Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Woodland Gardens

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.


  1. A nice start to the woodland garden. I have so many trees and just the lady slipper garden, I'm interested in finding more about how to grow woodland plants.

  2. Good morning Tina, very nice post and a lovely tour of your woodland garden. I am hoping to have a woodland type gardening area in South Carolina. Right now the treed area I have is in the back and gets flooded. Anyhow, why spicata and not muscari? Does the spicata flower?
    Our Learning Garden has a really nice woodland garden. Multiple Hellebores, some Heucheras, Pulmonera, Polygonatum, many types of ferns, mahonia bealei, a variegated Japanese maple, and some Lily of the Valley. That is just the tip of the iceberg. On the edge of the shaded area there are multiple variegated plants-- they really light up the beginning of the shade garden. I think a woodland garden is calming. Yours is very nice and I look forward to seeing it as it greens up.

  3. Good morning all!

    Dawn, many of the plants that grow here in woodland gardens will also grow up there. I don't have any lady slippers:( The yellow ones do best for us here. You do have the bunchberry though. I would consider that a woodland type plant.

    Hi Janet, Great question on spicata. Spicata is the creeping lilyturf and can be invasive in the wrong spot. I actually had no idea I had spicata until it began spreading everywhere! It works out great for under the tree. It does indeed flower though the berries are not as prolific as with muscari, though that may be because of the shade too. I love spicata in the right spot, muscari never would've spread fast enough and filled in the way the spicata does. It is a soothing garden. I did a post on it way back when under "liriope". It's a good reference for me. There I picture it and all. I love all those woodland plants you mentioned! Especially pulmonarias and Solomons's seal. I really need to add more though.

  4. Great start, Tina. I loves your Gnomes - couldn't resist to comment of them - they're soooo sweeet! I learnt a lot as ever. Thank you so much.

  5. Hi Tina, that was a grand tour of your woodland garden. I really like the arbor and the stone marker you made. It has some real character with the mossy bits. My favorite woodland plant, hmm, as usual I can't just name one. Ferns of all types of course. But for the dry shade that I have, the epimediums are wonderful. And variegated solomon's seal is gorgeous for three months, I love the fall yellow it gives to the dark space.

  6. Tina, Thank you for the tour of your wonderful woodland garden! I can't wait to read your post on woodland plants! March and April are the best times to showcase woodland ephemerals! Before this deep freeze Spring Beauty was blooming and I could see the toothworts waiting their turn! Speaking of ephemerals...I hope you do make an appointment to go to Growild; you will be in woodland heaven...the natives they have for shade and sun are fantastic.


  7. Tina,

    Love that little arbor. I know about the jig saw blades as I made Meg's pink chair out of 2 inch lumber and it gave the jigsaw a fit. Anyway back to the arbor you might want to consider planting Carolina Jasmine on it as it grows in the shade fairly well and stays evergreen. We go canoeing in the spring to a swamp that has one part covered in jasmine, it is beautiful

  8. Woodland gardens are the best affording shade and access to the garden in the hottest months and shelter from frost for plants in spring and fall thereby extending the seasons.

  9. Let's see, our woodland garden is all natural. It's just the way back that we continue to find new additions every year! The most of our way back is very moist to wet. We sometime through plants back there and let Mother Nature do it's thing. It's pretty neat.
    Love your arbor!

  10. My Dad had a woodland wildflower garden. The blood roots, trillium, and jack in the pulpits were favorites of mine. I always thought it was fascinating to see the bloodroot plants migrate thru the garden, their seeds carried by ants. Wildflowers have very interesting survival tactics;)

  11. Tina, I always enjoy touring your garden, and this post is perfect timing! I have one area under the trees that won't even grow grass and have been thinking about adding some plants here. I can't wait to see your recommended plants!

  12. Love the arbor and the setting, and I love woodland flowers. I can't wait to get out in our natural areas to see them... in about two months! :) Can you describe more what the "mini" MG class is? Monica MG 2004! (!!!!)

  13. You're right, now is the time to think about these gardens! A woodland garden is such a special place. I wish we had enough trees to create that, maybe eventually. The back would be suitable but until I get a handle on the deer it will remain barely tame!

