Help needed with Mini 'woodland' : Mulch, moss, or groundcover?

topieApril 19, 2009

Does anyone have suggestions about the best way to mulch/cover the bare ground of a miniature "woodland" garden bed?

The garden bed in question is a small, shaded garden bed (about 6 feet long and 2 feet wide) that has consistently moist soil. It's planted with Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis).

There are some bare ground areas in the bed, so I just added some Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia), Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) and Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina).

This particular garden bed has never been formally mulched, and has only a small patch of native moss on the ground, which appears to be Hypnum moss. We normally just remove any weeds, which is getting time-consuming.

I kind of dislike the way garden beds look when they are mulched with commercially processed wood chip mulch, punctuated by plants and shrubs sprouting up in between the mulch mounds.

Here are the 5 alternative options we're considering:

1. Leaves: Importing some fallen leaves from our actual full-scale woods for mulch (no leaves actually fall on the bed naturally).

2. Pine needle mulch.

3. More moss: I was thinking of purchasing some more Hypnum moss with the hope that it will eventually cover the bare areas of ground, but am unsure if this will be good for the other plants such as the Bleeding heart and the Jacob's Ladder. Would a carpet of moss make it difficult for rainwater to reach the roots of the other plants?

4. Skipping the mulch and just planting some kind of low-growing perennial like Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) or Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata).

5. Waiting for the Foamflower and ferns to fill in the bare ground areas.

If anyone thinks one of these options might be better than the other, or has any other suggestions, I'd appreciate it very much.


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I would go with the imported leaves option as the area is small. Moss doesn't keep weed seeds out, you still have to pick weeds out of the moss. Also: the Fringed bleedingheart (dicentra eximia) will help fill in blank areas and won't go dormant in mid-summer as the d. spectabilis does. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2009 at 2:10PM
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I like the leaves option also. Thats what i use. I live in an oak-hickory forest and try to keep all as natural as possible. My Cardinal plant is blooming now close to some wild dwarf iris. and wild onions. So looking cheerful.

I also have wild purple violets growing everywhere.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 12:51AM
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Thanks so much for the suggestions. I added some leaf mulch today just to see how it would look and it actually looks really great. I guess in my effort to mulch, I just mimicked how nature would fill in the bare ground of a real woodland! No wonder the leaf mulch seems to look "right." I'm sure the plants will like it too.

It's interesting that you mentioned the Dicentra eximia/Fringed Bleeding heart because I was looking at the Bleeding Heart today and thought its leaves looked unusual. The nursery tag says Dicentra spectabilis but the leaves look more like a Dicentra eximia. It's possible the nursery put a spectabilis tag on an eximia I suppose.

I didn't know that Dicentra eximia doesn't go dormant in the summer -- thanks for the info! We have a pink Dicentra spectabilis that goes dormant in the summer but the "Alba" is new, so we haven't seen it through a summer yet. Maybe we're in luck and the new "Alba" spectabilis is actually an eximia. I was planning on planting some ferns around it so that when it goes dormant the ferns will cover the fading foliage, but maybe now I won't need to.

Wow, Cardinal plant--it must be beautiful. We have violets popping up all over now too (in our lawn), so I'm transplanting some of them to the mini "woodland".

Thanks again for everyone's help!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2009 at 1:43AM
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I also am planning a mini woodland garden - tabletop, about 2m x 1m, and I also am looking for something to use as ground cover; I was looking for some kind of grass-effect.

someone suggested moss, but I know very little of what kinds are availabe, and I've not been able to find the Google keywords that will bring up the real plants, not artificial or books about it or people called Moss. If anyone can offer suggestions, either for the plant or better keywords, I'd appreaciate it!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 6:18PM
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Check the forum here for moss, ferns and cryptograms. Also check out George Shenk's book on moss gardening. And look on facebook for Moss and Stone Gardens - Where Moss Rocks. If you google moss gardening, you will find more sources.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 11:38PM
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Check ebay UK. Try bryophytes, live green moss, live moss plants, sphagnum moss. Here is one that has some live green moss beside sphagnum in it. Maybe the dude from Wales will be willing to offer regular terrestrial mosses if you ask him?

Here is a link that might be useful: sphagnum moss with other mosses in it

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 2:47AM
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