Very discourageed about my woodland gardening.......

flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)September 3, 2004

My sun garden always looks nice..... and is coming along as I would like it...... for the most part........ you always have to do some tangos with mother nature...... some nice surprises...... some failures...... anyway...... my woodland garden is always upsetting to me..... don't mean to be melodramatic...... but I have this huge expanse of woods and shade and english ivy....... I don't have the faintest idea how I could garden in and around the english ivy or how to get rid of it...... on top of that I'm not sure what I'd do once the english ivy was gonee...... when I do garden in the shade nothing looks as lush or floriferous as my sun garden...... I love flowers and shade garden ones are always disspointing..... even the most beautiful foliage plants like hostas seem to look silly ..... a few hostas plunked in the shade in the shadows beneath huge trees...... forget trying to dig holes for plants what with the tree roots...... any suggestions???? There should be a shade garden gallery...... I'd really love to see some pictures...... could you post?????? I'd love to see pictures of all of your gardens to see how a nice shade garden could come together...... right now it seems impossible.......

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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Well, if you got rid of the english ivy, you may be surprised at what pops up. Use full strength round-up, with a bit of dish-soap and some fertiliser to get rid of your english ivy. English ivy has a tendency to smother everything in it's path, especially things that are much more interesting than it is.

After you kill the Dang ivy, look into shade plants that can offer you interesting foliage, as opposed to flowers, though all of these do flower. Right now, in my woodland garden, the chelone and zig-zag goldenrod are flowering, and the bright red berries of Jack-in-the-pulpit are brilliant. Tiarellas, Jacob's ladders, hepaticas, goldenrods, chelones, bottle brush grass, ferns, cimicifugas, heucheras, asters. These are all things that have quite nice foliage, and in some cases, really nice late summer blooms. April

    Bookmark   September 3, 2004 at 11:58PM
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autumnmoon(6a/se ks)

FERNS!! Although not "flowering" there ARE some beautiful ones out there. Some other things to look for are solomons seal - especially the variagated, pulmonaria (pretty spotted leaves all year - pretty blue and pink bluebell like blooms in spring), bluebells, astilbes, (hostas DO bloom too!), bellworts, toad lillies (which are blooming now too- or just getting ready to), celadine poppy, if deadheaded will bloom all season (mine is STILL blooming), columbines (of which there NUMEROUS NUMVEROUS varieties) are beautiful and will bloom for a long time if deadheaded too, bleeding hearts, and the native honeysuckles.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 1:40AM
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I spend the winter looking out at yards and yards of flat expanse. Then comes spring and I am AMAZED. Right now my house is about surrounded my lush green of all shades and shapes. I have hunderds of hosta, astilbe, jacobs ladder, ferns, solomons seal, bleeding hearts, comumbine and the list goes on. The hosta just finished blooming. The fern leaf bleeding hearts bloom all summer. There is always something blooming. True the blooms are not as dramatic as a sun garden but I found with enough differances in shades of green/yellow/white and many different leaf shapes my woodland shade garden is lush and beautiful. Any/all vistors I get comment. For a splash of color I plant coleous and impatients in large containers among my green. I know how you feel, I was there five years ago when we first moved here but now I have "aquited" a taste for shade plants. I would send pictures if I have your-mail address. I have yet to figure how how to post on a site but can e-mail them. DH took pictures this spring. I need to repeat it now as things have popped so dramatically since then. Bottom line your problem is the word "few". You need more plants!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 6:31AM
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Greenmanplants(UDSA Zone 8)

Lilies, only the garden hybrids like full sun, many specie lilies are semi shade woodlanders. Start with Martagons, really eay from seed, buy a white and a maroon to get you started, collect and sow the seed and in 2-3 years time you can have hundreds they will naturalise without invading, to 6'.

Then you can move on to L. regale lovely white scented 4' tall, L. majoense, heavenly scent, 4' tall chocolate brown/maroon throat on a creamy white bell, L davidii, 6' tall with 40 or so turks cap flowers on the go for 6 weeks, L. brownii, similar but smaller. Lots more.

All easy from seed sown fresh so buy a couple of bulbs to get you started.

