Help in Woodland trail design

Bioteach44July 19, 2012

We are starting the restoration of our backyard. The previous owner allowed it to grow--unfortunately the growth was of 4 different invasive species! We are removing all this and are starting on the east section of our property.

You can see that we have already placed the area for our mulch trail. The young starter tree to the left will be transplanted to a different location. The tree in the center is dead and will be removed.

On the fence side, I have in mind to plant a series of native and non-native plants for a bird/butterfly garden. I'd love suggestions though for the left side of the path were it will meet the yards edge. What should I plant in sun/filtered sun that gives you the feel of "walking into the woods" or "just outside the forest?" Keeping in mind my husband won't want it much above knee level...

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Where are you located - region, state, and/or zone? We need that info to help with suggestions.


    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 8:04AM
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We are located in zone 6, central Indiana near Indianapolis. Our two big priorities are entertainment spots (small patio) and wildlife refuge. I'd love to get our backyard certified.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 9:02AM
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Certainly there should be ferns. Is the fence side sunny?

Here is a link that might be useful: Indiana native plant society - landscaping ideas

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 12:02PM
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Fence is sunny side, yes. From the foreground to the patio set, I think we would like to put in a larger butterfly/bird garden. Our biggest issues are the left side of the path. You can see the dirt path that is the edge of the yard. This is a little valley that holds water..not sure what to do here. A dry creek bed seems a little redundant next to the path, and we'd actually like it to be grassy there. I've been advised it would be difficult to re-grade though so really at a loss at how to make the land and design work

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 3:08PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

Indianapolis was once one big stretch of magnificent beech-maple forest - Must've been pretty impressive! There is actually a tremendous variety of plants native to Indiana - Pretty much all the spring ephemerals, and many ferns. I would plant typical Indiana forest plants - bloodroot, may-apple, wild phlox, etc. For an understory, I would use flowering dogwood, spicebush, hazelnut, and American blackcurrant (Don't plant it if you have a lot of white pines - The berries are delicious, though!). Find any others that we have in the woods around here that appeal to you. I would also plant sapling sugar maples and a few beeches (don't overdo it if you want a lush understory). Ferns I have had luck with are hayscented, intermediate wood fern, American lady fern, and christmas fern.

I see you are suffering from the drought - Hang in there! Indiana seems to be one of the worst states right now! I'm going to have to replant a lot next year. Usually, the climate is conducive to less drought-tolerant forest plants, but this year is exceptional. Good luck with your restoration!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2012 at 7:23PM
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If you line the dry creek bed with smaller chips perhaps it could double as a path?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:14PM
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Good idea! Another idea that was proposed to us today and not sure about-- where the small dogwood is, make a bioswale and funnel all water into the depression. Then, plant a small rain garden. Thoughts on this?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:32PM
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As long as you can dig down a bit without damaging tree roots it would work. It's a great way to use your land and make an interesting garden feature. Do you have rocks? I have watched videos on making rain gardens and read blog posts, so I'm somewhat familiar with the process. It seems like if you don't have access to lots of rocks on your property or extra soil + compost you're going to spend quite a bit to get it going. The dug portion is piled up on the outer sides, but I still think soil & compost is brought in to build the sides up like a berm, a labor intensive project if done by hand.

Any materials you purchase bulk and a topsoil company is going to be less costly than bagged products at a big box store or garden center.

I've built some lasagna gardens with a lower portion lined with rocks as dug from the land. As I find more rocks I add to the dry creek bed. Where nothing else will grow in a shady acid clay soil this has worked well.

July 2012 backyard under trees near hose reel on house
planted with burgundy ajuga, golden creeping jenny, ornamental grass Carex Ice Dance,& corsican mint as visible in the photo. The rocks start under the downspout and move across the garden leading out toward a fir tree and another path. Round concrete stepping stones lead to the this area and help keep our feet out of the poorly drained area during winter storms. We're in the midst of planting Ajuga Chocolate Chip around the stones layering over the thin sod with newspaper & compost. The ajuga has filled in well for us in other areas if kept moist until established.

newly layered over sod around stepping stones on the left side

In our front yard we dug out a portion of clay soil to create a rock pathway from the gravel driveway through the front yard to a trail in the woods. In 2 spots we dug down 4 feet deep & 2-3 feet wide then filled with rocks. The runoff from rain flows from the driveway into the garden path. All the rocks were from our years of vegetable gardening and uncovering them. Before laying down the rock path we spread landscape cloth on top of the soil. We used free broken patio blocks as stepping stones. Then on the sides expanded the existing garden by layering over the soil first with cardboard then upturned sod from the pathway plus lots of partially composted horse manure + bedding and whatever other compost ingredients we came upon. Since then the mounded beds have shrunk down considerably, but the plants are doing quite well in the rich earth.

early July 2012

where the path meets the woods with herb garden on the right and garden of spreaders or thugs on the left

Many of the plants were picked up free at plant swaps over the past few years. What grows well also duplicates itself here, so I've made many more plants as they've spread and matured. What doesn't make it in this rich, moist soil gets tossed.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2012 at 2:51PM
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I love your photos Corrine. Very nice!

Bioteach - For the soggy area, with butterflies and hummingbirds in mind, I would plant Buttonbush, which I mentioned in the Native Exchange forum, Spicebush (lindera benzoin) a host plant for Spicebush Swallowtails, Pawpaw which is the only host plant for Zebra Swallowtails. It's a tree but it's not a big tree, Swamp Milkweed (asclepias incarnata) host plant for Monarchs, and Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) which has bright red flowers that hummingbirds love.
You have a great project going.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 8:59AM
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I second Buttonbush and Spicebush. The Buttonbush needs some sun to bloom and the butterflies just love the blooms. Spicebush is a wonderful understory small tree/shrub with early yellow flowers and red berries in late summer. Watch out for the pawpaw trees. Once they get established they will start sending up shoots to start their own little paw paw patch. Pawpaws are better in a really naturalized area then in a garden you are trying to control. Looks like a wonderful project.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 1:04PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

You could also try Staphylea trifolia (American bladdernut), a lesser-known shrub that grows in rich, moist woods around here. I just ordered a few to plant in my rich, bottomland forest. They get white flowers in spring, which look quite pretty, and they grow fast. Like many other natives, it is hard to find a nursery that grows it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 7:01AM
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