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admin 13.09.2013

Our Woodland garden enjoys dappled shade and features hostas, astilbe, many different varieties of coral bells and the astounding hellebore! Now, before this thicket could perform a Cinderella act, it had to be cleared of weeds and debris. What remained after cleaning were native shade trees, including maples, oaks, and catalpas. Although a hammock seemed appropriate for this restful place, I failed to find one in an unobtrusive color. Within the woodland, but completely disguised by maple saplings and wild honeysuckle, is the “secret garden.” To make this circular-shaped “room,” I simply cleared a patch of weeds, laid down wood chips for a floor, and then placed a table and six chairs there. To provide the garden with three seasons of beauty, I planted the sides of paths with shade-tolerant perennials.
Other flowering plants and shrubs in this garden include rhododendrons (above), hellebores, astilbes, and Spanish bluebells. And that’s the story of my Woodland Garden, a magical place that beckons when the weather turns hot and humid in summer. I am so jealous as I sit in my 1-acre subdivision plot that six years ago was completely treeless. Erica – I let a fair amount of brush and bramble remain on the perimeter of the garden.
Terry – The woodland garden is my favorite place, too, especially when the weather turns hideously hot and humid. It’s been a successful Winter for me thus far thanks to some good advice from this site. I feel like a bit of a killjoy, but that honeysuckle looks like one of the invasive, exotic species that have naturalized in the region. One more benefit of honeysuckle: the luscious scent will stop you dead in your tracks on a calm spring day!
Your lovely woodland garden is very like my Australian bush garden which has mostly native plants but I am thinking of adding the shade-loving perennials you mention (if I can get them here) for some colour as our natives like sun and usually sandier soil than I’ve got. My worst weeds are Wandering Jew (Tradescantia Alba) and also our native Comelina which can tend to take over. Kevin, I like the idea of a Hosta walk but am worried that as they descend into “mush” in winter and will be visible from every window at the rear of the house, are there any plants that could be co-planted to disguise their demise?
Even though I am semi-retired with abundant energy and good health, I can’t seem to get everything done that Id like to do. Perhaps I and about 30 other people might begin to create something like you have shown us! Kevin, thank you for the timely post as I am scratching my poison ivy from last weekend’s work. I came across your website while looking for ideas for woodland retreats–lovely photos and congratulations on all your hard work!
Though it might not be warranted, I wanted to offer a few insights about invasive non-natives in the woods — as you probably know, our forests are supreme habitats for so many of our important plant and animal species, and good on you for clearing out brambles and muck and reclaiming your space! Instead of the forget-me-nots, try native bluebells (Mertensia virginica) or Dutchmen’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). For late spring to summer blooming interest, you could always plant a few native azaleas — tons of colors, butterfly magnets, and many are incredibly fragrant. As one lucky enough to be in close proximity of Kevin’s gardens,, I have seen first hand the evolution of the property from trash to treasure. Kevin—I see lots of plants here that are so lovely but are deer candy—do you have problems with deer? As with Deb’s request, I too would love to see how one would go from manicured lawn to paradise. I am clearing about a half acre of green briar under pines and some assorted hardwoods in Maryland.
Despite this being one of own down times in sales and shipping, I have been exceptionally busy.
If you are fortunate to live in a naturally wooded setting think about how you could get even greater value and enjoyment from your surroundings by creating a woodland garden.  The creative and knowledgeable staff at Mark M.
By “debris,” I mean rusty hubcaps, old tires, beer cans, and other trash deposited there by the previous owner. I let wild honeysuckle (above) remain, too, for it was useful for screening the woodland from the more formal parts of the property. I made a little pond for my woodland by paying a brawny friend to dig a three-foot-deep, four-foot-wide hole.
In the summer, I like having dinner with friends in this dim, natural setting, while seated at a table that is laid with linen, candles, crystal goblets, and my best china and silver. Here in zone 5b, its candelabras of bloom appear in mid-May, and sometimes continue through mid-July.