Cheers Greenmanplants.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 4:24PM
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Alison_PA(z6 PA)

I will never plant english ivy! I've been battling it in our woods for years. First I tried Round Up and made some progress. Then I followed up by tugging out long runners a few times over the summer. But the real solution came when my husband joined the battle. He spent a few days last winter pulling methodically and completely. In winter the ivy stands out green against the ground, there were no brambly weeds in the way, and it was easier to do a thorough job. Now just a few strands popped up this summer and it was easy to pull them out. The old ivy patch quickly converted to a patch of mayapples and a blue wildflower I have not identified.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2004 at 5:56PM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

Arcy my email address is ...... maybe enough of my gardening books don't have shade pictures but sometimes I have trouble imagining a shade garden sometimes I don't..... have felt frustrated as of late....... just seems like it would take forever to get a nice one...... I"d love to see pictures of your garden ...... tough...... maybe I"m wrong maybe I could make a nice shade garden..... and it wouldn't take fifty years...... let me see those pics.......

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 1:31AM
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ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Here are 2 excellent sites that have great photos and recount the work involved in creating, tending, and reclaiming 2 woodland gardens.

Please respond after viewing these sites and let me know what your thoughts are. I am working on my own woodland garden right now and am particularly intertested in how others are approaching the challenges common to this sort of gardening.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 6:49AM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

Well my thoughts are pretty much the same as before there was one nice picture but not much towards inspiration........ I'm going to battle with my shade garden..... that's what I've decided and something I rarely do...... I'm going to try to grow natives etc. and plants that would do well there....... but I"m also going to try to plant roses on the garden edge...... where its dappled sun...... I can't tolerate a garden with hardly any flowers!!!! see: name : flowersandthings....... :)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 11:54AM
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Woody_Canada(~USz5 - Canada)

Green and white are my favorite shade/woodland colours. I find them cool, refreshing and elegant(?). So, while there are other colours in my shade garden (mostly pink and blue - with a few yellows now and then), green and white - in flowers and foliage - are the dominant themes. I find it hard to get good pictures in the shade garden because of low light levels and the fact that the tree canopy (white pines, red oak, green ash) limits the ability to get good overhead pictures to show larger areas at once. Below are two pictures, the first from June of this year and the second from mid-August this year. The link below will take you too these and other pictures from my shady backyard.

June 27, 2004:

August 16, 2004:

Here is a link that might be useful: Backyard shade/woodland garden

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 12:16PM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

Very nice woody...... so you're "picking favorites" too hugh?????? can't help but like the sun garden better...... but I have decided to stop neglecting the shade garden...... I love the goats beard...... I saw it in the a link....... what is that vine growing up that tree..... I have a hard time finding climbing vines for shade...... also what was with that get up?????? :) Ios that for mosquitos...... I hope west nile virus isn't much of a threat..... otherwise I'm history...... I don't know what it is this summer...... maybe the rain..... but I"m covered..... with bites that is..... not with rain ;) ...... :) ...... I'm thinking of getting one of those moquito nets like they have in INdia...... some use them for decoration..... I'd be one of the only northeasterners I know using them for protection ;) :) ........

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 12:50PM
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Woody_Canada(~USz5 - Canada)

The goatsbeard is in my 'wet corner' area that is quite wet in the spring but dries out during the summer. It seems to like the wet early conditions and is getting huge - it needs to to compete with the Ostrich Ferns! The vine is Kiwi - Actinidia arguta 'Issai', a self pollinating variety. So far, I've not had flowers or fruit (it's supposed to have the small grape-like fruits...) but I don't really expect it to - it fruits on 'old wood' and there's been a lot of die-back each year. Also, the light and soil conditions are far from ideal there. But I grow it mainly to have something interesting growing up the dead apple tree - we left most of the bottom 8' or so of the tree just so it could be a support for vines.

Because my shaded area is quite damp on one side (particularly in spring...), there are LOTS of mosquitos here so protection comes in handy when working in that part of the garden. A year or two ago, our area had one of the highest rates of WNV in the country and it spooked me a fair bit! (I've got enough health problems - look closely at that picture... - without having to deal with WNV so I prefer to not take chances. I prefer the 'bug suits' to bug spray. Since the mosquitos are largely only a problem in the backyard, the only people who see me in that outfit are DH and a few neighbours who already consider me a tad eccentric anyway.... :-)

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 2:20PM
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I will get you those pics. when I get back home. We are out of town for te week-end. I need to take some shots now too. it all looks so different as it comes in.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2004 at 10:28PM
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waplummer(Z5 NY)

Here is a portion of what I wrote a number of years ago outling my feelings about shade gardens vs. sunny gardens.

