Planting under the Sequoias

Those of you who have been following my posts (and there are more of you out there than the number of comments would suggest) will know that one of the features of our garden in central France is a couple of ancient Sequoias. The largest is a Sequoiadendron giganteum, around 150 years old and with its top taken out by lightning in the twenties, while behind it is a Sequoia sempervirons or Coast Redwood. Nestling between these is our new log cabin, the lecture room for the Garden Design Academy.


In flower today: Aster 'Schone von Dietlikon'

The construction team is now dealing with the finishing details to complete the building so our thoughts are turning once again to the gardens and how to incorporate the cabin into the surrounding landscape. I know there are many American gardeners reading this so I would appreciate your thoughts on what American native plants would be appropriate under the trees.

The soil here is a silty-sand and there is a great deal of accumulated organic matter at the base of the Sequoias. Brambles do well and I have been out this morning hand weeding them; White European Cyclamen are in flower at the base and there are plenty of seedling Bay and Laurel. In a bed close by I have planted Japanese Maples, Rhododendrons, herbaceous Geraniums, Heuchera, Alchemilla, English Bluebells, Solomon’s Seal, some native woodland Orchids and two species of Hydrangea. Hostas do well if they are regularly watered: I grow an attractive group around a stone bird bath which is filled to overflowing every day. There are still plenty of woodland plants I can select from but I would love for someone who knows Sequoias in its homeland to put me on the path to planting something authentic. The idea is a small bed surrounding the trees with a woodland path pushing past and giving access to the tiny veg plot I hope to create in the space beyond.


Salvia uliginosa in a sunny bed near the Sequoias

Every sunny day now is named “the last day of summer” and we are trying to make the most of it by getting out into the garden and the countryside as much as possible. Last weekend was the second anniversary of our moving to France so after guests had packed up and gone (we had a group of 10 in the house) we took a picnic down to the river and spend the afternoon, eating, drinking, sunbathing, swimming and playing with the dog. Today is also beautiful so although we are trying to catch some sun, I have been weeding the Sequoia and Chantal is trying to locate a B&B for our imminent trip to the south of the country by trawling the internet. She has exhausted herself recently trying to keep up with jam-making while friends and neighbours keep dropping over with more baskets full of fruit. The latest batches have been peaches, raspberries and blackberries but we have just had to start saying “No” and hope they are not too offended. The jams are turning out great but recently she made pate des fruits from fallen peaches….now that is good and makes wonderful giveaways when we visit friends.

I have been looking at Cedric Pollet’s new book “Bark” in spare moments. I am sure this will be in every gardener’s Christmas stocking this year so a review will be posted here very soon. In the mean time, please get your thinking caps on for my bed under the Sequoias.


5 thoughts on “Planting under the Sequoias

  1. Hi Colin,

    There are no plants that are appropriate to grow under a giant sequoia. The ground under a giant sequoia belongs to the giant sequoia. Their roots are shallow and matted. Digging under the tree would do the tree no good. I would suggest dedicating the area under the tree to only the matter and cones that fall from the tree.

    Thanks for contacting us,

    Joe Welker
    Welker’s Grove Nursery
    42170 Cedar Springs Road
    Auberry, California 93602
    (559) 349-0081

  2. I agree with Joe above. The fires described by plantwerks are for S. giganteum. I live near many S. sempervirens groves. There are some plants that grow right under the coastal redwoods. Redwood sorrel (Oxalis oregana) is a common ground cover in the natural groves here and in many of the planted ones. Some of our CA native ferns are common as well. S. sempervirens provide moist shade and have spread out, but shallow roots. Hope that helps.

    • Many thanks for your input. I have a few Cyclamen which are doing very well in the ideal conditions provided by the conifers and added a new grass Hakonechloa macra All Gold; I’ll leave it at that and enjoy the bases of the trees as they are rather than hide them or detract from them with additional planting.

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