New to a wooded lot

coachemgMay 4, 2005

Hello folks! I recently moved into a new construction home in a 3/4 acre wooded lot. I have a lightly traveled road about 40 yards behind my home, and I am surrounded by boulders, very tall mature trees on 3 sides, and even a pond on one of the sides. I love everything about it...but the builder really left the first few feet of wooded areas in terrible condition...I need help!

My questions are-

Does anyone have a recommended way to get rid of all he brush? Im trying to have the borders groomed, but to maintain a natural appearance. There are a lot of boulders around the edges also.

Also, any recommendations on what to plant around the borders? Id like to make it look fairly groomed and safe for pets and children.

I also need advice on what to do in the back of my property line? I dont want a fence...but I dont want to see and hear traffic.

Any other advice and opinions would really be appreciated. Ive always lived in developments with such cookie cutters lots...and now that I have a beautiful wooded lot I just want to make it more presentable and enjoyable without harming anything.


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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Your situation is almost identical to mine. We just built a house in a subdivision that was cut into an old farmer's woodlot consisting of sugar maple, black cherry, beech and other deciduous trees. Although... your woods sounds like it might be older and more natural than ours and you have more "things" like your boulders and pond next to you, we had similar problems with the developer and construction folks leaving the forest edge a total mess with felled trees, broken up scrub, damaged standing trees etc. The back of our house sits on 30' of groomed grass which ends right at the woods. Behind our lot is another and then the outside edge of the woodlot beyond that. So we can actually see out of the woods to the field beyond where there is a large nursing home facility being built as well as more home construction. The first season here we spent most of our time grading the area between our home and the woods, pulling out the scrubby edge that was all damaged and getting rid of the two major alien invasive species that were crowding out our woodland plants. To replace the scrub we pulled out (mostly some kind of naturally occuring viburnum) we created a more formal looking bed that would serve as the division between our formal yard area and the woods. I planted "False Spirea" that can spread, some gold thread cypress and burning bush for colour and some blue juniper for contrasting colour and height. Beyond this row of plantings and inside the woods is all Native Plantings. Our woods is 2nd or 3rd growth so it's very tall (70-80 feet tall) with high canopy due to all the trees competing at the same time for sunlight and nothing between the forest floor and the canopy. To rectify this we've planted several deciduous trees (bur oak, more sugar maple, hickory) that will grow up into that empty spot and then added native bushes (serviceberry, cranberry, elderberry, redbud, red osier dogwood and looking for spicebush - we love birds) that will grow in below the new deciduous trees. We've added all native ferns(cinnamon, osterich, senstive,royal, ladyfern, manfern, maidenhair, Christmas and hartstongue), bloodroot, virginia bluebells, canadian ginger, canadian columbine, bunchberry, false solomon's seal, solomon's seal, spotted jewelweed and more red and white trilliums (most were already there). Jacks, dog-toothed violet, Blue cohash and shrubs such as pin cherry and alternate leaf dogwood grow in profusion naturally.

We've only been here since October 2003 so I think we've gotten a lot done in that short time so now it's a matter of letting it start to grow in and fill up the space and just tweaking things here and there if we find some things just don't take to our soil and odd conditions. We've already found certain ferns that tolerate things well while others don't do well at all, so I've noted that in my files for future reference.

I can take photos but I have no idea how to post them into the threads here. If anyone can explain how to do that I'd be more than happy to post a few pictures for you of our little woodsy backyard.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 8:34AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Your woods sounds beautiful Barb, but I just have 1 quibble...Burning bush is not native, and will aggressively seed itself into your woodlot, and your neighbor's too. And the birds will help! In many states, burning bush is listed as a noxious weed. The only reason I mention this is that it sounds like you are committed to using native species.

For honey-scented spring blooms and excellent fall colour, you could always go with Fothergilla Garedenii, instead.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 10:21AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Check out the PA DEP site for noxious weeds and other info on wooded lots. Good place to get started.

