Gardening in the Woods

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Shade Plants for a Woodland Garden

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Gardening in the woods can be a challenge, especially when you love plants and flowers. But near the forest is where I choose to live; it provides great shelter for many birds and critters that we love to watch, so I don’t intend to clear the property of a lot of trees to have a huge garden.

Instead, my ultimate goal is to create a series of smaller gardens that blend with the existing landscape, which is full of ferns, mosses, and evergreens, and to use this natural growth to enhance some of my favorite plants.

My husband has cut trees selectively so that we have a few spots of 6-hour sunlight, and we have grabbed these spaces for a large patch of grass and an assortment of perennials, such as roses and daylilies, and some flowering shrubs.

We had to study the landscape surrounding our house for an entire season to discover the best spaces for planting sun-lovers.

Then many of our spaces were semi-shaded. In these areas, we mainly selected plants that were happy with partial shade: two to four hours of sun per day, allthough some areas had more direct sun and some had less, depending on the time of day.

Plants for Semi-Shade

  • sedums,
  • heucheras,
  • hostas,
  • astilbes,
  • lamiums,
  • fern-leaf bleeding hearts,
  • hydrangeas,
  • columbines,
  • and a variety of other plants.

Soil was the first challenge. An instant garden was impossible. We had to bring in loam and spread it 8 to 10 inches deep, as the woodland “soil” was much too compact, but all of the work was worth it.

In my 28 years’ worth of gardening efforts at this house, I have learned a lot about plant needs; my plants are doing well, earthworms are creating very nice soil for us, and we have discovered blueberry and raspberry bushes growing wild at the edge of the woods.

Overcrowding is something I hadn’t planned on, but my long-delayed project for this gardening season will be to find some new spaces for plants that are now squeezed and to relocate others that are once again in too much shade, not forgetting to leave space for toad houses, dahlias, and pots of colorful annuals.

My husband will be busy clearing crowded and overgrown areas as we try to reclaim some lost space and that disappearing sunlight. The gardens constantly move and change, and I love watching it all.

It would be wonderful to hear about your garden—your goals, challenges, and experiences. Whether you garden in the woods or garden in containers, please share. Happy gardening to all of you.

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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