the elements. Traditionally, they were positioned within gardens in spots that offered a panoramic view, with the name gazebo derived from the Latin to gaze.

Pictured here is an example of a temporary gazebo, used as a patio cover to provide shade on those lovely hot days.

Papillon Designs & Landscaping - Example of a Gazebo

We hope that the options we’ve looked at here give you some food for thought if you’re considering adding an outdoor living space to you garden. As you can see, there are many different options available. The important thing is to consider carefully which option is most suitable for your needs and your garden space. Get it right and you’ll have an outdoor living space that you and your friends and family will enjoy for years to come.

For more information on garden rooms, please contact Papillon directly.

How to prevent frost damage in your garden this autumn

How to prevent frost damage in the garden

How to prevent frost damage in your garden…

‘Jack Frost’ is on his way and so those luscious greens and precious plants are under threat in our gardens. With the first early frosts expected in October, now is the time to work in our gardens to prevent frost damage and make the most of autumn.

Papillon Plant Specialist, Aarron Long, has put together some tips to help you care for your garden this autumn…

1. Lift and store non-hardy plants

Make sure all non-hardy plants, such as Dahlias are lifted and stored over winter in a dark, dry, frost free cold environment like a garage or a shed.


2. Protect Olives and Vines

Plants such as olives and vines need frosts to set the fruit for next year but will die at temperatures lower than -5 degrees centigrade. These plants can be left outside but need light protection such as horticultural fleece. Bringing them into an unheated greenhouse is ideal.


3. Plant bulbs, shrubs and trees now for spring/summer

Bulb planting is best done in autumn for spring and summer displays.

The bare root season is about to start, so shrub and tree planting will be more cost effective and will yield better results when done at this time of year.


4. Harvest fruit and veg before the first frost.

Harvest all your fruit and veg before the first frost.


5. Feed the roots, not the plant.

At this time of year, the foliage on plants stops growing, but the roots carry on. So, be sure to feed new planting with ‘root food’. Bonemeal is the best feed for autumn. Try to avoid feeding plants with multipurpose plant food, as you’ll encourage new leaf growth that’s susceptible to winter frosts.


6. Use mulch for protection

Mulching in autumn is a great way to protect new planting from surface root damage from winter frosts. Bark chips, leaves, compost, hay or even manure are the best mulches you can use.


7. Mow your lawn

Change the settings to a notch higher than summer months to help protect your lawn from frosts. Keep mowing once per month until November. You can even do a ‘tidy up’ mow in winter if there’s no lying snow.


8. Plant out winter bedding in beds, baskets and pots

Primulas, Early Wallflowers, Cyclamen, Bellis and even Ivy are great winter bedding plants. You can also use plants with winter berries such as Gaultheria or winter stems such as Dogwoods.


9. Dig over new beds

Dig over new beds, adding lots of compost. Follow in the tracks of farmers and turn over your new growing areas in autumn. You don’t get as many new weeds till the spring and the frosts will further break up your soil nicely for winter, creating a fine tilth.


10. Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs

Take hardwood cuttings of shrubs and let them root in a warm place over winter. Make sure you use this year’s growth for cuttings as that is the most viable material.


Lastly, it’s not only your plants and flowers that you need to consider as temperatures drop. Many people wait until Spring to varnish and paint outdoor wood, but the damage may already have been done. If you have time now, varnish/paint your outdoor wood to protect it from the harsher weather. Remember also to clear all leaves off your paths before they rot and stain.

Following these tips will help prevent frost damage and make life easier for the green-fingered come Spring.


Watching your garden change over the seasons is worth appreciating. Every day brings a different twist and the autumn colours are beautiful to watch. Enjoy the last of this seasons’ flowers and the turning of leaves before the frost takes them away for another year…. make the most of it!


Watching your garden change over the seasons is worth appreciating. Every day brings a different twist and the autumn colours are beautiful to watch. Enjoy the last of this seasons’ flowers and the turning of leaves before the frost takes them away for another year…. make the most of it!