  14. What a great tour, Tina--I love posts where I get a feel for the big picture. And woodland gardens are my favorite, which is a good thing since I live in the woods! My favorite shrub--pieris japonica--is a woodland plant for me--as are mountain laurels. Closer to the ground, I love solomon's seal, ferns, dicentra, and columbine. Can't wait for spring! (5 inches of snow yesterday--bah humbug)

  15. It all looks and sounds good to me. Great job on the arbor.

  16. I recommend using as many native woodland garden plants as you can find Ms. Tina. I'm not sure what that'd be for your area but I bet there's lots of choices. (Love the garden gnomes!)

  17. Hi Tina, I love the arbor you made for the entrance to your woodland garden. You are so creative! I have a small woodland garden of my own on the east side of my house. It gets morning sunlight with full afternoon shade. In this garden I have everything from Hostas, Ferns, to spring bulbs & evergreens. My favorite woodland plant has to be the Wood Hyacinth or Spanish Bluebells. I noticed some in yours too. :)

  18. First I have to say how great it is that you made your arbor. I've been nervous to do much with power tools.
    I love woodland gardens. I'm not really sure if what I call my woodland garden really is one. I have an area next to the path that's under cedar and pine trees. I have ferns, currants, huckleberries and bluebells as well as several other shade plants. I'm anxious to see what you have for you plant post.

  19. Thanks for the tour, Tina. You sure are a can-do woman, building arbors and generally making things easier for the lawn maintenance people in your life. Your enthusiasm for gardening is certainly not ephemeral. I look forward to catching more of it. I wish I could say we have a woodland garden, but it's just not true unless you count the space beneath the giant cedar. It's more of a survive-if-you-can-without-much-water-or-care collection of azaleas, plumbagos, loropetalums, a few bulbs, liriope, and some annuals for color. It's a hardscrabble life there but useful for xeriscape/neglect experimentation.

  20. Thanks for the tour! I really love your arbor, it makes up for all the trouble its construction caused you. I also share the challenge of housing a telephone pole in the garden. My fondest wish is for all power & telephone lines in this country to be buried. You are so lucky to have Oak trees in your woodland. Those kind of leaves can be left where they fall. My woodland garden is dominated by a Cottonwood. If I don't remove & shred those leaves, the plants get smothered.
    My favorite woodland plant is Anemonella/Thalictrum thalictroides. I've gushed about it in several posts, but I'll just say here that it sprouts early, with reddish foliage that turns into lovely Thalictrumlike green leaves, has charming flowers for a long time, and occasionally the foliage sticks around til fall.

  21. This is a wonderful blog entry. I really need to add more fencing and structures to my gardens. We have some beds near the wood area of our home but I keep it meadow growing only nature plants. I need to see what I can add back there this spring. Maybe some sunflowers???

    Thanks for inspiring.
    Happy Bloom Tuesday.

  22. The arbor you made is wonderful! I have seen it in person and again here today and you have me thinking. Hum, if Tina can do it, maybe I can too! I also want a bridge over the creek. I need a table saw and a work shop so badly. Sigh, as you know we have about an acre of natural woodland garden that pretty much tends to itself in our yard! I love our woods and wish I could plant stuff in it but the deer would munch down like crazy and eat it all so nature will stay natural in our woods. I do have a small woodlands type garden around the patio though. Of course the Liriope (Wink on the link) with Vinca and Spider plants. The Saint just planted some ferns there so hopefully, they will take root as well…

    I am looking out the window into the semi-formal flower garden and really thinking about that arbor. Saint is going to be upset with you today Tina... lol...

  23. I am WAY behind today, been busy-though not in the garden.

    Chandramouli, Don't you just love gnomes? You can tell I do!

    Frances, You know Tiger Gardens has lots of character. At least that is what hubby says of our place. It is a bit different-we love it! I will add epimediums to this garden. None there presently. Good choice!

    Gail, I plan to go to Growild during Open house in May. I have a plant list. The plant I won is inside under lights and doing EXCELLENT. I am excited to learn when I go. I am fairly new to natives but love the woodlands so it will all be learning for me. Really you need to teach me with all your knowledge of natives and woodland plants! I hope I do them justice as it is new territory for sure.

    Randy, Yup, jigsaws are temperamental. Maybe we just ask too much? Funny you mention the arbor. I initially planted a Silver Fleece vine which has not done anything. It has to go. Now I think Sweet Autumn clematis would do the trick but will also consider Carolina Jessamine. Thanks for the suggestion! I love them both!