Who would trust a shady character or who would not delight in someone with a sunny disposition? Good is associated with Light and Evil with Darkness. They are now telling us that people suffer from lack of light in the long dark winters. Plants lacking chlorophyll must get their energy from decaying matter. But nothing is ever black or white. Our sun may be necessary to life, but with the discovery of life at the hot vents and in the depths of the earth, that too is questionable. With the concern for skin cancer, we must guard against too much exposure to the sun. Still, people curse the darkness and moan that nothing will grow in the shade. How wrong they are both in their attitudes and their beliefs. Shade and all its nuances is so much more interesting that a sunny, shadowless garden. In our garden there is shade somewhere from early morning to evening. In the early to late morning I can relax on my patio and again in the early evening. The front yard and wall gets morning sun, but by noon it has shade. Anytime of day I can retire to my sitting rock to enjoy a relaxing moment and find respite from the sun. Photographers get their best pictures on cloudy days or in shade. Full sun washes everything out.

I wrote an article for the Corning Leader several years ago, in which I stated if I had my 'druthers I 'druther have a shady garden than a sunny garden. If that sounds heretical, hear me out. True, I would give up the ability to have a vegetable garden - to grow corn, tomatoes and zucchini. I would not be able to grow Lilacs, Phlox, Roses, Asters, Chrysanthemums or any of the scores of annuals and perennials which must have sun to grow well and to flower. There may be a dearth of flowers in late summer and fall, but the spring is absolutely gorgeous when the woodland plants, the alpine plants, the Rhododendrons, Azaleas and Mountain Laurel are so generous with their bloom. For me there are more advantages than disadvantages in having a shady garden

Flowers are but one aspect of a garden. Flowers you have but for a short time and some plants have insignificant flowers or, like the ferns, none at all. One has to build structure in the garden by use of plants and non-plants. In a trip out west we had the opportunity to visit the Buchart Gardens in Victoria and on the same trip to relax in the Japanese Garden in Portland. Buchart Gardens with its fabulous floral display was stunning with the vibrant color combinations adding to the effect. The Japanese Garden had almost no flowers, but it had a sense of peace and quiet. It was a garden one could relax in. Both gardens had a certain structure to them, but I could not help but wonder how many people who toured the Buchart Gardens could see the structure for the flowers. Like not seeing the forest for the trees.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2004 at 4:02PM
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flowersandthings(MidAtlantic 6/7)

My feeligs about shade gardening have NOTHING to do with good and evil...... trying to plant around tree roots is more like it..... also I love woodlands..... just don't love gardening in them...... tree roots and hard to put flowers...... I too enjoy foliage but I just happen to like flowers...... nothing much more to it than that...... :)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2004 at 7:04PM
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flowersandthings you are so right about the difficulty of gardening in the woodlands. It has been five years of hacking back overgrown weeds, brush and roots. Again the results are an aquired taste. In my case aquired out of necessity. We cut back a lot of trees and branches make room for the gardens I have. We cannot get rid of them all. I have to garden the land I have and that is 90%shade. To add insult to injury the mosquitoes in the shade are ALWAYS there. The forest/woods is constanly trying to re-claim in plots and no one notices the gardens unless they are right up on them. Flowers call to people. The shade garden delights lookers only after they have tripped upon them. I can only offer it does get better....but it is never a sunny flower garden! SORRY!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2004 at 7:29PM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

