What marks the 'back' of your woodland garden?

grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)June 26, 2006

My back lawn transitons into a woodland garden with paths and dense woods are behind the garden. I've recently cleared the underbrush another 20' behind the garden in hopes of making the back look neat, but now I just want to put something back there, but can't decide.

Suggestions/photos? Thanks. :)

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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I suggest you stop trying to make a woodland look "neat." I think it should look woodsy...but maybe that isn't the type of suggestion you are looking for.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 11:06AM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Well, it's defintely woodsy, but want to have SOME type of transition to the woods. :)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 12:48PM
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I understand what you're interested in accomplishing, grandmapoo, but I also understand ladyslppr's reply.

It's hard to see the lawn just stop and the "wilderness" begin! I think you ought to consider introducing some shrubs that would like the area between cleared and woods. This is what I'm try to accomplish here; establishing an "understory" of lower growing shrubs (flowering and evergreen), some herbaceous perennials that are either native to my area or are known to thrive in the sort of conditions I can offer them. I'm trying to be very selective about what I introduce so I don't destroy the native spring ephemeral bulbs that are so tiny and delicate but are the first to appear at the end of a long, harsh winter.

I'm finding it's a lot harder than I thought it would be! trying to make anything newly planted "blend in" and not look contrived requires a lot of research. Gulp.

Maybe you could get some good ideas from a native wildflower organization based in your state? have you tried the website of your state's university, you might be very surprised at what you might be able to turn up.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 3:56PM
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This is an interesting topic. My back lawn also abuts a woodland conservation area, which can never be built upon.

I kept a portion of my property in native woods and allowed native underbrush to reclaim part of the area, which in my region are mostly canadian mayflowr, celedaine (sp?) poppy, blueberries, pines, mapels, beeches, virginia creeper, bindweed, and cinnamon ferns. To add more winter "bones" and color for the spring, I have added rhodies and azaleas. In my region Rhod. Maximum is strong performer, and I will be adding pruniflorium shortly and bottlebush buckeye. Leucothoe and oregon grape holly will work also.
Don't forget withchazels, which area must have up north after our grey winters.

For herbecaeous plants, bleeding heart. hosta (along paths) and astillbe work for me.

My concept is to treat my house and lawn, as if it was natural clearing in the woods. In any clearing there will be gradully incresing height of plants transitiong into the surrounding mature tree canopy. Understory trees, mid-height shrubs and woodland floor plants consisting of native plants augmented with some non=invasives has been my plan.
A significant portion of my plant material is left as naturally re-vegetated woodland species in order to establish unity with the surrounding woods.

I also have a green welded wire fence, which keeps the dog in but doenst block my view into the woods. My biggest debate has been how to upgrade my fence, because of ATV'ers, but retain the woodland feel.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 9:33PM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Thanks, those are great suggestions. I love the idea of a natural looking under canopy that gets taller and blends into the dense woods. The 20' that I cleared was a horrible twisting of these awful thorny vines, brambles, poison oak, etc, which kept incroaching on the back path of my garden. I'm at a loss at how to keep these at bay. The mulched leaves on the path break down to fertile soil and seems to be an invitation for them. How do you all solve this problem?
I tried azaleas to help with the transition to the woods, but it's too dry many summers and due to their shallow roots, have lost most of them. The area is quite large and way too much to keep watered back there. I guess I'll start looking for deep rooted, light green or variegated evergreen shrubs that will stand out in the deep shade.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 10:29PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

What I did, instead of going 20' back into the woods, I went 20'(approx.) forward into the lawn and stopped mowing. So I have a area of long grass between the mowed lawn and the woods. The strip of long grass is sprouting some violets and other woodland plants. I walk through there and hand pull noxious weeds that sprout.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 10:56AM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Joepyeweed, Thanks for your reply. Your idea was very clever, however my problem is not transitioning the mowed yard to the woods. My problem now is transitioning the back of the woodland garden to the dense woods.
I'm now looking for evergreens that will survive drought conditions and a way to STOP poison oak and those awful thorny vines from creeping back into the tamed garden area. My arthritis limits me and I can't keep fighting it. I tried landscape cloth covered in shredded leaves, but the vines just climb right over it and thru it! Every summer, I'm back to the same problem. If I can't find a solution, I'll lose my garden area to the brambles.

