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The Woodland Garden: Spring, 2011

Spring has come to the Woodland Garden. It is an ethereal garden where light plays around trees and spreads itself across layers of greenery. By mid March, beneath a canopy of native oaks, hickory, and pines, understory trees began to bloom, including redbuds, dogwoods, and a 'Jane' magnolia:

By the first week of April, the planting beds were bursting with new growth:

Beneath the trees are many shrubs, which offer a variety of textures, color and form:1st row: Pieris japonica; Variegated hydrangea. 2nd row: Fothergilla gardenii; Indian hawthorn. 3rd row: Nandina 'Firepower', a non fruiting, non-invasive variety; Spreading japanese plum yew. 4th row: Oakleaf hydrangea 'Snowflake'; ''Saybrook Gold'' spreading juniperr.

A garden in the woodlands is a shady place, and that means green, but green is not boring! Deep forest green, olive green, chartreuse, jade, and turquoise blend and contrast to create a colorful, but refreshing palette.Sunlight shines through the bright foliage of a 'Waterfall' Japanese maple.

Every woodland garden needs some sort of seat. The concrete bench on the far left was originally painted a darker blue-green but has faded to a soft gray-green.

The Deodar Cedar 'Feelin' Blue' is one of my favorite woodland trees.
When I was painting it, I thought the color of the bridge might be too much, but once I placed it in its woodland setting, it was perfect. I love the way it looks with the lime green moss path.

This spring I added some camellias to the Woodland Garden. They provide an occasional pop of color to the greenery:
Top row: Camellia 'Red Candles'; 'Something Beautiful'. 2nd row: 'Gunsmoke'. 3rd row: 'Taylor's Perfection'.

A path through the woodlands unites various spaces and adds form to the garden. A path should make sense, curving around interesting trees and providing views of plantings. A path can be bare or covered with mulch, gravel, flagstones, pavers, or just about anything that fits a gardener's fancy, as long as one can walk on it. The main path through my garden is covered in moss. The soft texture creates a hushed, peaceful atmosphere, and I think it is the one element that defines my particular woodland space. I began several years ago when I noticed moss growing naturally in the bare trail. I dug up additional moss from other places in the woods and transplanted it into the path. I kept the path weeded and raked fallen leaves away. Now the moss has almost completely filled in, and my weeding chores are far fewer.This is the moss path near the entrance to the Woodland Garden.Last year I added a side path when I found some trilliums growing near an old trail created by dogs and children. I cleaned up and widened the trail. I planted spring bulbs, hostas, heuchera, and ferns to add importance to this new path. Pine trees shower the path with a nice straw cover which is easy to walk on and has a delightful smell. There always should be some wilderness left in a woodland garden. I cleared underbrush and obnoxious weeds but left some muscadine vines and other wild elements.  

Many plants on the forest floor provide interest beside the paths of the Woodland Garden. Heucheras are wonderful for their foliage. Airy flowers that come later in the season will be a bonus:

Top: Heuchera 'Tiramisu'; 'Autumn Bride'. 2nd row: 'Blackout'; "Stormy Seas'. 3rd row: 'Snow Angel'; 'Green Spice'.

I also added some tiarellas to the garden. These plants are similar to heucheras:'Pirates Patch', on the left, and 'Dark star' Tiarella

The  Woodland Garden would not be complete without hostas, as snails and other munching critters would agree. These are a few hostas which are just beginning to emerge:Top: Hosta 'June'; 'Elegans'. 2nd row: 'Francis Williams'; 'Groundmaster'.Here are more plants along the woodland paths with great foliage and textures:Top: Holly fern; Autumn fern. 2nd row: Great Solomon Seal, variegated; Dwarf Solomon seal. 3rd row: Ginger; Pulmonaria. 4th row: Tricyrtis hirta 'Variegata'; Tricyrtis affinis 'Lunar Landing. These toad lilies will have beautiful blooms in early fall.

While foliage is the star of a woodland garden, there are plenty of flowers, often in white and soft shade of blue and pink. One has to stop and bend over to appreciate some of them. It is worth the effort!1st row: A late blooming, tazetta (bunch flowering) type daffodil which is nicely fragrant; Native trillium. 2nd row: Variegated phlox divaricata; wild violets. 3rd row: Pink and white bleeding heart; 4th row: A wildflower which blooms in the moss path; Tiarella 'Dark Star'.

A walk in the woodland garden should appeal to all the senses. Smell is important. I love the aroma of fresh earth and pine straw, but I also have planted some fragrant shrubs:

Top: Calycanthus floridus 'Athens' sweet shrub smells like ripe bananas; Bottlebrush flowers of Fothergilla major smell like honey. Bottom: Viburnum carlesii has a wonderful spicy fragrance which carries in the air; Viburnum trilobum, American highbush cranberry, has a smell which has been compared to wet dog but mine smells like cake batter!

No garden is complete without sound. A bubbling stream or fountain would be perfect, but I have neither — yet! I do have wind chimes. I have them all over the place, and Lou says our yard sounds like a fortune teller's with all the tinkling chimes. But I love them, and I enjoy the music they make in the Woodland Garden.

Even more beautiful than the chimes is the sound of wild life. My quiet woodlands can be a pretty noisy place! The plants provide shelter and nourishment to many species, including this fat robin who let me take his photo:

A friend gave the highest complement when she visited me recently. 

"The birds are so happy!" she said. 

That makes me very happy, too.


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Reader Comments (24)

It's always such a joy to visit your woodland garden, even if it's just through your fabulous photos. Sensational views wherever you look. It's looking beautiful all dressed up in its' springtime colours.

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBernieh

Your woodland garden is really beautiful, I'm sure the camellias will be very happy there, as happy as your wildlife must be.

