Our woodland design

We actually have three woodland-type areas, in other words, areas where we grow some woodland plants under and near some trees. Even though these areas are quite small, their spring ephemerals (plants that bloom only fleetingly in the spring) are especially welcome after our long Central New York winters.

Back yard woodland

Woodland in spring(Enlarge) ©Janet AllenOur woodland garden as it was first planted

Our backyard woodland (actually only the back area of the photo) and the small hill is made from the dirt excavated from the pond, so the soil wasn't very good. Still, most things have grown pretty well, and as the fallen leaves decay each year, the soil gets somewhat more forest-like. We also put some of our composted leaves on this area, but we don't have enough to make a big difference yet.

Closeup of woodland plants(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Backyard woodland area

We have some trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum), Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), foamflowers (Tiarella cordifolia), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), false solomon's seal (Smilacina racemosa), jacob's ladder (Polemonium reptans), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), a variety of ferns, and some other flowers.

They don't call them ephemeral for nothing! We enjoy the flowers, however brief they're blooming, but we've also come to enjoy their beautiful foliage.

First front yard woodland

Foamflower ©Janet AllenFoamflower

Another woodland-type area is in the front yard under the redbud tree. I have just one or just a few each of a quite a few different species, such as this foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia). I also have merry bells (Uvularia grandiflora), everblooming bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia), mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), wild ginger (Asarum canadense), jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), ferns, and others.

Woodland under redbud(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Woodland under redbud

Planting just one of something really isn't a recommended design technique, but it gives me a chance to see how different plants grow. Also, many of these are quite expensive ($6-$8 a piece), so I'd prefer to just wait for them to spread on their own or get big enough to divide. They've all been spreading quite nicely, so I think I'll eventually have a nice woodland area there.

I still have quite a few different cultivars of hosta left over from my ornamental gardening days. So far, they've served the purpose of easily and inexpensively filling in space that would otherwise have been lawn. And though hosta are not native, they're also not invasive, so it hasn't been a priority to get rid of them. Still, when I need space for a new plant, I know what to get rid of! I've already composted quite a few. I've also replanted many of them underneath the weeping crabapple tree—I prefer hosta to the weeds that were growing there.

Trunk ©Janet AllenRedbud trunk: not a healthy tree

One dilemma concerning my front woodland garden illustrates another design problem. I had planted these shade-loving plants in the shade, but our neighbors then had to remove a dying tree that had provided much of the shade for this little woodland garden, so it isna't as shady as it had been. Compounding the problem is that our redbud tree, the remaining source of shade, is unhealthy, too. It's going to be tricky to replace the redbud without destroying the plants that are there, and also to provide some source of shade. And they were just beginning to thrive there!

Second front yard woodland

Our front left woodland(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Our front left woodland

Our final woodland-type area is left of the sidewalk going to the front door, under our Kentucky coffee (Gymnocladus dioicus) tree. There are inkberries (Ilex glabra), spicebushes (Lindera benzoin), an itea (Itea virginica), a native bush honeysuckle (Lonicera diervilla), and a variety of columbines (Aquilegia)—some native, some hybrids, and some mixed since they interbreed with abandon—and other flowers.

This area is in some way more like a woodland than the others since it has more trees and shrubs, not just woodland flowers.