Autumn colours

Papillon’s Biossun to showcase at Ideal Home Show 2018

Ideal Home Show 2018
Ideal Home Show 2018

Papillon's Biossun to showcase at this year's Ideal Home Show

This week, Papillon will be showcasing the Biossun at Glasgow's Ideal Home Show, which is being held at the SEC from 31st May - 3rd June.

Pop along to our stand at G220 and meet Papillon Director, Angelique Robb.  Angelique will be hosting a Garden Design Drop-in each day of the event to talk design, share experience and offer tips & advice.


Anyone for Pimm's?

Enjoy a glass of Pimm's (if you're over 18!), whilst checking out our Biossun and browsing our portfolio for garden design ideas.


Star of the show:  The Biossun

The Biossun is an innovative and stylish patio cover with adjustable louvres, a rain and wind detector,  Electronic Zipsun blinds, led strip lighting and more.  Everything needed to enjoy outdoor living for longer.  The 100% eco-design is manufactured in France and exclusive to Papillon in Scotland.  It will be exhibited in its full glory at the Papillon stand - not to be missed!

Ideal home show Biossun
Ideal Home Show Biossun pergola
Ideal Home Show - Patio cover from Papillon
Ideal home show - Patio cover Scotland


For tickets to this year's Ideal Home Show, click here

We'll look forward to seeing you there!

Papillon Launches Garden Parties

Garden parties by Papillon

Papillon to launch Garden Parties at Aberdeen Garden & Outdoors

Papillon is to launch a range of Garden Parties for all at Aberdeen Gardens & Outdoors, which is taking place on 7th April 2018 at Crathes Castle, near Banchory.  As well as launching our Garden Party tutorials, we will be carrying out two live demonstrations at the inaugural event on Hanging Baskets and Maintaining Your Garden - Chemical-free.  We'll have a stall there too and will be selling kits for hanging baskets as well as succulent (plant) chocolate boxes!


Garden Parties

Our Garden Parties will offer a range of different garden-themed topics for groups of 5 or more or as private tutorials. Plant Expert, Aarron Long of Papillon, is heading up the project, which will include the following tutorials:

  • Organic Veg Growing
  • Creating Displays and Containers
  • Plant Nursery Basics
  • Beds and Border Design Basics
  • Winter Interest Planting
  • Specimen Planting

The parties are aimed at those with an interest in gardening, who are keen to learn more. 

For more information, please contact us directly. 

Spring preparations to take your garden into Summer

Spring garden blog

What to do in your garden this Spring to prepare for Summer

Papillon Garden Designer, Zuzana Habsudova, talks through Spring tasks that you can start now to prepare your garden for the summer ahead...she talks plants, pots, colours, paint and wildlife in our latest blog:

When the bright whites, blues and yellows start poking through the 50 shades of grey in our gardens, one can feel the heart jump. This cheery moment in spring kicks our brain and we start dreaming of our outdoor spaces transformed into picture perfect.

This is the exciting time for reshuffling the planting borders and refreshing colours on our fences, sheds and furniture. But this is also the time of dreaded chores, as weeds start pushing through, and patios await cleaning and sheds clearing.

If we have no budget for ripping the garden out and starting afresh, we have to make it work within the resources we have. And if Carol Klein or Alan Titchmarch are not our relatives, we just have to stick to our talent and handiness.

Think colour

So, it is the bright hues that seem to uplift our mood, right? Well, let’s start with adding colours to our gardens then. There should be no worries of getting it wrong; it can always be repainted next year.

Think of how interior designers work with choosing a colour for wall and floor and then they match chairs and tables to it. How they use cushions and indoor pots to highlight or contrast with the walls. In the garden we have fences and sheds, offset with planting and furniture.

Blue chair

Use colourful plants in your gloomiest corners

Any enthusiastic gardener is eager to get into the soil right after winter, because they know a good preparation is the key before any planting can take place. But what if you lack just that tiny bit of excitement to start with weeding, digging, feeding and scrubbing?

Let’s rethink the traditional spring clean. Don’t kill that keenness the spring bulbs sparkled in you. Go to a garden centre and pick a few flowers that smile at you. Plant them in your gloomiest corners, or pots. Start enjoying them, as you do, weed around.