I planted large sweeps of the lacy-leaved, native New York fern Thelypteris noveboracensis) and the somewhat-evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) as groundcover. All these thrive happily beneath the garden’s canopy of maple, oak, wild cherry, and catalpa trees.

There, shady conditions, comfortable chairs, and a gurgling pond all contribute to a sense of cool comfort, whether one sits, strolls, or gently swings. I just spent the day doing some clearing and planting my wetland area so this was particularly inspiring to me. All those trees you are planting will before too long provide the cool, shady, woodsy atmosphere you desire.
Last year, I set a flat piece of field-stone on the bottom of my pond, and placed the pump there. And thanks for the reminder — I really need to have a Deer-Resistant Plants feature on this site. I’m interested in knowing how much space this garden takes up, and how long are your paths. I have tried to do something similar in the past but could not get past the poison ivy and oak that come up everywhere- even through my honeysuckle and azaleas. I dream of One day having as much room as you do to have so many different types of gardens. My husband cleared out a substantial amount of brush in the 8 years here, and what an improvement. I also joined your site following the vinegar weed killer link and am enjoying the other various posts thank you! Don’t know what I would do for a pump though as it is a fair way from the house and too shady to use a solar panel to power it. Your problems with deer are different to ours – we have wallabies and possums who eat things and snakes that give you a fright sometimes! I happen to be in the process of creating my own woodland garden in addition to putting in raised beds so it was great to run across your site and get a bunch of great ideas. I have found away to kill the grass and weeds with out chemicals, I use newspaper and cardboard and then I put down Bark Dust and that takes care of unwanted weeds for many years but also adds to the soil and the trees and bushes have a wonderful time growing in my yard forever and the Blueberries love it. Fall, winter and very early spring are the only times I can work in my woods due to the mosquitoes and deer flies.
These are both spring ephemerals but are so, so lovely in the early spring before the trees are fully leafed out. Also, tall bellflower (Campanula americana) blooms in late summer and is a self-sowing biennial that wows with flowers in deep shade.
Kevin’s design sense is extraordinary and his creativity has taken what was ordinary and overgrown to something absolutely magical.
Beautiful pictures and inspiration just one question: Do you have any native woodland wildflowers? I bought a house with a meticulously manicured lawn in a park neighborhood in the inner city with many huge trees near a river. Other perennials for these sites that are native to the habitat of the deciduous forest of Indiana are columbine, Solomon’s seal, and wild ginger, which can form a mat of glossy green foliage across the forest floor. Unfortunately the shrub is an exotic invasive, and I have been advised, by several readers, to get rid of it.
You see, Harold Brown, a former Footman to Queen Elizabeth, a former butler to Charles and Diana (and later, Princess Margaret), and now the owner of this drop-dead gorgeous Bed & Breakfast in Tumbridge Wells, happened to be visiting during my week of woodland-making. He lined the cavity with leftover roofing material I had on hand, and then filled it with water.
If you have a wild patch on your property, perhaps you’ll consider transforming it into a shady oasis, too. My folks woodland area is difficult to do anything with, here in Michigan, because of the little buggers.
Such inspiration….it makes me want to get outside immediately and begin digging up my property!!!! Or you and a helper can manage the job, providing you are willing to dress for the occasion! After you lay the newspaper down, spray it with water so it doesn’t blow away while you work. I started with an empty paddock 18 years ago and wanted to develop the garden as an extension of the bush along our creek, which is what has happened. Very shady and so I am encouraging the violets that volunteer there and have planted a bleeding heart and some wild geranium that was growing nearby. Hummingbirds LOVE this stuff — mine was blooming on my fence even after it started freezing outside overnight.
