help with next layer

hoyess(z5 ON Can)March 13, 2008

Last year I created the canopy layer of a couple of new woodland gardens -- one in an area cleared of raspberry cane and grapevine, one a large lawn area. This winter I'm working on planning the shrub and perennial layer. I've read many posts here, posted a couple questions myself & read many books but quite frankly am a little overwhelmed (tree part seemed easy!). I recently updated my website with pics of these gardens and a plant list. Could you give me some ideas from your experience on what my "floor" should look like. How crowded should the shrubs be or should I stick more to perennials. I'd like to use natives where I can but will not likely stick 100% to natives although I am planning on adding about 5-6 more trees native to the Carolinian forest this spring. I can come up with a list of plants to use just can't quite get a feel for the right mix for some reason (perhaps because my garden approach has habitually be plant, experiment and move and I am much more experienced with sunny gardens.)

The page lists all my garden pages, you can scroll toward the bottom to see what my woodland garden pages are. Thanks for the help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Woodland garden links

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loris(Z6 NJ)


You taught me a new expression. I looked up Carolinian forest because although I knew we have many plants in common, I wasnÂt sure if you tended to have many more evergreens in your area. Wikipedia says "Carolinian forest" is used in Canada where down here we call it "eastern deciduous forest", among other terms.

I donÂt have a direct answer for you, but I do suggest you look at natural areas near where you live or that have similar plants and conditions as the area in your garden. See what plants and combinations you like the best and get ideas about what type of feel you want to achieve. Books and the Internet are great, but sometimes thereÂs nothing like seeing the real thing. I know I was never interested in Cephalanthus occidentalis (buttonbush) until I saw it on a walk and realized the pictures never did it justice.

In addition, or instead, if you donÂt feel like getting out there, look at a copy of Rick DarkeÂs "The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest". This book helped me quite a bit. I was working with individual plants, not the overall effect, and had never done enough with the middle layer of shrubs. I donÂt know if this will help you or not, but one of my favorite sections of my yard has Matteuccia struthiopteris (ostrich fern), and Lobelia siphilitica (blue cardinal flower).

I saw you have a bird sanctuary garden. You may want to take wildlife uses into account, if you arenÂt already, although based on some of your plants there, I suspect you are already.

Good luck with your project.

-- Lori

    Bookmark   March 15, 2008 at 2:47PM
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hoyess(z5 ON Can)

thanks Lori. I have walked many bushes in the area and noticed they go either towards few shrubs and mostly groundcover perennials but here the trees seem to be more densely packed. Where the trees are further apart the undergrowth builds up almost thicket like, something I don't want.

Here is my current short list. Again I have no problem picking plants I want (I am a bit of a plant-aholic) just can't figure out distribution ie how many shrubs, how tight. Has anyone used these and with what underneath or around them.

Cephalanthus occidentalis (I too saw one on vacation & decided I have to have at least one. What would go well around it?)

Cornus sericea (I thought I would mass plant these at the base of some of the trees or along 'pathways')

Ilex verticillata (Again, maybe one mass planting?)

Lindera benzoin (Spicebush) -- not sure what to do with this one. Seems big yet I need more than one for fruit. How far apart can they be?

Symphoricarpos albus -- another mass planting or am I getting too many 'berries'?

Viburnum trilobum 'Bailey Compacta' (not a true native but I need another trilobum as my native ones are not producing berries so I'm going to add Compacta to see if it helps polinate my existing shrubs)

Thanks all


    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 4:45PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I think I wouldn't try to plant the entire shrub layer, and certainly not the entire herbaceous layer, right now. First, your trees are still small, so you don't have the shade you'll have later on. This will allow your shrubs to grow faster, but they might get thicker and larger than they would in a woodland, and that might mean you'll get the thicket condition you don't want. Another concern is that the recently removed blackberry and perhaps the grapes too are not completely gone, and will spring back to life this spring. The blackberries and other weeds will be a lot easier to control without too many new plants mingled among them. Finally, with the trees still small it will be hard to picture what the woodland will look like when it is more grown. By all means, go ahead and plant some shrubs, but I wouldn't worry about planting the full compliment of shrubs right now. Also, I'd make sure to add evergreens to your shrub layer - you have long winters and a little green will be welcome. If deer aren't too much of a problem, you might consider American yew, which is a native that is becoming very rare here in the states because deer browse it so heavily.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 10:38AM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

I like the idea of mass planting Ilex verticillata. The Lindera could be 15-20 feet apart. I realize your "woodland" is still young, but give some thought to making paths through the woods. This then could determine what you plant and where. I see you have Cornus alternifolia on your list. Plants of theis could be scattered through your woods.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 8:57AM
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