Growing Native Woodland Garden Plants

Trees play a key role in moderating our global climate. They reduce the atmospheric temperature by taking the energy in sunlight and converting it to contribute to the growth of biomass. They give us oxygen by removing the carbon dioxide in the air. Trees also reduce flooding by capturing rainwater and aiding its absorption into the soil. This also contributes to reduced flooding. These and more are some of the reasons we should all strive to plant more trees.

What do you do with all the space left on the ground underneath the tree canopy? There is a rich woodland ecosystem with multiple plants that thrive in the shady atmosphere. The ground layer contains the most botanical diversity. The ferns and wildflowers found here create a beautiful biologically diverse tapestry. This is the opportunity for growing native woodland garden plants.

You will need to consider several factors before you can choose which plants to use for the shady site. Some key factors to take into consideration are, the woodland soils and their drainage, layers that you wish to add, and most importantly light levels. Adding native shade plants to the already existing flora will create a wonderful, exotic garden in your wooded habitat. You can visit neighboring gardens, that are already thriving, for inspiration and to estimate just how successful your venture will be.

Establishing the Native Woodland Garden Plants

Start with an outline of where your garden area starts. It is often helpful to use definite markings to clearly map out the area you will work on. First, clear the area of vegetation and debris. Remove all weeds and trash. There might be poisonous plants such as poison ivy or stinging plants such as nettle. Take caution by dressing appropriately and being aware of your surrounding at all times.

Arrange for paths or stepping stones to guide where the footpath will be throughout the garden. It is prudent to put these in place before any planting is done. When doing this, consider the growth pattern for woodland species. Naturally all plants are layered, some canopies are high while others are mid canopies. There are also understory trees and shrubs, and ground cover.

Try to mimic nature as much as you can in your planting design. The planting lines should not be unnaturally perfect. Place your plantings strategically keeping them in their containers to observe their growing height. Once established you can plant them permanently.

Prune the dense foliage of the taller trees to usher in more light by opening up the canopy. Prepare the soil by adding compost, aged wood bark or leaf mold to boost the soil fertility. Follow this with digging of holes in which you will place the plants and be sure to provide plenty of water.

Start with the smaller shrubs and trees such as Red Twig Dogwood and Witch Hazel shrubs, White Flowering Dogwood  and Carolina silver bell trees. These provide great habitats for birds and pollinators creating stunning visuals for your landscape. When these take root you can follow up with the understory plantings.

Perennials such as Columbines, Dixie wood fern, Wild ginger and Blue Moon Woodland Phlox add a variation of color and height. They can also be planted as border plants but you will need to control their spreading. Groundcover can be achieved using Pennsylvania sedge grass and Red Wall Virginia Creeper.

Native woodland plants and flowers are low maintenance apart from the supplemental watering required at the start. It remains as natural as the woodland it is set in. You will need mulch to retain moisture, this is easy in cases where the trees are mature. The mulching also plays a big role in controlling weeds. Aim for organic mulch which is rich in hummus to keep the soil well nourished. Prune your trees and shrubs as necessary to maintain neatness and keep them controlled.

For diversity of color in the shaded garden, plant elm-leaved goldenrod which will create fall hues. Contrast feathery plants with broad-leaved plants for a variety in texture. Take your garden to the next level by adding  benches, birdbaths and water features. Make your footpath stand out by using pebbles or colored stones to outline it.

Be wary of purchasing wild collected native plants, only purchase nursery-propagated varieties.

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