Woodland Garden

If you’re stuck with a yard full of trees where sunlight never even gets close to the ground, you might think that a beautiful garden just isn’t in the cards for you.

But you don’t have to be doomed to bare ground with only a few evergreens to break up the monotony. Why not try a woodland garden? This casual style works very well in shady areas, creating a retreat that is easy to care for and very attractive too. Woodland gardens work particularly well with homes that are placed on wooded lots as well as rustic style homes.

Trees offer shade and pools of light that can create romantic vignettes in your woodland landscaping.

Woodland Garden History

Natural looking gardens didn’t really become popular until the late 1800s. Before that, formal gardens with geometric patterns, dramatic blooms, and lots of fountains were pretty much the norm. But a book called The Wild Garden helped to make more natural garden themes, like those found in woodland gardens or prairie gardens, an increasingly popular choice.

Woodland Garden Characteristics

Woodland gardens have a lot of advantages. If you’re sick of mowing, can’t stand to rake leaves, and don’t like the idea of all of those fertilizers and insecticides being released into the environment, why not remove your backyard and replace it with a woodland paradise?

Woodland gardens require no mowing or raking and need very little maintenance overall. Simply fertilizing the soil is usually enough to keep the plants happy and healthy. You may, however, run into some problems with animals that see your garden as the ideal place to live or lunch. Depending on the animal in question, there are some natural deterrents such as castor oil or human hair that you can use, or you can help to keep them out with a nice sturdy wall.

Stone is a natural choice for paths, walkways and informal patio areas in a woodland style garden.

If you have a sunny lot but love walking through the woods so much that you want a woodland garden, it’s still possible. Instead of trying to evoke the feeling of the deep woods, instead, think of recreating a woodland meadow, using wildflowers that are more sun tolerant.

You can still use some of the more shade friendly varieties along the border; simply plant them under some new trees or shrubs. As your trees grow, you can gradually change your approach to suit the new environment.

Smaller yards can also be turned into woodland gardens, but you’re going to run into a few problems there. Obviously, you can’t fit a lot of trees into a small space, so you may need to try some dwarf varieties or shrubs. You also may have a problem with the leaves.

One of the greatest advantages of having a woodland garden is the ability to delay leaf removal or avoid it altogether. After all, no one goes through the woods to take out all of the leaves, do they?

But in a small space without many large trees, the wind is going to pick up those leaves, and they’ll end up all over someone’s yard. Either you or your neighbors is going to be rather unhappy in the end. So with smaller gardens, you will probably still need to remove the leaves, but you can simply mulch them and put them right back onto the beds.

Woodland Garden Layout

In the spirit of a woodland path, steer away from stick straight paths and borders. Meandering pathways over uneven land really evoke the woodsy feel, although by all means, make sure that the paths are well maintained enough to walk on them safely

Some good materials for pathways include wood chips, pine needles, gravel and brick. You might be tempted to leave them bare just like a path you’d find in the woods, but it’s not the best of ideas. Covering the pathways will help to define them better and keep your plants from covering them while you’re not looking

Plant some larger plant species around the border of the garden. This should help to block out traffic noise and the ugly garden flags that your neighbor insists on hanging outside. If you’re really in a high traffic, high noise area, try blocking out the world with a low garden wall. Rock is probably the best option there

Consider bordering pathways or beds with hosta. They make a great leaf trap and help to keep plants from spreading into areas where they don’t belong. All you need to do is divide them periodically

Plants to Use in a Woodland Garden

Plant flowers like Rohdodendron and Hydrangea which do well in mixed sun and shade.

One way to keep your woodland garden as low maintenance as possible is to research native woodland plants from your area. These species are already well suited for the soil type in your region, which means you’ll be spending less time working organic materials into the soil before you plant. They are also tolerant of your climate. It should be relatively easy to learn about your options.

Try visiting the nature center at one of your local parks, or if you’re more of a do it yourself type, you can hit the trails with a wildflower guide and try to identify some species on your own. Just make sure to select species that are well suited for the amount of sun you’ll have in your garden. And if you have a lot of trees, you may want to seek out some dry shade plants. Trees suck up a lot of water, so the plants you select should be draught tolerant.

Some popular flower choices for a Woodland Garden include:

  • Fern
  • Forget-me-not
  • Foxglove
  • Hosta
  • Hydrangea
  • Periwinkle
  • Poppy
  • Rhododendron
  • Trillium

You might also consider adding some wild berries like strawberry or blackberry to a larger woodland garden. Think about how enjoyable it would be to take a basket out into the backyard to pick some fresh berries to go with supper.

The soothing sound of a small waterfall or other water feature will enhance your woodland garden theme.

Woodland Garden Accessory Suggestions

  • Common furniture materials:
    • Wicker
    • Bamboo
    • Wood
  • Some accessory ideas to integrate into your Woodland Garden include:
    • Convert an old log or stump into a creative planter
    • Place large, flat boulders along a long path in place of benches. Help visitors understand their purpose by setting an outdoor friendly pillow on top
    • Line a long path with birdhouses or butterfly houses to inject a little color into the environment

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