Flowersandthings, I wish I had a camera to show you a little patch I reclaimed. If you like the 'mulch' look of plants popping up from a mulched bed. My area was overgrown, poison ivy, nightshade. Mosquito heaven in the dense wet bushes. With no knowlege I yanked the biggest bushes, ivy, etc. Looking for a place to dump leaves, I piled over 2 feet of leaves over the spot since it was a mess anyway. Come spring the leaves were a lovely mulch. The ferns which had been crowded out had no trouble popping through. As nightshade etc popped through they were much easier to get, and the soil had softened beautifully so they pull out much easier. I knew it was successful when the city inspector checked out the area looking for violations (it had been a dumping area) and did a double take. Without the heavy shrubbery there are way less mosquitos. The more air you get around individual plants the less welcoming to mosquitos. This was only a small patch. However, if you modified just the borders of your woodland, and the pathways, that will be the areas you see the most. It is easier than trying to fix everything. It will reduce mosquitos from the places you walk. After you clean out a spot of ivy, and smother with deep deep mulch, when the ivy returns next spring it will be much easier to attack. Don't give up. I am so pleased with the pretty effect I got (including a sun loving sundrop that mistakenly set up home in the mulch and has grown 6 feet high trying to find some sun. It even made a tiny bloom!)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 10:41AM
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Flowerkitty(Z6 or Z5 SE MI)

I forgot to add: I think ivy is a mosquito magnet. We had that stuff on our house growing up. It was filled with bugs that flew out if you disturbed it. Ivy leaves create a dark dark refuge that holds moisture. A spider condominium what with the never ending food supply for them

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 10:45AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

i think the term garden is probably a key to why one would get discouraged in a woodland. gardening often consists of man conquering nature and growing this plant despite whether the plant wants to be there or the habitat wants that plant there... tweeking a woodland may be a better goal and perhaps more do-able than "gardening" there.

keep in mind that the woodlands of today are much denser and darker than woodlands of the past. why? periodic fires used to control overgrowth of trees. invasive species or aggressive shady species like maples have taken over. so when attempting to tweek a woodland - one should seriously consider the state of the canopy. stand in the woods and look up ... are there select trees that can be removed to open up the canopy and let more light in? (select trees like exotics, invasives, or shady maples)- often times - existing native plants that were dormant in the deep shade - re-emerge once the canopy is opened. when removing a tree - leave a large tall stump and a couple of logs to become shelter for a critter and a place for fungus and moss as it decays...

another thing to consider when tweeking a woodland would be a nice path that directs the walker to find things in the woodland that the woodland already created like a mossy rock or a log with fungus -

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 11:06AM
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ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Walplummer and joepyweed have given both very good factual and philosophical information and thoughts on the keeping of a woodlnd garden. Tweeking or editing a woodland area is somewhat different from trying to get a sunny garden look in a shady spot, although this can be done with enough plants(drifts) and enough dappled light.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 5:23PM
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ginger nh sounds most enlightening about the subject which makes me want to tackle my daugther,s small woodland area which is all very tall white pines or Pinus strobus to those,also the area is cluttered with Acer pal. seedlings very much wanted though.Maybe some Cornus can.will fit in ,any other suggestions we are in Mass. also where is a good place for Cypripedium to be bought legally? thank you NOTHO NANTUCKET

    Bookmark   September 8, 2004 at 11:46PM
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Barbaraga(GA 7a)

It is discouraging that there aren't many photos of shade gardens in books or on the web; it makes it more difficult for all of us to plan attractive gardens, but there are many nice things to say about a woodland garden.

In February, the hepaticas start to bloom. Also, non-native bulbs like anemone blanda and early daffodils bloom in Feb. and gather enough energy for next year's bloom before the trees leaf out. Then the garden is awash in white from bloodroot and toothwort and pink from spring beauty. Soon other flowers bloom - virginia bluebells, jacobs ladder, tiarella, phlox divaricata, columbine, bleeding hearts, trilliums, azaleas, etc. By mid-May (here in Georgia) most of the color is gone, but it's time for the self-seeding annuals to start popping up.

For long seasons of color, you can add annuals - impatiens & touch-me-not will self-seed each year and bloom until frost. Begonias love shade and are winter hardy during mild winters. They're all shallow-rooted, help smother weeds, fill-in while the spring ephemerals are dormant, and provide a winter mulch. Pansies are a winter annual for color, and there are probably other useful and attractive shade annuals too.

In July & August, it's not too hot to weed in the shade - unlike a sun garden. The mosquitos start coming out from under leaves about dusk, so you have an excuse to quit working at the end of the day.

In zone 7, full sun plants only need 5 hours of sun, so many sun plants will do well in partial shade.