Figure out what type of woods was there historically and what remains that you want to keep. If you figure out what was there and what you still have it will give you some idea of what species will do well there. Then you have to figure out what you want to do with it (recreation, native woodland restoration, gardening, what uses will it have?)

Plant any trees early on in the project.

Redbuds, Viburnums and Dogwoods are always nice on a woodland edge.

Conifers make a nice buffer for traffic noise and blocking views.

Sounds like a nice piece of property, have fun with it!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 10:55AM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

If you have pets and children, and a road beyond the trees, then you need a fence.

Wire mesh fence is not terribly visible from any distance at all and works fine at confining kids and dogs, tho not cats.

What with population growth and all, that 'lightly travelled road' will not stay lightly travelled for any amount of time. After all, if your house is new, then others are being planned too.

Boulders and brush (or undergrowth) are a natural component of woodlands. Nonnative brush is a different matter but you don't specify what you mean by 'brush'. Around here the forests support so much brush you can't even find the dirt. You can bushwhack a long ways without ever touching boots to dirt for all the moss and ferns and salal and stuff. Boulders are a great thing to have naturally, since they're prohibitively expensive to move and hard to make look natural if you have to import them.

A proper woodland has a 3 leveled structure: Tall trees, medium height trees and shrubs (undergrowth), and groundcovers - ferns, mosses, wildflowers, berries. If all you have is tall trees then you have a timber stand or an orchard.

Undergrowth is your key to blocking the view of the road. Don't you have things like native rhodies and kalmias in your neck of the woods? plant more of things like that. Bayberry? Young cedars will do the trick too. A proper woodland needs to have a varied age structure in its trees. Young ones, old ones, in between ones. Then there's the understory trees like dogwoods. Anything under about 15ft height will help block the view of the road and give you some privacy from neighbors.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2005 at 6:30PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

ahughes... thank you for mentioning that about the burning bush. I've seen that on some websites and although I can't discount what the birds contribute in terms of spreading seeds I have to admit that I've never seen a burning bush anywhere except for in people's formal gardens. It's a bit fussy up here (needs a lot of watering) so maybe it doens't do well unless tended to in a garden in these parts. I really appreciate your warning/insight though as I had not thought of it. The only part of my property that is native is the part in the woods but I understand what you are saying and will keep vigillent eyes on it for any signs of it spreading OR self seeding. I'm afraid it's a very popular species up here due to our fall climate (warm, sunny and dry) it really blazes with colour in the fall so even if I got rid of mine, there'd be other folks' burning bush to contend with as well. I'll just have to be very vigillent with it. I'm also a gardener that plants for fall foliage almost exclusively so I'd be reluctant to remove the burning bush even with it's negative aspects. Thanks again for the information will make my hubby and me much more careful to inspect our woods for any signs of it setting seed. It's interesting that you mention Fothergilla gardenii... I have just ordered one last week and I'm terribly excited for it to come in. Fall colours just make my heart skip a beat and with the sugar maples, serviceberry and witch hazel, it will only ADD to the wonderful display of colour which contrasts beautifully against the blue greens of the non-native blue junipers and spreaders.

Best regards,


    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 1:49PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Here is a photo of my backyard that faces onto the forest edge. There is my lot, then a very small lot behind which is right at the edge and a new road that is mostly used right now for heavy equiptment as they are building more houses back there. The fence we put in last year really put some stress on our ground foliage. It used to be an absolute carpet of dog-toothed violets and a sea of blue cohash but you can see it's really spotty now. We are praying it will come back in the next few years and we will collect and hand-strew more seeds this fall in the areas most hard hit around the permimeter. The woods looks pretty bare in this picture but by summer it will be much more filled in as you can't see most of the shrubs and small trees that we've planted to eventually fill in the space between the ground and the canopy.

sorry the pics aren't the best, they are taken through the glass in my livingroom.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 2:12PM
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TO konttyceltic,Take my advice get rid of the burning bush if you have any respect for the local enviroment.I scoffed at someone who warned me .And five years after I cut down the offensive plants,I still find seedlings scattered thru out the woods.There's enough information online for people who care to know better.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2006 at 1:14AM
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