Woodland Garden Ideas Backyards
Woodland gardens should be peaceful and sheltered, based on a natural grouping of trees, with perhaps an appropriate under-planting of shrubs, herbaceous plants, and bulbs. It should also have a mainly open canopy, allowing sunlight to penetrate between the trees. In this article, we take a look at the general principles of a woodland garden, as well as practical advice on creating your own.
Woodland Garden Style Principles
A woodland garden contains natural looking groups of trees and may often be underplanted with other smaller plants, shrubs, and bulbs. If you have enough space it is possible to create a new woodland garden; however, patience is essential, as real woodland can take years to establish. You should aim for a minimum area of about 1000 square meters (1/4 acre), however, if space is tight a few groups of maples, birches, or other trees with light foliage will provide adequate shade in which to grow a succession of woodland plants, such as snowdrops and Trillium.
Faster growing species of tree such as willows and alders will create a tree canopy more quickly, but might soon form a shade that is too much for many woodland plants to flourish. I would recommend looking at slower-growing species such as Scots pine-oak, silver birch and wild cherry which will provide more satisfactory top cover. These species of tree also create a canopy that casts dappled shade and allows a wide variety of plants to grow beneath them. These species are often chosen in preference to conifers and other trees that have a dense canopy.
If you are establishing a woodland, it is best to keep the area around the trees clear for the first couple of years so that they have a chance to develop with little or no competition from other plants. If the area is already partially wooded, it may be necessary to clear areas for glades and underplanting by thinning the tree canopy or even removing unwanted scrub and saplings from the area.
Growing additional plants will allow you to create interest all year and provide a display at different height levels. Interesting plants include hardy cyclamen and bluebells, which can be planted to form drifts of color which are very attractive, or ornamental members of the nettle family, which are very useful as the ground cover.
If you are planting near a woodland stream, moisture-loving plants such as ferns or primroses should be chosen. At the other end of the spectrum, foxgloves will tolerate the dry, shady conditions found beneath tree canopies. There is a wide range of shrubs such as rhododendrons and Japanese maples that grow well in shady woodland areas. These shrubs help to create an attractive, well-balanced planting scheme, as they form a transition between the low lying bulbs and perennials and the taller trees.
The access to a woodland garden is usually best provided by informal paths, which can be made from loose materials such as pine needles, bark chippings or even local gravel. This can allow you to enjoy walks in your garden without getting too muddy. Try to create paths which look natural and meandering rather than straight as these look quite unnatural in a woodland garden.
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