Truthfully, I dislike ivy, but if your hearts not in shade gardening, you might prefer to live with it - maybe tuck in some daffodil bulbs for spring interest. By all means put roses and any of your favorites on the border. I'm terrifically proud of all my natives, but non-gardening visitors prefer impatiens.

Below is a list of plants I've planted in the woodland garden. They've not all survived, but it's amazing what some plants will do in only an hour of dappled sun each day.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Here is a link that might be useful: Shade plants in my garden

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 10:02AM
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kwoods(Cold z7 Long Is)

Start small with something you can tackle and get immediate pleasure from. Amend and enrich the soil in one small spot, around a tree, next to a path and start there and work your way out.

You may find yourself getting addicted (obsessed) like me and suddenly running out of room for all the plants and ideas you come up with.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 11:43AM
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Barbaraga(GA 7a)

Here's a photo (in April 2004) of a shady flowerbed that gets about an hour of sun or less once leaves are on the trees.

A few years ago, I planted hostas in it and planned to use the rest of the bed as a seedling bed for trilliums and other native woodland plants, but Tiarella has taken over. The Phlox divaricata was planted there last summer just to overwinter when I brought it back from my parents' property. Now I think I'll let it stay, since I seem to have lost room for seedlings. The wild columbine are from seed.

If you were to visit the flowerbed today (September), you'd see a few hostas peeking out from dozens of bright self-seeded impatiens. The original impatiens were planted with the hostas.

There is a subtle charm to shade gardening.

As for starting small, I agree with a previous poster. For the woodland garden, after cutting out trees bent over by invasive vines and clearing out the vines & other undesirables, we laid out our paths, and then brought in a pickup load of topsoil every 2-4 weeks over the fall, winter, and spring - planting each new area as it was ready. Later I moved around seedlings to get colors where I wanted them.

We mulched the paths the first year, which was great for the wheelbarrow, but since then we've just allowed leaves to mulch the path.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 3:26PM
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well_drained(z6a MA)

flowersandthings: I think that if you are looking to recreate a sun garden in the shade (with the big showy flowers that need lots of sun to grow) then you will be disappointed. It's like someone used to beach vacations going to the mountains and expecting to be able to surf there. (How awkward is that analogy?)

In the woods near me (eastern MA), and in my woodland natives garden, flowers are mostly a spring event, and they tend to be smaller and whiter than sun-loving flowers (with some exceptions). To me, the joy of woodland flowers is the variety of shapes and configurations. For me, the joy of color in the woods is a mix of flowers, berries (blue, black, white and red), summer and autumn foliage, and the subtle color changes caused by dappled sunlight. But for me, color is only one element among many -- shape, texture and all the other elements of design -- that make a woodland garden.

Here are some of my favorites (courtesy of Google Image search):

Your woodland sounds like a real diamond in the rough. Good luck with it.

-- wd

    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 4:13PM
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ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Notho Nantucket-
Have you tried the Vermont Ladyslipper Co? (I have not ordered from them.) You could check their business rep on the GardenWatchdog site. Also Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA may have some available.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2004 at 9:14PM
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plantsnobin(z6 IN)

check out the Munchkin Nursery website. They have native and non native woodland plants and lots of info on their site. I think you will be surprised how colorful the shade can be.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2004 at 8:36AM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

