Courtyard Garden

an oasis in the city centre


At Downing Place, we are also making a GARDEN to bring some of the natural world into our site, in the centre of a busy city.

The garden will be a symbol of our promise to look after our planet.

And let’s not forget the difference a city garden can make:

  • Plants absorb Carbon Dioxide
  • The transpiration of the leaves cools and refreshes the air in summer
  • Composting – if we can – returns nutrients to starved city soil
  • Plant roots absorb rainwater run-off from pavements that would flood sewers

The garden will be overlooked by new clear windows all around – in the Gibson Hall, the Kitchen, the Servery and Hub, plus all the small meeting rooms.

We will reuse the old St Columba’s wooden screens to frame mirrors and support climbing plants in this outdoor setting where the screens will gradually weather to silver. We also plan raised beds where children could tend plants, and space for the outdoor tables and chairs.

Below you will find an abundant list of possible shade-tolerant plants.  Members and friends might like to choose one and/or contribute the funds – please contact us if you would like to discuss this. A donation might be in someone’s memory.  Sustained by everyone’s interest and care, our garden will flourish.

Here’s what some of our members and friends have said so far:

“My mother died last year and I had planned to plant an olive tree in her memory.”

“[Mahonia] is a plant I love – sadly mine died last year”

“I would very much like to buy the clematis “Advent Bells” for the courtyard garden.”

“[Rocky Mountain Juniper] can [serve] as a memory when life returns to normality.”

“[We] told [her] that we’d hope to buy some roses for the new church garden with the rest of the money. She was delighted with the idea! She always loved her garden and kept it beautifully so we thought this would be a nice way to remember her.”

“There is so much grief around at the moment – we want to recognise just how tough it has been for everyone by giving our plant and watching it grow in the Green Chapel.”

Planting Scheme

Below is a list of plants which we plan to purchase – if you would like to make a pledge to donate a plant, please contact us.

East Border

Shibataea kumasaca (ruscus-leaf bamboo or ruscus bamboo)

Tolerant of partial shade, hardy.

A species of flowering plant in the grass family, native to mountain slopes in Fujian
and Zhejiang provinces in China, and widely cultivated elsewhere.

A compact, clumpforming, evergreen bamboo.

Available from RHS plants; £9.99 for a 9cm pot.

Euonymus japonicus paloma blanca (white candle euonymus)

Tolerant of partial shade, hardy.

Adaptable evergreen shrub, new growth emerges greenish white and ages to a deep,rich green. This gives the plant a distinctive bicoloured look, which lasts for a couple of months in spring. This plant will grow just about anywhere. It takes partial shade and dry soils in its stride (once established) and can be used for low hedging or pots.

Available from Crocus; £8.99 for a 9cm pot

Mahonia nitens ‘Cabaret'

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy

Compact shrub with glossy, holly-like evergreen foliage which flowers from the end of summer all the way through autumn.

These appear initially as elegant racemes smothered with bright orange-red buds, that open from the base of the spike to reveal cheerful yellow flowers. Once the flowers have faded, bluish-grey berries form, which contrast beautifully with the winter foliage.


Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold'

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Clusters of insignificant green flowers appear in May and June among small, lustrous green leaves with yellow margins, which often take on a reddish bronze flush in colder winter.

This semi-evergreen shrub will often keep its foliage throughout the winter and makes excellent groundcover.

Available from Crocus; £7.99 for a 9cm pot

Clematis 'Advent Bells'

Tolerant of partial shade, frost hardy, may need winter protection.

This evergreen clematis is noted for its abundance of flowers, which appear throughout the winter. Each flaring bell-shaped bloom is a creamy white, but the inside of the petals is heavily patterned with maroon spots and splashes. They are pendent, so hang from the slender stems amongst the delicate-looking rich green foliage.


Holboellia coriacea (sausage vine)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Vigorous, twining, evergreen climber with whorls of dark green leaflets. Clusters of pale purple and greenish flowers,
occasionally followed by greenish purple fruit.

Available from Beeches Nursery, Ashdon.  £9.35 for a 3 litre pot.

Viola riviniana Purpurea (dog violet)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Creates a mass of small dark purple leaves which set off the quantities of small, light violet coloured flowers.

Available from Beth Chatto; £4.70 for a 9cm pot.

Milium effusum ‘Aureum’ (Bowles’s golden grass)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Non-running clumps of soft foliage, bright yellow in spring, making patches of sunlight in shady places. Many fine stems support a cloud of tiny golden flower-like beads in early summer.

Available from Beth Chatto; £5.70 for a 1 litre pot.