    Donna, I am SO glad to have these trees in this area. Can't imagine life without them in the south.

    Darla, Thanks on the arbor. It was quite fun and a big project for me. I almost copped out and made a flat topped one but stuck to my guns with the round one. Your woodland garden sounds perfect! Natural is always good.

    Marnie, I love bloodroot and just learned of the ants at last month's PPS meeting! Although I only added bloodroot and ginger last year I hope they take off. In a year or two I'll probably be inundated and regret I planted it:) Wildflowers are really cool. One could study them a lifetime for sure. I'll add Jack in the pulpit, none here yet.

    Rose, Glad you enjoyed this post. I actually began it LAST year. Skeeter is probably relieved I am trying to get rid of some of my many posts. This one is a lead in to the Woodland Garden yearly series. I don't much about them but am learning as always. What kind of trees is the area under that won't grow plants? Moist or dry? Woodland plants should fit in.

    Monica, We are about a month or so ahead of you-but spring is near everywhere. The master gardener mini course is a fundraiser for the organization. It is gardening classes taught by local folks (like me) to kind of whet the appetite of local folks to see if they want to take the full blown course. This course requires no committment. Actually neither does the Master gardener course, unless of course you wish to become a master gardener. I obviously and you too, think it is worth it. Email me offline if you want more info. I did post on the course last month I think under master gardener in the archives.

    Dave, If I had deer I think I'd have real issues with ALL gardening. Don't know how you guys do it. Urrrr!

    Cosmo, Have to laugh at you with the snow. It comes so rarely that it must be fun! And look at it this way, it is adding much needed precipitation to the ground for our gardens:) Yes, I like big pictures too. Good thing since my camera is an antique. Kind of gives on the feel of the garden. I grow all those plants you mentioned and do love pieris too! I like the new cultivar you got on your recent trip. Good deal!

    Mom, You've seen it all so this is not so new to you I guess. But Maine has some really lovely woodland plants and gardens.

    TC, Oh yes, I am a gnome lady for sure. Must've been all those years in Germany and wishful thinking the gnomes will tidy the garden while I sleep so I can wake up to no garden work. HA!

    Racquel! Perfect! I too think hostas belong in woodland gardens. They work so well with ferns. I have a few and the bluebells too. Not so many since I am just starting. and to be completely honest-it is all new to me! I just plant and hope it works. The bluebells were like that and they are faithful-already up and growing. Can't wait! This MUST be the best year ever--right?

    Catherine, Don't be nervous with power tools. They are great! I did use a book to figure out how to piece the wood together to make the rounded part. Not too hard with that so use a manual if you are just starting out. Before you know it you are an old hand. My favorite tool since I was a kid is and always will be a circular saw. Can't go wrong. Pretty simple too-just go for it but read the manual. Impress the hubby:) I would consider your area under you path by the fence to be woodland conditions. A love spot for bluebells and all the plants you can possibly fit in.

    W2W, Yes, I have to get rid of the grass so the lawn maintainer-ME-can spend more time on getting rid of the grass. Kind of a catch 22 isn't it? The joke's on me but hey, we live once so might as well enjoy what we do-garden. Your hardscrabble experiment sounds great! I love lorepetulum-none here though.

    MMD, Thanks on the arbor. The telephone pole has not been a big problem for me. I have a schizophargma vine growing at the base of it. The jury is out on whether it will ever do anything. Not looking good. I will add the thalictrum thalictroides to my must have plant list. Sounds great!

    Bren, Welcome to our little blog here. You have a lovely blog and if you have lots of sunlight can't beat the sunflowers. I like the helianthus 'Maximillion' for lots-tons of flowers that attract wildlife. No need of planting each year as they reseed and are perennial. They are tall too and fit into prairies.

    Skeeter, Yup, you can do it! The Saint need only stand back and watch. I can see a lovely arbor entering the area before your buddleias. Is that what you are talking about? A nice white one with plants everywhere around it. A great view from your computer room. Your woodland is an awesome spot already.