I very much agree with what the others have said. We just bought a city property with a woodlot backyard. We moved in last fall and although it was lush with foliage, it was all the wrong stuff. Our project has been to turn it back into a "proper" southern Ontario Woodland. To do that we had to pull out mountains of Oriental bittersweet that was choking out everything underneath it and would eventually pull down mature trees with it's weight. This has taken all four seasons to get it under control and this past fall we've had to dig up the last vestages of it. The other alien that was growing prolifically was Garlic Mustard. Oh! I should say I'm in the same/similar hardiness zone as you. After we got rid of the garlic mustard and the oriental bittersweet and oh ya, the poison ivy... we got to work filling in the blank canvas with all the natives that are in our area. We walked around the countryside with books and collected info on all the native plants, mosses, ferns, shrubs and trees and then got to work. We have planted so much just in a short amount of time but we needed to get some stuff in to choke out the next crop of garlic mustard that will come in the fall. The property was already rich with jack-in-the-pulpit, dog toothed violets and trilliums... they were just being smothered by the oriental bittersweet. Areas that didn't have the oriental bittersweet are thick with Blue Cohash. We made paths through the woods to keep our kids and dog from trampling things randomly and then planted at least 10 different native ferns, wild columbine, Canadian Ginger, Bloodroot, Jewelweed, bunchberry, more tilliums and then gathered mossy rocks from the empty lots next to us, strew tons of blue cohash berries in the empty spots where the garlic mustard had killed everything, planted some Serviceberry, witchhazel, and an Eastern Redbud. This spring we will continue to fill in bare spots and replace anything that doesn't make it through the winter. You'd be surprised how quickly the bare forest floor will become a thick and lush paradise if you keep at it little by little. We have been here exactly one year and it's already looking REALLY nice. The woods is 3rd growth woodlot and as such the trees are extremely tall with high canopy and nothing between the canopy and the forest floor. Our goal is to find native species that will fill in the space between the floor and the canopy while still working on weeding out the alien plants and replacing them with natives.

It's just my opinion so take it for what it's worth but I think it's a mistake to take a natural woods and plant ornamentals in it and hope for it to look good. (remember, just my opinion) It's like putting art deco furniture in a room that's mostly decorated with Victorian or Georgian era furnishings and wall decor. It just looks out of place and for me it would never be fulfilling.

southern Ontario 5b/6a

    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 8:03PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

If you can't plant plants because of tree roots....plant seeds! It works! April

    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 6:16PM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Beautiful SIMPLICITY April! :o) Our woods is largely sugar maples and the roots above and below the surface of the soil are all meshed together so you have to find a spot where you can dig if you want to plant a tree. Most times it's a test of patience ;o) Berries have been so much easier for us.


    Bookmark   December 7, 2004 at 5:06PM
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Hooti(z5 NY)

Hi-I am with knottyceltic, that one must decide if one has a shade garden or a woodland environment. I have gardens, with sunny areas and shady areas, around my house, and plant ornamentals in my shade garden and just love them. However, my woodland garden is more like an alchemical work. By that I mean attempt to perfect and advance it according to its essential nature. A good place to start is to walk in old woods in your area and see what a natural woods looks like. I know around here it is hard to find old or virgin woods (bimbos all!) - most woodland here is farmland returning to nature in its own way and effort. Good places to find old woods are where it is too hilly, rocky or wet to farm. Take up hiking! Then work with what is natural in your area as your template, but help your plot along, perfect it, make it nature at its best!

This is a case study of my hardest microenvironment. Really I do most of my planning in my mind, because I can hold a great deal of information if it is all related (lists, unrelated facts, etc go right through like a sieve *grin*), but I thought this was a great exercise. A bonus is that years from now I can look back and see how far I have come.

I create raised beds. I scrape off the leaf mold, get as much of the topsoil loosened as I can, then mix in compost and recover with the leaf mold. I put logs around them. The idea is for them to age and eventually blend in. In the fall we gather the leaves everyone else is throwing away, dunp them out next to the beds and run them over with the lawnmower, chopping them up into mulch to speed up the decomposing. I rake grass in the summer every time we mow and toss it on all my gardens. I have a regular compost pile and my "gourmet compost for the discriminating wildflowers" which is leaf based with banana peels, eggshells and coffee grounds for nitrogen and other nutrients. I also make beds a year or years in advance, to give material a chance to decay and age. I have been known to rake pine needles from grassy areas near the woods and from paths.

Woodland gardening is way more long-term than sun gardening, I think. It is a lesson in patience. But that is a good thing, if it could all be done in a year or two, what would we do with ourselves? *grin*

I often plant specimens in my shade garden up near the house first, if I have only one or two, to allow them to grow and spread under more protected environment so I can then take some from there to put in the woods down the line. Examples are Anemone Pulsata, Huechera, Tieralla, Some of the Hepatica, Some of the twinberry, Geranium Maculatum, Wild Bleeding Heart

I am jealous of the collection I see here!

