Renovating woodsybed

efeuerAugust 3, 2012

Hi everyone. I am looking for some advice about restoring this bed on the far side of my driveway. It was neglected and massively covered in vines--you can see some of the dead stuff still hanging and the piles of debris. These pictures show what remains in the bed following vine removal. I have decided to keep what is still there, even though much of it is misshapen or less than completely desirable. There are a couple of black locusts, a tulip tree, two American hollies, a choke cherry or two, and several hackberries. I would like to convert the bed to as naturalistic a micro woods as I can, but this is right on display when people pull in to the driveway and I would like it to be attractive. My ultimate goal for the 1 acre property is to shift the emphasis to native plants and provide as hospitable an environment as I can for birds, beneficial insects, and butterflies.

My current thinking is to put in a couple of understory trees beneath the locusts and tulip tree. I figure there is room for two small trees, and I am thinking of using a cornus alternifolia and a serviceberry. Where the bed shades into our overgrown Siberian irises I would like to plant a shade tree, and I am leaning towards using River Birch. On the far side of the bed from the driveway, where the dead vines are hanging off the dead branch I think there is room for another shade tree. (The dead branch and the vines are being removed by the tree guy.) I am leaning towards a tupelo or maybe a sassafras. There is currently a misshapen choke cherry there, which I'm leaving for now because of its wildlife value. The trees that are leaning over really far sideways are going to be removed. I would like to extend the bed toward the Siberian irises and put some viburnums in the bed there, where it's sunnier.

Any advice about the bed in general? What about starting some baby oak trees between the tulip tree and the locusts? Eventually those locusts are going to topple, and I would like to replace them with oaks eventually. Oaks are the dominant forest tree around here, although we are right at the edge between the oak forest biome and the pine barrens.

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How much direct sun does it get and is that morning sun or afternoon?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 3:10PM
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The canopy gets sun. The plants that are in the picture, the rhododendron, little Hackberry, Holly, and Dogwood, are in the understory. Both the tulip tree and the locusts give a dappled shade. Some of the gaps in the canopy are big enough for a full sun to reach the ground for an hour or two.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 5:10PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

Seeing that the rhododendron has done so well, I would plant some doghobble (Leucothoe fontanesiana) to compliment the Rhododendron. I would also include a few native azaleas, like pinxterflower or flame azalea. Include plants that normally grow in the pine-oak region. Mountain laurel especially comes to mind. For oaks, I might plant chestnut oak. Instead of tupelo or sassafras, I would plant a sourwood. Then again, what do I know? Knock yourself out! Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 3:10PM
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That's not a lot of sun. If you want a viburnum, I'd try mapleleaf viburnum, it seems to be the most shade tolerant. How well does the Rhododendron bloom and where approximately are you located?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:27PM
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We are in central NJ. We live right at the border between the Piedmont biome and the pine barrens. It is flatter and sandier here than in north NJ, but we're not really in the pines. Red oak species are still the dominant tree, and there are not a lot of native pines. Our subdivision used to be apple orchard.

What about the service berry and the dogwood? Would they thrive and bear? Do you think I should thin out some of those scraggy, lopsided trees? Underplanting with some azaleas would be OK--we have a prunifolium and a vaseyi that should be moved. The rhody and azaleas there bloom very well.

I could locate some viburnums in an extension of this bed. It would be much sunnier.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 8:29AM
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Serviceberry is considered full sun while dogwood (Cornus florida?) is not. So you'd have to put the serviceberry is the sunniest spot.

If the rhododendron and azaleas are flowering very well, then you are getting more sun than you thought, I think.

Thinning might be something to consider. I'm in the process of doing that now because things have grown so much in the mid-canopy.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 10:33AM
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Here's a view from the angle of the driveway, after the dead trees and the badly leaning trees were removed today. The 2 Ilex opaca are healthy, and already sending up new leaders. The small but straight trees are hackberries. The really deformed ones are chokecherries.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 5:43PM
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