I'm considering putting down a layer of sand in the back of the garden and covering that with painters tarp that doesn't allow water to seep thru and hide it with shredded leaves. It SEEMS it could work??? Any comments about this idea? Short of giving up and just putting some kind of large edging back there, which I don't really want to do, I'm out of ideas. Thanks

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 12:30PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Grandma P,

Start using some Round-up to lessen the physical labour involved. Paint the stumps of the larger vines and brambles after you cut them down. In other words, do not cut the stuff off at ground level. If you are not cutting things down, paint the leaves with the Round-up. This will make it slightly less labour intensive. It could take about 2 weeks, but the stuff will die. No more lugging tarps and leaves.

I know you may not like to use chemicals, but by using Round-Up carefully, you can limit its already negligible environmental impact. April

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 1:40PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I agree with April - a little bit of round up, carefully applied is probably your best method of controlling vines. Particularly if you have limited mobility.

Vines naturally spread and move around depending upon conditions... so smothering isn't very effective for vines.

You could also have a trench cut in to seperate the gardened area from the non-gardened area. Fill the trench with wood chips and - that helps deter plants that spread via rhizomes from creeping in.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 3:41PM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Thanks April and Joepyeweed. I tried round up before, and it wasn't all that effective. Maybe your method of applying will work.
I've also done the landscape timber in a trench method and it's not enough area to stop it. It is working for some things, but the poison oak climbs right over. If I could stop a large portion of it, I can manage the rest. Thanks for the tips and encouragement. :)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 6:22PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

If round-up alone doesn't work, have you tried Ortho Brush Be Gone, its a mixture of both round up and 2,4-d which is more effective on woody vegetation. YOu do need to be very careful though, because 2,4-D can leave residual in the soil, so its more dangerous round up is...

There is a stronger woody vegetation treatment call Garlon 4, but in my state, you have to be licensed to use it. Perhaps you could hire a licensed professional to do a Garlon treatment for you.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 11:21AM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Thanks. I'll look for the stronger type for the Ortho Brush Be Gone. In the meantime, I will use the unused portion of the roundup using the method described. Those poison oak vines run under the ground so far, it's unbelievable. When I'm pulling them by hand, finally they will snap off under the dirt, only to resprout. The other vine is a thick woody vine with huge thorns that winds up trees that I have to just chop off at ground level and wait for it to die in order to pull it out of the trees. Then there's a smaller green version of it that has a very deep root that has to be shoveled up. I don't know if it's the same vine and just a new sprout or not. I'll have to do more research. I'm going to use your idea and put down a thick, EXTRA WIDE, layer of some hardwood chips in the worse areas. It will not breakdown as quickly as the shredded leaves and as it starts to climb over, I'll pull it back onto the other side.
Thanks again. :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 12:49PM
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Barbaraga(GA 7a)

I tried planting hemlocks to mark the back of my woodland garden to the woods, but drought has taken 2 of them and the rest are so slow growing. There's too much shade for most shrubs but oakleaf hydrangea does ok.

I usually make about 3 trips a year around the property with roundup. Honeysuckle, poison ivy, virginia creeper, and brambles often take 2 applications, and I don't think it can kill sawbriar which I cut to the ground with pruners a couple of times a year.

Ideally a creek running at the back of your garden would be a great transition to the wild woods. If you find the perfect solution, I hope you'll post it here.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 3:41PM
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As much as I loathe the thought, I'm going to have to "do the Round Up thing", too. I have to deal with Acer rubrum (swamp maple) saplings and a few stumps of specimens recently taken down. They sprouted again in a week! Herbicides and poisons creep me out... I know "they" say there's no residual... but "they" said DDT was safe, too. And "they" said it would be OK to watch atomic tests from a "safe distance"... sooo, I remain skeptical.