South Border

Juniperus scopulorum 'Blue Arrow' (rocky mountain juniper)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Dense, ascending branches with aromatic, steel-blue leaves form a narrow, pencil-shaped plant that is valuable for adding structure and punctuating a planting scheme.


Danse du Fer (climbing rose)

Hardy, disease resistant and thrives in partial shade.

A fine show of medium size, semi-double, brilliant red flowers, their colour deepening with age. They start as short, shapely buds, opening to globular flowers that eventually become flat. Repeat flowering and clothed in plentiful foliage.


Given in memory of a former member (Trudi Lines)

Pileostegia viburnoides (climbing hydrangea)

Thrives in full shade, fully hardy.

Evergreen, climbing by aerial roots, self-clinging, slow-growing climber with leathery, narrowly elliptic leaves to 15cm in length. Clusters of tiny, star-shaped, creamy-white flowers with prominent stamens are borne in dense panicles from late summer into the autumn, offset
against the long, leathery, dark green leaves.


Albéric Barbier (rambling rose)

Tolerant of light dappled shade, fully hardy.

Most climbing roses don’t like the shade but some are more tolerant.

This old variety of rambling rose handles shade well. It is vigorous and almost evergreen. Creamy white blowsy flowers with a peachy centre in early summer and ability to repeat flower later in the season.


Given in memory of a former member (Trudi Lines)

Hydrangea seemannii (climbing hydrangea)

 Tolerant of partial shade, frost hardy, may need winter protection.

Woody, evergreen climber attaches itself to walls and fences with aerial roots. Attractive mid-green leathery leaves provide year-long
interest. Clusters of greenish-cream flowers appear in early summer and last well into autumn.


Choisya × dewitteana 'Aztec Gold' (Mexican orange blossom)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Tender golden leaves mature to green in winter, providing year-round colour and interest. Almond-scented creamy-white flowers, which appear in early summer and occasionally again in autumn.

Available from Crocus; £19.99 for a 2 litre pot.

Vinca minor Atropurpurea (lesser periwinkle)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Pairs of dark green leaves develop along the long trailing stems, eventually creating a dense mat of rich green foliage that can be used to help keep weeds at bay. The 5-petalled flowers, which appear on long
stalks from April to September, are a rich shade of plum-purple.

Available from Crocus; £7.99 for a 9cm pot

Bergenia Silberlicht (elephant’s ears)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Low maintenance, evergreen, tall spikes clothed in pure white flowers that fade to pink appear in spring above large, mid-green leaves. This robust plant is a favourite of Beth Chatto, great for edging well-trodden paths or planted in groups as ground cover or providing a foil for
delicate plants.

Available from Crocus; £8.99 for a 9cm pot.

Podophyllum versipelle Spotty Dotty (Chinese may apple)

Shade loving, fully hardy.

A recent introduction and a spectacular foliage plant for a shady situation. New leaves show the brightest markings fading as they age. Clusters of red flowers hang beneath the foliage, followed by large

Normally available from  Beth Chatto (but currently out of stock); £9.70 for a 1 litre pot

West Border

Lonicera japonica Halliana (Japanese honeysuckle)

A great semi-evergreen climber tolerant of shade, fully hardy.

Masses of highly scented, pure white, tubular flowers, ageing to yellow,
smother this handsome honeysuckle from April to August, giving it a two-tone appearance. Many of the tapered, glossy, dark green leaves are retained all year, so this vigorous variety is ideal for covering a
pergola, arch or boundary wall. 

Available from Crocus; £17.99 for a 3 litre pot.

Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge)

Tolerant of deep shade, fully hardy.

This fine looking, ground-covering plant has whorls of leaves around the top of the stalks. These are olive-green and look attractive without being obtrusive. Small, round, spiky, white flowers, carrying a slight but pleasant fragrance, appear in March and April. It makes a good, green
carpet for a moist, shady site and works very well beneath mature trees and around shrubs.

Available from Crocus; £14.99 for a 2 litre pot.

Mahonia × media (Winter Sun)

Tolerant of full or partial shade, fully hardy.

Slender spikes of bright yellow flowers appear from November to March, above rosettes of large, handsome, dark green, holly-like leaves.

The flowers of this lovely, upright, evergreen shrub have a fragrance
reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley which seem to glow in the wintry sunlight. Followed by bunches of ornamental, round, deep purple
berries. Makes a lovely focal point for a shady spot in the garden, where its glossy, architectural leaves can be appreciated all year round.


Aucuba japonica Crotonifolia (Japanese spotted laurel)

Tolerant of full shade, fully hardy.