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPauline Mulligan

I love your fragrant, chiming woodland! Thanks for this wonderful, slow, thorough exploration of all of it. I like the variegated hydrangea in the first photo set... such crisp white margins on the leaves.

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaurrie

Woodlands are to gardening what French is to English. A totally separate but beautiful language. The images you posted are beautiful. Makes me want to plant a forest just to duplicate the experience .

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterallanbecker-gardenguru

Hi Deb,

Beautiful photos, such a magical place to be, and so calming.

I'd love to sit in there now, our garden has no shade near the house so it's a suntrap in summer and days like today where temperatures are at 21C (70F) - which will be much hotter because it's south facing. I can't stay out for longer than 10 minutes before needing to come back in again :(.

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

I love that you focused on the greens of the garden in the first half of this post. There's a characteristic shade of green that's only seen with newly emerging spring growth, and I think it's just as beautiful as ensuing blooms. Don't you love hearing happy birds in the garden? Makes it all worth it somehow.

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCurbstone Valley Farm

Your woodland gardens are gorgeous, and you have done a very proficient job of capturing them on film. I know this is hard because I wrestle with it myself. Although I agree that green will be one of the dominant colors in shade, one of the points of my nursery is to show customers that you can have bright and showy flowers in shade not just interesting leaves. However, your gardens are so beautiful that if you don't want to focus on color, you don't need to--I just want to point out that it's a choice. Some of your plant choices--heucheras, hosta, camellias--tell me that you don't have deer, lucky you. People always say when they visit my garden "the birds are so loud" and I find toads, snakes, salamanders, etc. all the time. Like you, I consider this my greatest success. Wonderful post. Carolyn

Deb the woodland gardens are just stunning...I could be lost forever there and be eternally happy..

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Nothing says spring like flowering trees in a woodland. Lovely! I can't believe your hostas are already opening. Even in my zone 6b Mason-Dixon line garden, the nubs of hosta growth have not yet appeared.

April 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

Deb, A clever idea to create moss paths. The photo with the bridge over the moss path is my favourite.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterb-a-g

Your woodland garden has so much interest and beauty! I love all of the different textures and shades of green. Your late-blooming tazetta is a vision of loveliness.

The light bright green of the moss really lights up your garden. It looks wonderful.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSweetbay

This is a wonderful post Deb. So much to see in your woodland garden. I love the color of your bridge and agree it is perfect. The moss paths are so pretty and you definitely have a Japanese feel to this garden. The serenity, simplicity and ease of combination plantings are so evident.

April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

A beautiful garden and a great post too!

I love the bridge color. Perfect contrast for the yellow green moss.

Thank you for sharing all of the special moments that are going on around you in your garden. I have really enjoyed getting to read more about it this spring.


April 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWife, Mother, Gardener

Hi Deb, thanks for coming by & linking to my sustainable living project/giveaway. You have the most beautiful woodland garden I've ever seen...well, one of the most beautiful, anyway. There are some others out there that are nice too but certainly yours stands out among the most tranquil, eloquent and gorgeous I can think of;-) "Way cool!"...that pretty much sums it all up for me! I love how you welcome critters to your garden...that's my favorite way to garden. Providing shelter and a habitat is so important for us to be able to enjoy them, but mostly so they will have a safe place to live. WOuld you mind adding the link to my post right here on your blog post, as that is part of the directions to be eligible for the prizes...thanks! This is the link to add with the name of the project: http://thanksfor2day.blogspot.com/2011/03/gardeners-sustainable-living-2011-win.html

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJan @ Thanks for today.

so pretty there. I have windchimes too, which I love. It took me forever to buy them because I wanted the right sound, and for about a year straight I was that annoying person in the shop hitting them all.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I love woodland gardens, and yours is fantastic! It's amazing how many different colors we call 'green'!

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTatyana

Beautiful post of a beautiful, diverse woodland garden.

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Isn't it exciting to see the garden come to life after winter? All the many shades of green are so very welcome!

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobinL

It is so beautiful and inspiring!

April 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip

Don't know where to begin commenting on this post as every twist and turn of the tour is a delight. Cunningly and cleverly designed to keep the natural look and yet you have created a garden of of interest, variety and colour. Thanks for sharing so much beauty. When I think of my ideal garden, I think of here.

April 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura @ PatioPatch

Hi Deb, temperate climes woodlands always look easier to garden than the tropics. Even if uncleaned it always looks organized unlike here that even orchards look like a forest if not regularly underbrushed. And yours look really very beautiful and inviting. When you said every woodlands need some chair, I immediately envy your setting. In these parts, any wooden something will get termites immediately, and if its iron then gets rusty at once due to high humidity and temperature. So nothing seems to work except to seat under a roofed shed while looking at the woodlands, haha! Your foliages and flowers are awesome too.

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Everything in your woodland garden gave me pleasure; it all feels so natural (I know the natural look is harder to achieve than anything else) and tranquil. Your robin also surprised me. I've never seen an American robin before, it is very different from a European one. Christina

April 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristina

You have some lovely shots of your woodland garden. The light is beautifully soft, before the trees fully leaf out, and I always admire your mossy paths. I especially like the beds curving around the trees. The waterfall Japanese maple has super foliage.

The Heuchera and Tiarella have such wonderfully diverse leaves. Before our recent snow, a few patches had started melting in my garden, and I was just starting to get glimpses of evergreen leaves. These are some of my shade favourites, because they green up the garden so quickly.

The little vases of new Hosta leaves are fun to watch as they emerge. You have some of my favourite spring woodland flowers already bloomimg, the phlox divaricata, bleeding heats and Trillium.

April 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNorthern Shade

How I love your garden ... one of my new favourites! What I wish is that my Weigela looked as good as yours. Do you have any tips on how you get yours to look that good? Mine didn't flower at all this year ...

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