This is what I put in this year:

White Baneberry: Actaea pachypoda (one small plant and some direct sowed seeds, berry removed)

Black Cohosh: Cimicfuga racemosa (Ditto)

about twenty Trillium grandiflorum

Canadian Mayflower - Maianthemum canadense (about eight)

Partridge-Berry/Twin-berry: Mitchella repense (about four small plugs)

One Round-leafed Pyrola: Pyrola americana

Common wood sorrel: Oxalis acetosella (for novices, this is a woodland form that is white with pink stripes, not the yellow kind one finds in fields)

Woodland Violets

False Solomon's Seal: Maianthemum racemosa

May-apple: Podophyllum peltatum

Hepatica - both round and sharp lobed) americana (I think that is righ) and nobilis about six total

starflower: trientalis borealis

Solomon's Seal: Polygonatum about eight in four plots

Wild Ginger: Asarum canadense

Wild Eastern Colombine: Aquilegia canadenses

Phlox Panticula: I believe these are the actual wild native ones, which did come from this region according to my book. In any case, we found them in a thriving colony in deep shade in our pine woods. I collected seeds and germinated more and distributed them around.

Jacob's ladder: Polemonium, this is in small islands of trees and in hard to grow areas away from the slower growing plants, as i am told it is a tad hyperactive (which I am not sure ibelieve or we would see it in the wild more)

(that looks better on paper than it is-most are one or two specimens it is hoped will spread)


Wild garlic seeds: Allium canadense direct seeding

Blue Bottle Gentian: Gentiana clausa, gathered from a small colony in the very wetlands and direct seeded in several plots around the woods.

Cream Gentian: Gentian flavida

Dodecatheon meadia * Midland Shooting Star

Mertensia virginica * Virginia Bluebells

(the three above are a mixture of second cycling seeds and plugs of very small first year seedlings that died back so unsure if they will come back or not)

Allium Cernuum * nodding onion second cycle seeds

What we had: Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Trout Lily, Wood-Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Agrimony, two kinds of native ferns, Red Osier Dogwood, Spotted Jewelweed, the Phlox Panticula and Bottle Gentian mentioned above, Lily of the Valley, Blue Flag Iris (not all natives)

What I am planning (and have found seed distributers for) for next year (May not all be native to WNY but I think most are listed as already growing here, and planned to blend in-priority given to those I can confirm as originally native here):

Turtlehead: Chelone glaba

Goatsbeard (have one specimen in my shade garden, hopefull spreading, but have found some seeds for more)Is that native? In thinking about it I am not sure.

Lobelia cardinalis: Cardinal Flower

Lobelia siphilitica-Great blue Lobelia


Anemeone Canadenses

Huechera Americana

Where I "cheat": Hostas, Hybrid versions of wildflowers, such as Huechera and Tierella, planning some Helleboras seeds and perhaps non native hardy geraniums, possibly toad Lily

What I am looking for: Bloodroot, Dutchmans breeches, wintergreen, Golden Seal, Purple Trillium, Painted Trillium, Spring Beauty, skunkweed, as these are hard to find or grow from seed, and my resources are very limited-can buy a plant or two but cannot rely on the pocketbook.

Okay, my 19 year old son left for Japan today, and its the first time I will be seperated from him as long as three weeks *grin*. This is "take my mind off my worries compulsive listmaking".


    Bookmark   December 28, 2004 at 11:12PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)


Don't buy Cardinal flower seed! I have so much of it I can't stand it. You are welcome to quite a bit of it, unless you'd prefer a local genotype. April

    Bookmark   January 4, 2005 at 8:47PM
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well_drained(z6a MA)

Hooti: Where did you get the Trietalis borealis? I'm having trouble locating a local source.

-- wd

    Bookmark   January 12, 2005 at 1:33PM
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I have the same problems! But I keep trying an am making progress, learning about what will look good, flower (I LOVE flowers) and survive in my area. I will post photos of my shade garden beds in the Spring and Summer. Below is a photo of my new granite steps going down to the pond. I have started planting around the steps: different kinds of moss I found growing around my property, trilliums (in the photo), hostas, ferns, Labrador violets, ladyslippers, celandine poppies, Waldensteinia fragroides, pulmonaria, and spring bulbs such as Scilla siberica. The soil is very compacted and has lots of tree roots. I dig out planting holes wherever I can and dump in and on lots of shredded leaves mixed with compost and rotted manure. New plants of course need to be kept well-watered. It CAN be done! My shade flower beds also have primulas, tiarella, heuchera, spring bulbs like crocuses and star-of bethlehem (not invasive here!)dwarf astilbe, rhodos and azaleas, different groundcovers like creeping jenny, euonymous, Eur. ginger, phlox stolonifera and vinca minor, also convallaria, different bleeding hearts, astilbe, polemonium, lady's mantle. Every year I experiment with adding more and moving things around to get a pleasing effect. I add coleus, wax begonias and impatiens for summer color. I end up making my shade beds bigger every year to put in all the nice plants there are!! Lots of these plants I got from kind and generous traders. It's not boring if you go with what works and think about color, foliage, and textural combinations.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2005 at 12:55PM
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kendal(8 PNW)

