Designing the Woodland Garden

There is nothing more relaxing than to take a walk in a woodland garden. It's nice to watch birds and other wildlife that find the woodland garden their home. The woodland garden is a garden that can have more of a relaxed unkempt feel than other types of gardens. If you have a wooded area and have been thinking about starting a woodland garden, here are some suggestions to get started. Clean up and clear out all unwanted trees, shrubs and vines from trees. Watch out for and remove any invasive plants. After the area has been cleared, you might want to consider testing the soil and amend the planting areas if possible or as needed.

Every garden needs an entrance. An entrance welcomes and helps direct garden visitors to explore the garden or garden room. In my garden, I wanted something simple and rustic in design. I created my entrance area to the woodland garden by making an arbor made of three landscape beams. I added hanging baskets to the ends where I can plant seasonal annuals for color.
At the beginning of the entrance, have a pathway that will lead visitors through the garden. Garden paths can be stepping stones, gravel or mulch for a more natural look. I use gravel on my garden path due to the fact that my garden is in a flood plain. The gravel stays in place during spring floods. You can mulch your woodland garden if you wish. Mulching will help maintain moisture in the garden during those hot summer days. I prefer to use leaf litter in my garden, due to flooding and that it looks more natural for a woodland setting.

Virginia Bluebells

Woodland gardens do not require much in garden statuary. Simple items that you would find in a wooded area work the best. I use driftwood, interesting rocks and small animal or mushroom garden art that can easily be hidden in and around plants. The woodland garden is a great place to add a bench for resting and enjoying the wildlife. Don't forget to add birdhouses and feeders for the birds.

Eastern Redbud

In designing your garden you may want to limb up mature trees. This will allow for more light into the garden for new shrubs, trees, perennials and bulbs that you will want to add. When planting trees, consider adding small understory trees that will give seasonal color to the garden. Trees like Eastern Redbud and Dogwoods add flowers, fruit and seasonal color for the garden.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Plant shrubs like Oakleaf Hydrangea, Viburnums, Kerria, Witch Hazel and Fothergilla for flowers, seasonal color and interest to the garden. Some shrubs can provide food for birds.

Celandine Poppy

Every woodland garden needs natives. Native plants can be purchased in catalogues, nurseries and from local organizations. Suggestions of good native plants would be Celandine Poppy, native ferns, Wild Columbine, Wild Geranium, Trillium, Solomon' s Seal, Mayapple, Dutchman's Breeches, Virginia Bluebells and Ginger. Check to find out what native woodland plants grow in your area. Never dig up native plants from local woods or parks for your garden.


I like to add perennials to my woodland garden for season color. Some natives are nice for spring but are not as exciting during the summer. I like to add Foamflower, Coral Bells, ferns, hostas, Variegated Solomon's Seal and assorted flowering bulbs. Remember that hostas and ferns may need additional watering in the woodland garden during the summer.

Variegated Solomon's Seal

Ferns are a "must" for the woodland garden. There are many different types you can find in wonderful colors, sizes and textures. Purchase ferns that are natives and new introductions for their unusual color and interest. Look for ferns that will remain up and green even during the winter. Keep ferns watered in the dry times of summer or they may go dormant on you.

H. 'Gold Standard'
Hostas are wonderful plants for the woodland garden. They come in many different sizes, shapes and colors. Hostas can provide lots of color in a very shaded woodland garden. They will need watering during the hot time of the season.

A water feature can become a beautiful focal point in your garden. A pond with a stream bed looks wonderful and will attract wildlife. If you do not have access to electricity for your water feature, try adding a dry stream bed instead.
I hope that I have given you some ideas on how to design a woodland garden for your yard. These cold winter days are great times to get inspired and start drawing and designing your garden for spring.

Happy Gardening!
The Creative Gardener


Brooke said…
I wanted to let you know your post was
so beautiful that it is featured on
WebGarden today. Our readers enjoy
getting ideas and inspiration. I hope
many will follow your blog after visiting.
Thanks for sharing your gardening talents!
~Brooke (CreativeCountryMom)
Here is the link to see your post....