Trilliums are slow but gradually colonize and are truly breathtaking when they’ve become established. If you are in the area during the Land Conservancy Open Days, make a visit to the historic Nathan Wild House (Kevin and Will’s home) on the top of your list. I live in an old stone farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania and have several large woodland gardens that border several acres of uncleared woodland. Read on, and I’ll show you how clearings were made, how paths were laid out to create a sense of mystery, and how the addition of a gurgling pond, comfortable seating, and colorful woodland plants all contributed to making this former eyesore a shady retreat. Sumac, if you have never encountered it, is the weediest of all weed trees here in the Northeast.

This invites a visitor to meander slowly through the garden, in order to discover what lies beyond each and every bend.
It overlooks a bed of New York ferns (Thelypteris noveboracensis), interplanted with pink and red Primula japonica.
You might have to place a clear plastic bag over the plant to give it the moist air it wants. Obviously positive ID is the first step in determining if something seemingly weedy should or should not be extirpated from an area. I sprayed everything before beginning to plant but the poisonous vines just keep coming back undeterred.
It has evolved to a beautiful, natural-looking area, although the shade from the trees means I don’t get many flowers. In fact I am hoping to get some starts of Tiger-eye Sumac which is expensive due to being patented but also a prolific reproducer. What I want is to turn it into a garden with walking paths, ground covers, shrubs, a gazebo here and there, bird baths, fountains, but NO GRASS except for a small bit in the backyard for my standard poodle. But it is soft-wooded and shallow rooted, and therefore not too difficult to cut or dig up.
My paths are framed with fallen branches (and cut-up sumac—at least it’s good for something), and paved with wood chips. Birds, frogs, chipmunks and about 25 goldfish and Koi enjoy the gurgling pond as much as I do.
If I don’t weed-wack at least once a month I get a jungle especially by the stream beds which are steep.
What didn’t work out this year was attempting to bring indoors some rosemary and lavendar. I live in Ulster county, where there is lots of Lonicera tartarica, which looks like that, with both white and pink forms. Do you have any thoughts on protecting young trees from deer without erecting iron cages around them? I have come to the conclusion that I need to fence in my patio and just do container gardening. It’s really just a nod to a woodland garden, but I am enjoying planning other plants for it. The things that go from my bramble patch are poison ivy, virginia creeper, honeysuckle, wild rose and buckthorn.
I have about four acres mostly wooded and would like to know how you decided in which order to do things? There are many native shrubs that do well in shade with which to replace the lonicera if you choose to do so.
I know Burpee seeds, for instance, does reference some types of plants as being deer resistant, but where can I find out different methods of keeping deer at bay?
One question in regard to your woodland area: do you have trouble with mosquitos or do you have a good way of warding them off? The things that get to stay are raspberry, a native dogwood that grows here, viburnum and the sumac. Looking forward to trying the Forget-Me-Nots, Primula japonica and the Campanula persicifolia ‘Takion Blue’.
I am especially interested in ways of deterring them as I have developed a very severe allergy to their bits in recent years.
I am supplementing with dogwood trees and bushes, forsythia, redbud and I’m always looking for woodland perennials. And unfortunately, this winter I will be taking out all the ash trees to make room for replacements next spring, catalpa and tulip tree are on my list to add to the wild cherry, black walnut (redbud seems to not mind growing under it) various apple varieties and some things that I have not IDed yet. I am an intermediate gardener as far as my skill are concerned , have grown alot of roses and flowers …but the amount of shade is wonderful and a bit daunting from the viewpoint of planting-anyway thanks and really enjoy your site! I want to sample the libation you’ll concoct to fortify hikers for that particular walk in the woods.
I’ve cleared out all the debris and just today I placed lots of boulders native to the area. Thanks so much for taking the loving care to create such an inspiring and informative web site. My theory is to remove the stuff I don’t want, encourage the things I do want and I hope to arrive at some kind of maintainable balance. Then I’m calling a halt while I wander the property until a path starts forming in my mind. Once that is laid out I will continue with shrubs, perennials, ground covers, and finally bulbs.

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