Pictures just don't do woodland gardens justice. At least not pictures of the whole garden. What is a woodland garden? Woodland gardens are generally designed with plants that grow in a woodland setting. Normally these plants need to be up and growing and blooming prior to the trees completely leafing out. Once the flowers have bloomed they begin a slow down in growth or even quickly decline into dormancy; which is good because the trees are usually leafed out by the time the woodland plants are finished blooming and the woodland plants then become light starved. The types of plants that grow quickly like this in a woodland setting are called ephemerals.
Let me kind of describe my woodland garden for you. I took most all of these pictures recently so they are primarily devoid of green. Where you do see green, it is most likely the camelias, cast iron plant, liriope, ferns, or perhaps evergreen azaleas.
The picture above shows a long view into the Woodland Garden in my yard. This area is located in the northeast corner of my fenced backyard. The Woodland Garden starts on the other side of the Heuchera Garden (this side of the round concrete stones) and extends to the privacy fence. Here reside four trees (three are pictured) which are: one silver maple (on the far left next to the privacy fence), one Eastern Red Cedar (directly in front of you), a willow oak (to the right of the arbor which is in the next picture), and possibly (I really must identify that tree soon!) a white oak (behind the red cedar). Needless to say, grass will not grow in this shady and secluded corner.
The very first thing I did (in 2003) was plant Liriope spicata, aka Creeping Lilyturf or Monkey Grass (NOT to be confused with Liriope muscari, aka Lilyturf or Monkey Grass) around the silver maple. The spicata quickly filled in the area. That ended all grass mowing in that area of the garden. Mowing under most maples is nigh on impossible due to the very large and invasive roots which tend to grow on top of the ground. Liriope is a great alternative and competes well with the roots. You might be able to see it on the left side of the picture under the maple (which is behind a limb of the cedar). I believe this is the same kind of monkey grass Skeeter grows as well.
In order to add a bit of privacy from the neighboring property (a very high concern of mine), I built an arbor in February 2004. I'll be the first to admit the arbor did not provide much privacy at all. Duh me, but you gotta admit it looks pretty good. There is a 'Limelight' hydrangea on the left side of the arbor, and a 'Pink Diamond' hydrangea on the right side. Both hydrangeas flank a paver path into the garden. The marker stone all the way at the top of this post is embedded into this path to remind me it is the Woodland Garden (no, I really don't need reminding but it is a personal touch that makes me happy:) I will always remember building this arbor because I broke no less than two jigsaws cutting out the arch. (Gee, I guess 2" max cutting depth MEANT 2"!) Additionally, the temperature was like 30 degrees during the build in February of 2004! But it was completed just in time for my husband to return from Iraq and I have been happy with it since so it was all worth it. This arbor is the entrance to the Woodland garden proper. Let's walk through it shall we?
If you look to the left once you walk through the arbor you can see the silver maple with its liriope skirt next to the fence. There is an informal flagstone path that takes you down to the back entrance and to the Greenhouse Garden. Everything is swamped with fallen leaves right now so details are kind of hard to see. This is a good thing for woodland gardens. Woodland plants by their very nature are adapted to push through all the leaves; which add great humus to the soil. Don't worry that the plants will smother, they'll be fine and will finally break through and find the sun-prior to new tree leaves bursting on to the scene.
Looking to the right of the arbor you will see the telephone pole and willow oak. I really love this willow oak tree (the trunk is to the right and behind the telephone pole). It keeps its leaves most of the winter and does well in this area. Unfortunately, Oak galls also like it and I have had to take action to try to counteract the infestation from the galls by adding a systemic pesticide. I hope the tree shows results in a year or two in the form of the oak galls disappearing or at least no more forming. You can also see the chain link fence defining the eastern border of the Woodland Garden. The other side of this fence is the Northside Shrub Border, a large mixed shrub/perennial garden. One of my good friends and frequent visitor, Vonna, says, "You REALLY don't like grass do you??" Nope, sure don't, so I have tons of garden space, maybe a bit much for me but I manage one day at a time. Plus grass doesn't grow well in the shade-and give me shade over sun and grass any day!
Here is a shot looking east from the back entrance to the Greenhouse Garden. I believe this will be the best vantage point to take photographs for my Year Series on the gardens. Most of you asked for the Woodland Garden to be posted about this December. If you look closely at the right side of the picture you will see round concrete stepping stones, these denote the end of the Woodland Garden and the start of the Heuchera Garden. The location I am standing in is directly behind the small greenhouse; which is the start of the Greenhouse Garden. All gardens have their own distinct area, light conditions, soil types, drainage rates, and microclimates. I have tried to work within the constraints of all of these conditions while making large gardens. Thus reducing lawn maintenance and increasing the aesthetic appeal of the entire property.
Now that you have the layout of the Woodland Garden, we'll talk plants for woodland gardens in a later post. The above picture is just a teaser and was taken last spring in my fairly new woodland garden. I started collecting woodland plants two years ago and am hoping for a bumper year from them all this year or next. Though it may take another year or two we'll give it a try. This post and the woodland plant post (to come later) are lead ins for the Yearly Series; which of course will not be posted until mid December once all months in the Woodland Garden have been recorded. But these posts are also just because Woodland Gardens are fun, and I want to show you that anyone can have a woodland garden. All you need is a shady area with some trees, preferably deciduous trees, and some good soil. And right now is the BEST time to be thinking woodland gardens! I have noticed many plants are waking up, specifically the foxgloves and cyclamen, but more will follow. Additionally, there are many home and garden shows going on right now. Most home and garden shows will feature woodland plants this time of year. So if you don't have a woodland garden and would like to get started on one, look around for some nice native ephemerals for your garden.
Do you have a woodland garden? And if so, what is your favorite woodland plant?? I'd love to hear. Nashville's Lawn and Garden show is this week, so I will be looking for some good plants. I am a novice at woodland gardens and really need some help!
in the garden....
Tonight is the first class of the Master Gardener mini class. This fun and exciting mini course is overfilled! But! There is another course-the full blown master gardener course-which will be starting this fall. So if you are unable to get into this course-sign up with Karla at 648-5725 for the full master gardener course.