  24. Your woodland garden looks a lot like my backyard - or what my backyard COULD look like. I'm going to bookmark this page and come back in a year or two (after my veggie bed project) to get some ideas, since I have this same type of woodland area in about 1/3 of my property that could really stand some beautifying. I also love the arbor and how you've added interest to the fence

  25. Tina I love your shade garden. It looks so serene. Not to mention the shade in summer. I love that arbor. I've always wanted one like that. But I don't have the room to make the arch on top. The ones that Young'un made for me are flat on top. It gives me plenty of room for hanging pots as neither arbor is for a purpose other than my own.
    Looking forward to updates.

  26. We do have a circular saw, hmmm... might just have to try it out sometime. I could get my projects done quicker if I could do them myself.

  27. Yes, the arbor setting is picturesque. Last year at the garden tour we went to a yard in my neighborhood that just took my breath away. I did not even realize until then that you could have so many things growing in the shade!

  28. thanks for sharing your woodland garden/ hope your classes go well.

  29. Tina,
    You have a lovely woodland garden. What a nice post. Very informative.

    I have woodland here, but no garden. At a previous house, I did have a woodland garden and loved it. The deer weren't a problem there.


  30. Sorry, no woodland gardens here, are you kidding me? We live on the corner lot, with our back yard facing south, in a new neighborhood with only a few baby trees. Can you say hot and sunny?

  31. JGH, Gardens, always a work in progress for sure. Two years will probably make your garden perfect for you.

    Lola, Oh yes! The shade is so great! A must for the south. I like your arbors and how you've hung all the potted plants. Young'un did a good job.

    Catherine, There you go. Get the kids to help too. They'd love it!

    Brenda, Shade is tricky. Not so much color but lots of interest still. I bet that shade felt great in Texas in the summer.

    Vicki, Thanks! It's a work in progress.

    Marmee, Had a great time at the mini course. 70+ folks showed up. Very good classes tonight.

    Cameron, I would love to hear about your former garden. I just know it was and still is awesome.

    MsRobin, Time to plant that Japanese maple then and some really big oaks-fast. Yikes! All sun and facing south. Still, a good opportunity to have tons of color. I see peonies, coneflowers, rudbeckia, sunflowers, phlox, ....tons! But get those trees in soon:)

  32. I see some blood root in the one photo, I love that plant but have yet to get one to settle in. I started a woodland garden under the trees when we first moved to this house. I am hoping this will be the year the area really starts to fill in.

    Ephemerals is a new one for me, there is always something new to learn, thanks for sharing.

  33. Looks fun, cool and nice.
    It's tropical here, very hot and humid whole year through. But I post beautiful tropical plants daily.

  34. Hi Tina, Thanks for a lovely and helpful post. I liked your tour very much. It reminds me, somewhat, of much of my back yard. I have NO grass in the backyard. We put mulch throughout. I have a good-sized garden area, and on either side some smaller areas. Most of it is 'uninhabited', however--garden-wise, that is. Unfortunately it does have some plants that have taken over but I don't consider them my 'garden'. In fact I want them OUT. But I cannot seem to get them out. They are wild violets, virginia creeper (a horribly tough vine that goes everywhere. I didn't know how bad it was when I planted it several yrs. ago!!) and some other 'thing' that takes over every year...it looks like 'wandering jew' to me--it gets a tiny blue flower on it. The area is not how I want it and I'm thinking of covering covering it all w/garden paper (?) or newspaper, or tilling it all...I want the whole area to be a garden. It's a big job for this spring and summer.
    I didn't name all of the woodplant plant 'dry roots' that I just bought at Lowe's. I think most of the ones you named are in my bag to go into the ground (WHEN THE SNOW MELTS)!!

  35. yes it is a very nice wonderland, every garden is a little, lovely wonder :-) Kathrin aus Bremen

  36. Thanks everyone for checking out my little woodland garden. I'll prepare a post on some plants for it later.

    Dan, Yup, bloodroot and ginger. We'll see how they do here for me. Hopefully well.

    Jan, Sounds like you have vinca back there too. Lots of tough vines indeed. Good luck eradicating them. Not sure if I'd worry about the violets are they are so hard to get rid of, but the vines you can do, with a lot of hard work. I had vinca once too-still fighting it but fight I will. I remember all those woodland plants. Can't wait to see how they do.

    Kathrin, Thanks very much!

    Kasinoki, Welcome to our blog here in the United States! Thanks for visiting! I was unable to comment on your blog, but love the info on the lantana. Yes, hard to believe it is in the same family as teak.