Your concise advice on what to use and HOW to use it to greatest effect with minimal danger has made me feel a little more confident about what I must do. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 3:43PM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Barb, my garden has a high side and a low side. It took me a lot of trial and error finding the right place for things. Sometimes it was a matter of swapping plants. I lost some azaleas, although the ones in the front are doing well. The hydrangeas on the high side of the garden that was next to a large oak died due to lack of water, but the one in front is doing ok, but didn't bloom two seasons in a row. I don't prune it, but it too gets very dry at times. I'm not sure why it doesn't bloom anymore.
The back of the garden is is heavy shade, and also has a dry and wet side. Many years with enough rain, it looks so lush and green and some years by this time of year, the ferns are already turning brown. Although it sounds like a headache, I choose the spot because it's anchored by 5 large oaks. The canopys almost cover the top when you looks up. If I do figure out the ideal solution to the transition, I will post it, but it looks like it still may be some trial and error in that regard also. :)

Chelone, I also avoid poisons whenever possible. Not only for the environment, but for my own safety and health. I wear a mask, long pants and long sleeve shirts when using it. I have a problem with small oaks sprouting up from all the acorns that drop from the large surrounding oaks. I always pull them up by hand. Hard work!!! The little tree may be only 5" tall, but the root is strait down 12". ***UNBELIEVABLE***
Good luck. We'll see if we make any headway with the roundup and Ortho. :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 8:11PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

GrannieP...you got to do what you got to do. I don't like chemicals, either, but as a person with some physical limitations, their use helps me accomplish my aims. I can't hand pull everything. Smothering doesn't work in a lot of cases, especially if you have a lot of land. So I resort to the judicious use of Round-up. Round Up takes a while to work, and you may have to use it more than once. Apply it with a paint brush, that way you can put it exactly where you need it and nowhere else. Brush killer works a lot faster, but I don't want 2,4,D on my earth, really. I used it here one time to get rid of persitent mulberry trees and their shoots. But like I said, you gotta do what you gotta do...until you get a handle on the problems. THEN you can pull stuff up by hand. For me, it's all about getting the undesireables manageable! Then I can control them by hand, no poisons necessary!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 11:14PM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Thanks AHughes. I had hubby mow off the poison oak, so now I can at least walk amongst it and use the roundup. I'm thankful for the paint brush method tip b/c I don't want to get any overspray into my little pond.
You're right, if I can get it killed off where I don't want it and put in the barrier, then I can pretty much handle it on my own. Do you think I use it to kill the little oaks too? Sometimes when I pull on one and it breaks off, it grows back. Tough little devils!
I absolutely love my garden space. It has given me a lot of peace during trying times. I will do what it takes to keep it. Good luck with your gardening, also. :)

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 12:37PM
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Barbaraga(GA 7a)

Be sure to wear vinyl or plastic gloves if you spray roundup. The triggers sometimes leak.

Also, while I feel regular strength roundup is pretty safe to soil (doesn't poison the ground like some sprays), I've read it is deadly to fish.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 12:19PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Round-Up is something you don't want to get in your pond if you have fish in there. But if you paint the stumps with it...it's a non-issue. Add some red food colouring in there, too..so you can tell which stumps you've already painted.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2006 at 11:39PM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Thanks. Red fool coloring tip is helpful. Since my pond is not in the very back where the poison oak is, I'm not too worried about poisoning the fish. Won't use it on a windy day and the painting technique is pretty controlled. Only problem is that we're in a rainy period, for over a week now, so haven't been able to use the roundup and the poison oak is already growing back!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2006 at 6:39PM
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I do not think they make round up like they used to. It kills for awhile then stuff grows back. I have some old wagon wheels I found in the neighbors trash pile. I used them to define my back line for my weed wacker. Not everyone running the weed wacker knows the differance between a jack-in-the-pulpit and a weed. Anything 10 feet behind the wheels gets wacked once or twice a year. I rake and dump my leaves in this area each fall also. This keeps the weeds down. It creates sort of a buffer zone between my shade garden and the wild of the woods. It is true when gardening this close to the woods keeping the vines,and invasives out is a yearly battle. The initial clearing is the most arduous. It took me seven years to get a 20ft. deep, boarder around 3/4 of my yard cut out from the woods. We cut out or down anything not thicker then a mans fore arm. The stumps are slowly rotting away. Some send up new shoots for several years. We also cut off all branches that are lower then 6ft., raising the canopy. This stimulated many of the dormant wild flowers to show themselves. It was a great surprise. Now,I weed as I feel like it. My shade garden is getting so full not much takes up space under the hosta and such. Ground covers seem to help keep the woods at bay also. Don't give up. It will be well worth the effort.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 11:04AM
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grandmapoo(z8 S.Texas)

