author's woodland garden displays a range of attractive
a Woodland Garden
The woodland garden has a distinctive character. For many,
it instills a sense of serenity and relaxation. While peaceful,
it is not without action and animation, as many birds, insects
and other creatures make their home here. Some may consider
this type of garden to be somewhat messy looking, but pinecones,
acorns, leaves, broken branches and twigs strewn about the
ground are nature's litter and add realism to the design.
The diversity of plant life, from groundcover to knee-high
wildflowers to shoulder-height shrubs to towering trees, creates
a layered look. The garden's line and form is often composed
of interconnected capes and bays that mimic the shadow cast
by overhead trees. This meandering outline draws the eye in
and releases it outward; it also establishes repetition and
rhythm, two important elements in garden design.
Before proceeding with your garden plan, evaluate how shady
your garden is, how long the shade lasts and its sources.
Tall buildings will cast a shade quite different from that
of the foliage of open-branched trees. The selection and placement
of plant material will depend on this evaluation, as well
as a number of other factors such as plant form, texture,
summer interest, fall colors and fruits. Additionally, tree
and shrub silhouettes are critical for adding winter interest.
When it comes to woodland flowers, remember that they are
often short lived, disappearing when overhead tree foliage
appears. As well, many woodland plants produce soft, pastel-colored
blooms that make a statement only when planted in large quantities.
The distribution of plants, particularly wildflowers, should
be somewhat informal and respectful of their natural growth
patterns. Photographs of local parks and conservation areas
will give you valuable insight as to how they should be sited.
Where I live (Canadian hardiness zone 6; American zone 5),
trilliums grow in clumps, rhizome-rooted Solomon's seal (Polygonatum
biflorum) grows in drifts, stolon-spreading foamflower
(Tiarella cordifolia) forms sheets, and seed-spreading
native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) appears at
random. Groups of plants in a woodland garden tend to weave
into each other, with their edges often overlapping. Taller
trees dominate the upper levels, while smaller horizontal-branched
trees, such as the alternate-leaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia),
with its pagoda-like shape, and redbuds (Cercis canadensis),
reach for light at lower levels.