I need some help. Can you tell me what plants I should grow in a north-facing garden in Newcastle Upon Tyne?
Dear Brendan Well. I have had to do some research to discover exactly where Newcastle is, and I must admit that I am amazed. Of course I knew that England was big, but I hadn’t realised that Newcastle was quite so far away from Royal Wootton Bassett. My readers may not believe it, but it is actually further than a sheep could walk in a day – no, in two days! I presume that it must be fairly close to America, which is also a long way away. But due to the magic of the Internet, I have friends in all these far-flung places – hello Rene, hello Sharon! – and therefore it’s not a surprise to me that someone from so far away should want advice from me.
On to your problem. My first thought was that your garden will know what it wants to have growing in it, and you should just let it do its own thing without interfering too much. But then I recalled this strong desire humans have to control everything, including the patches of ground which they have outside their houses. Mind you, gardens are a Good Thing in my opinion. Plants like to have help in order to grow properly, and you humans are great at doing that. (I have been trying to get into the farmhouse garden for years, and have not managed it yet, but I live in hope.) You should definitely have grass – perhaps, if you grow a nice luxuriant lawn, you might enjoy a bit of grazing yourself? – and there are all sorts of lovely edible plants which you could try growing, like carrots and turnips. But of course in a north-facing garden you will have little sunlight, and this could be a problem for your vegetables. I’m very fond of flowers myself – they often taste delicious! – and so I think you should try to find some flowers which don’t mind shade. How about woodruff? It has lovely little white flowers, and smells like new-mown hay, which is the most appetising scent.
But I think, on the whole, that the nuances of gardening are probably a bit beyond me. I mean, take the concept of ‘weeds’. You humans seem to think that a plant is perfectly OK in one place, but a pest when it’s growing somewhere else. But it’s still the same plant, just minding its own business and not trying to harm anyone. A bit like me grazing on the front lawn, in fact…