Have you ever noticed that even in the largest cities you can always seem to find a park with a path that winds through a peaceful woodland location? Whether it was walking through Christopher Morley Park on Long Island or a trail along Bull Run creek in the Manassas Battlefield there are some characteristics of these types of landscapes that seem to be consistent regardless of where they are located. Some gardeners are faced with the challenge of how to recreate this type of setting in their own backyard and hopefully, this article can be of assistance in that endeavor.
The first thing that all woodland gardens seem to have in common is a path that guides you through the landscape but the path does more than lead you through the woods; it is always taking you somewhere. It could be a gazebo at the edge of a pond, an inviting bench or a table set for an unforgettable meal. Along with a path water also seems to be an important theme in woodland gardens. Now your yard may not have a stream or a pond but a bird bath or fountain can do the trick and even a dry stream bed, which gives you the appearance of water will do. Water brings a feeling of serenity to the woods as well as birds, frogs, and other wildlife which eat lots of bugs and provide beautiful background music to the ear.
The next distinctive feature of a woodland garden are the groundcovers. Nothing is more beautiful than an ocean of blue flowers swimming above the green foliage of Vinca Minor or the heavenly fragrance and stunning white flowers of Lily of the Valley. If you want to add some additional color in the spring you can try Primrose or Trillium which is a flower native to the woods in many areas of the country. Finally, don’t forget other native plants such as ferns whose leaves add a textural element to the landscape.
The third element to add for an unforgettable woodland garden is color. Green is a dominant theme in the woods and other colors are not always easy to find in the shade but there are plants that can fulfill this mission. Perennials such as Bleeding Heart, Columbine, and Astilbe are great choices and annuals such as Impatiens or containers of Tuberous Begonias will help fill the void left when those perennials finish blooming. Don’t forget the foliage too! Hosta and Coleus can both provide a much-needed boost of color in shady spots as well.
The last two key components really go hand in hand. As our eyes drift from the woodland floor toward the top of the canopy there are plants that need to fill in those spaces. Shrubs such as Holly stay green even during the winter months and if you plant a variety of Azaleas and Rhododendrons you can get a color boost from March through June. Finally, the understudies to our lead actors appear. Our woodland garden may be anchored by oak or maple trees but right below them are other trees that tie the top of the canopy to the ground below. Dogwoods, Redbuds, Magnolias and Japanese Maples are just a few examples of such role players and even though they often seem to blend into the background their contributions are very important.
Hopefully, the next time you take a walk in the woods, you’ll remember our article and it will give you some inspiration to transform your property into your own woodland oasis.