Moter nature makes the best woodland gardens,and so first just get rid of the english ivy and like hughes said just wait and see what comes up. The worse looking woodland gardens are the ones that try and add stuff just because they like the way it looks rather then something that goes there naturally.


    Bookmark   January 20, 2005 at 4:02PM
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One combo I'm trying is Plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) with Arum (Arum italicum). The plumbago blooms blue for much of the summer, and has occasional red leaves and red fall color. The arum is dormant in the summer, except for a flower spike followed by red berries. The arum leafs out in the fall and stays through the winter- tropical looking triangular white veined leaves. The plumbago is slow to emerge in the spring, so a few daffodils are appreciated. The arum wants dry conditions during the summer, and the plumbago will tolerate dry, but is better in moist. I don't have trouble with wet conditions, as these are planted under an oak!

Peonies will perform in part sun, maybe near the edge of your shady area. Daylillies can get by on a few hours of sun as well.

White blooming hostas are quite dramatic, and fragrant.

I love my Lenten Roses- they're blooming now, and evergreen.

Try the new 'Encore' azaleas and some of the deciduous summer blooming azaleas- they come in orange and yellow shades. Some are, I think, fragrant as well.

I find the difficult thing about shade gardening to be finding small sizes of perennials- everybody has gone to 1 gal. containers- hard to squeeze in amongst roots. It is not recommended to add more the 2-4" of new material over tree roots. The American Gardener magazine has a good article about planting around trees in the Jan/Feb 2005 issue.

Enough from me already!

Susan K

    Bookmark   January 21, 2005 at 7:28PM
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You've received a lot of responses so far. I have the same problem. The west side of my house, especially, is all shade from the woodlands. I'm planning a few strategies that you might like as well: (1) try a boxwood topiary there, or (2) put in a water fountain feature, or (3) try a large statue on a rock feature. You can always use shade plants to accent the main feature!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 7:38AM
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Linda Eastman

i would recommend a book to you: The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the spirit of the deciduous forest by Rick Darke. there are many photos in it as well as philosophy. there is a chapter on design and many beautiful examples. but the bottom line is that you have to cultivate your aesthetic for woodlands...learn to appreciate them for what they are. not that you have to deny your love of sunny gardens. just as one can have 2 or more very different children and love them equally!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 9:50AM
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jemstones(z5 CT)

I am getting ready to tackle my very shady, woodland edge property. Over the last couple of years I observed sunlight patterns and was surprised at the amount of sunlight some areas have, so you might try that too. I found that I am not as limited as I once thought, I don't have areas of full sun, but I do have many with 4 or 5 hours of sun, along with areas of only 1 or 2 hours of sun. I am also going to recommend some books. The American Woodland Garden sited by whiteviolet is a good one. At the library, I recently found Shady Retreats: 20 plans for colorful, private spaces in your backyard by Barbara Ellis and A Garden in the Shade by Harriet Cramer which are helpful. If nothing else, they give some pictures and ideas on plants that do well in shady areas. Check out your library, ours has a wealth of gardening books! The more I read and see pics of shady gardens, the more hopeful and excited I get about getting started on my own. Try the local nursery too. A good nursery should employ people who are knowledgable about what grows well in your area.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 11:19AM
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MarcR(z 8 OR)

The suggestion above of full strength Roundup with detergent is a good one. To be sure you get it all you might consider following that with an application of Crossbow. If you have trouble finding it I can give you the address of the manufacturer. It is made here in Oregon.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2005 at 4:48AM
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