Then weed a bit further. Clean that dead foliage left them from winter and prune that overgrown shrub in the way. Split that over-sized perennial and plant its offspring in a pot. If desired, enlarge the borders. Buy that Scottish-proof plant you’ve just admired in the magazine and mix fruit shrubs into ornamental borders. Scatter annual seeds to fill any gaps before plants start touching each other.

Colourful flowers

Paint colour

Now repair that broken fence and give it a new coat. The darker it is, the grander the plants in front of it will appear. And don’t just go for dark brown or grey. Try aubergine, olive, or navy blue. Paint trellises, frames and stick them amongst planting. Fix mirrors on the walls to ricochet the effect.

Then sit down and ponder over the colours of your furniture, while someone comes to clean your paving.

If you like the neutral, rustic looking furniture, add colour with outdoor cushions and carpets that can be left out all summer long. Flowerpots can help to bolt the carpets down, adding waterfalls of spilling greenery.

Purple chair

Combine Colour

With bold colours on your boundaries, shed and furniture, any green tones of planting will work their miracles. Just think of painting your trellis purple and planting lime-green climber (hops) on it. Or behind that forestry of green that you have, paint your wall burgundy colour. Then add reddish-purple blooms to the first image and orange-red spikes to the second.


As soil gets warmer, keep adding colour with annual herbs, fruit or veg, so that the taste buds gets satisfied too! The yellow-orange flowers of marigolds and nasturtiums, as well as the blue-stars of borage are not only edible, but also help protect your veg from pests and diseases.

Mix Veg and Fruit with Ornamental Flowers

By mixing your veg and fruit with ornamental flowers you are creating an ornamental kitchen garden that the French call potager. But the flowers can also be the ones produced by your veg. It’s usually the garlic chives that we think of when talking about flowering veg, but remember the white umbels of carrots and yellow/white blooms on brassicas when you forgot to harvest on time?


And there’s so much colour in the ordinary veg! Look at the yellow and red stems of chards or green and purple bulbs of kohlerabi. There’s purple kale leaves and lime-green seashell-looking romanesco. Just imagine these poking out through creeping purples and whites of thyme and camomile.

Colourful planters

Encase colour

Trailing and running plants are also ideal for pots. Fill them with dwarf runner beans and trailing strawberries to admire the cascading flowers and later taste their produce. Stick a standard rose for fragrance or red currant for nibbling in the middle of these pots.

Pots again can be unified in colour and work as features in your garden, or they can be muted and let the plants steal the show. In that case you might think of evergreen grasses, which keep their bold hues throughout the year and their colours range from intense blue through chocolaty orange to golden green.


Protect wildlife with colour

The more cheery and ecological your garden, the more it attracts wildlife. The bees will happily work on your flowers, leaving you to enjoy your cake in peace. Predators, like birds, will munch on your slimy pests that will not get the chance to taste your cabbages and hostas.

The paint will seal cracks in wooden fences and trellises and preserve them for longer. Re-painted furniture will feel like new and so will the pots and raised beds. You will learn the beauty of up-cycling and you’ll have more time for your garden.

But this doesn’t mean more work in it. Pretty much the opposite. By letting the flower colour creep into your neglected bowling green means you’ve cut down on mowing and feeding. By mixing veg with flowers you let them take care of each other. The wilder you let the colours mingle, the less maintenance there surprisingly is.


Colour in all seasons

And when the summer’s planting season is over, the colours will remain in the fences and furniture. The dying, bronzy foliage will contrast with the vibrant walls and pots and we will be excited for the next spring to come!

For more information on garden design and how to protect your garden, please contact Papillon directly.

Happy gardening!

Get kids involved in gardening with strawberry window pots

Get kids into gardening with Strawberry Window Pots

Strawberry window pots are an ideal way to get kids interested in gardening and now is a good time to sow the seeds.  Not only will children be introduced to gardening, but the exercise will help them understand the origin of their food.

Following on from Papillon’s recent blog on How to create a wonderful garden for kids, growing vegetables is another way to get them involved and one that they can enjoy throughout the winter months.

The infographic below comes from Sainsbury’s Bank Blog and offers some good advice for creating Strawberry Window Gardens for kids (and adults!) to enjoy.

Strawberry window gardens for kids