Thanks for the encouragement Arcy.
That's what I do too, dump the mulched leaves from the lawnmover around the back perimenter of the garden. It works well except for that ever creeping poison oak.

This is the first time I ever had hubby mow it off, and it looks so good, like a brand new path, but it won't stay that way long. I won't give up! :)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 8:10PM
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jgwoodard(USDA z7 TN)

I have a border that is the intitial transition. This is the most diverse habitat as you can grow a huge variety of plants in part sun, part shade. Then I clear the underbrush (and any maple or shallow-rooted saplings for example) as I make more natural looking-wildflower beds beneath the deciduous canopy. After that it's just wild. Paths are also constructed in the same manner. Paths in the open or border are more contrived, then in the woodland beds they are slightly more "natural" with wood chips, and the paths in the woodland itself merely being absent of trees, but still covered with leaves. I think of it as three levels: border, woodland beds, and woodland proper.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 4:39AM
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Leaf mold, sounds like a friendly soil base for vine roots. A few shrubs can hide a good size pile of leaves, while it composts.

Can you generate some heavy traffic on the paths, or try something root hostile?
Fresh, pale, sawdust for the paths, say 4 to 6 inches deep, reduces the available nitrogen in the soil, and prevents growth. Add more as converient, for a year or two. In a year or two it rots and turns brown. Then, it is a great soil amendment, especially for clay. Some mills or lumberyards, will give it to you. Sounds like you would have to hire a young person with a truck though. The advantage is that, new, it prevents growth for a couple of years. Then, you remake the path, to one side of the old path, and can plant in the newly good soil.

For huge vines,and shrubs, Think autumn ! We have cut a huge vine or two in the fall. It's very helpful, cut to 14" to 18". As soon as it shows new buds in the spring, cut it back hard. Their buds and energy storage are cut back severely. There was very little follow up growth. Someone may have put something on the stump, maybe vinegar, I don't know. Tall poisen ivy, multiflora roses, akebia quinata etc., hate being hacked in the fall. Don't warn vines or shrubs, with previous cuts, as they will ready buds. Cut in Sept-Oct at leaf-fall, and March at sprouting time.

Very frequent cutting short, of some weeds, is right for them. It kills the giant polygonum here, and that spreads awfully underground. Since plants make their own food out of sunshine, you can deprive them of their leafy fuel engines. In 2 years....

A few taller plants near the front of the path, can create a sense of mystery.
Ann Lovejoy is a great writer for garden planning.

Have fun, what a wonderful challenge. Good luck, florey

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 1:58AM
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My grass/yard went up to the woods. The woods were so dense there was no breeze in our yard. I decided to create my gardens to line the yard. I garden into the woods about ten feet. I placed field stone along the grass line between my yard and the woods. I weeded and raised the under story to about 8 feet. At the back of my gardens I planted wagon wheels I found on the property. Then I have my husband with the weed wacker keep another five feet or so cleared out. We pile our leaves each fall in this area. Behind this cleared out space is the woods, which we weed wack about every three years. This allows for some air flow. The buck thorn and other invasive un-desirables are constantly trying to re-establish themselves. My gardens are full to the brim with shade plants and natives.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2007 at 7:38AM
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