Resilient evergreen shrub which thrives in inhospitable, shady areas of the garden where little else will grow. Large leaves splashed with pale yellow and insignificant, small clusters of red-purple flowers in April
and May. It will light up a shady corner of the garden.


Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana (Japanese skimmia)

Tolerant of lightly dappled or deep shade, fully hardy.

Dome-shaped, evergreen shrub with narrow, tapered dark green leaves
which are slightly aromatic. Fragrant white flowers, sometimes tinged pink or red, open in mid-spring. Bright red berries appear in autumn, often lasting well into winter.


Digitalis mertonensis (strawberry foxglove)

Shade loving, fully hardy.

Large flowers in lovely shades of deep old-rose with a hint of copper in early summer.


Dryopteris erythrosora (Japanese shield fern)

Shade loving, fully hardy.

A rare fern found in China and Japan. The young fronds are glossy, rosy-brown, becoming green later.

Available from Beth Chatto; £6.70 for a 1 litre pot.

Heuchera Silver Scrolls (coral flower)

Shade loving, fully hardy.

A mound of maroon leaves heavily marbled with silver. Panicles of dainty flowers in early summer.

Available from Beth Chatto; £6.70 for a 1 litre pot.

Tiarella cordifolia (foam flower)

Shade loving, fully hardy.

Native to woodland of eastern North America. Running trails of pretty pointed green leaves form complete almost evergreen cover. In spring a mass of foaming creamy-white flowers spikes. An essential plant to interlink taller shade loving plants.

Available from Beth Chatto; £4.70 for a 9cm pot.

Raised Border

Epimedium versicolor Sulphureum (barrenwort)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

The leaves combine delicate shades of bronze in early spring, ideal for picking. The delicate sulphur yellow flowers, which appear in spring, are borne on wiry stems, half buried among the leaves for protection.
In autumn the green summer foliage becomes marbled with bronze, remaining all winter.

Available from Beth Chatto; £6.70 for a 1 litre pot.


Geranium Johnson’s Blue (cranesbill)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Abundant, luminous blue flowers throughout the summer.

Available from Beth Chatto; £6.70 for a 1 litre pot.

Penstemon Pensham Plum Jerkum (beard tongue)

Tolerant of partial shade, frost hardy, may need winter protection.

From early summer to mid-autumn, upright flower spikes rise above the clumps of semi-evergreen foliage, bearing white-throated, plum purple flowers.

Available from Crocus from Spring 2021;
£6.99 for a 9cm pot.

Thuja Sunny Smaragd (white cedar)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy

Already picking up awards, this new Thuja forms an upright, pyramidal cone of warm yellow foliage, which does not get scorched in the sun.

This makes it an ideal candidate for both sunny or partially shaded positions, where it will offer year round colour and form. Being relatively compact, it also makes a good candidate for a pot.

Available from Crocus; £6.99 for 9cm pot.


Anemone sylvestris (snowdrop anemone)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Clump forming but not evergreen. Delicate white flowers in spring, continuing intermittently throughout summer.

Available from Beth Chatto; £5.70 for a 1 litre pot.

Olive Tree (half standard)

Very hardy, likes sunshine but tolerates shade and and wind.

Adds a Mediterranean touch to the garden, suited to border or container cultivation. Easy to look after and may produce fruit in a mild summer.


Lamium maculatum Pink Pewter (spotted deadnettle)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Totally silvered leaves with crinkly green margins, make a setting for pale-pink flowers in the summer.

Available from Beth Chatto; £4.70 for a 9cm pot.

Leucothoe scarletta 'Zeblid' (switch ivy)

Tolerant of partial shade, fully hardy.

Long, slim, glossy leaves emerge dark maroon, turning greener as they mature before taking on lovely bronze and wine tints in the autumn.


Hebe Heartbreaker

Tolerant of partial shade, frost hardy, may need winter protection.

Recently introduced to the commercial market, this is a wonderful, evergreen shrub that will put on a colourful display throughout the year. The slender, cream-edged, green leaves form neat mounds, and
look very pretty throughout the spring and summer. When the temperatures drop they take on a vivid pink flush, which lasts until the spring. It is mainly grown for this decorative foliage, but in summer it also produces clusters of mauve-coloured flowers. Its compact, rounded habit makes it an ideal specimen for a pot.

Available from Crocus; £16.99 for a 2 litre pot.

Hosta Blue Mouse Ears

Shade loving, fully hardy.

An award winning miniature hosta which has mounds of overlapping blue-grey leaves. Short lavender blue flowers in mid-summer are perfectly to scale. Remarkably slug resistant and ideal for containers.

Available from Beth Chatto; £6.70 for a 9cm pot