Five Woodland Garden Ideas

If you are lucky enough to have a wooded area on your property, you can develop it into a woodland garden. This garden will be special as it is at least partially shaded. If you don’t have a woodland, make one. Even a single mature tree can become a small woodland garden. Carefully evaluate the area and remove any plants that are struggling in the shade—and get those pesky weeds, too. Begin to plan where you will place a rose bush or an azalea. Be sure to amend the existing soil with lots of organic material—especially compost. Then, decide if this special garden will be casual and rustic or if you want a more formal look that matches the rest of your yard. Here are some ideas to help turn your woodland into a special garden.

garden path

1. Construct a Woodland Garden Path

If you want to be able to walk through the garden, you will need paths. Use natural materials that blend into the woodland. Remember that if you have deciduous trees, lots of leaves will be falling on the path in the fall. A white stone path may not be the best choice. A simple path of wood chips might be better, especially if you want this garden to be low maintenance.

cherokee rose
Judy M Darby/shutterstock

2. Plant Shrubs and Groundcover Plants

Once your paths are laid, the planting begins. Start with the medium size features that will be under the trees. Shrubs can provide privacy as well as beauty. Choose flowering shrubs to increase the impact. Flowering shrubs can add scent to your garden, and after blooming, many will be covered with berries that will bring in the birds. You could plant azaleas and rhododendrons under your tall pines. Hydrangeas are great shade plants.

Be aware of how much sun actually enters your woodland. There may be a clearing or other small areas that receive full sun and would be perfect for a shrub rose bush, dogwood or forsythia. It is always possible to place your favorite shrub or rose bush at the entrance to your woodland garden where there is more sun. Note: When you are ready to plant shrubs in the woodland, make the planting hole large enough. You will be contending with the roots of full-grown trees when you dig, and it may be tempting to decrease the size of the hole you are planting in. It is very important to give your new bare root roses and other shrubs the space to grow. Sharpen the shovel blade and have a lopper close by to cut through the tree roots. An established tree will do fine without a few roots.

3. Add Some Outdoor Furniture

Think about where you will most enjoy sitting when in your woodland garden. Position your seating next to the newly-planted rose bush so you can enjoy the scent. If there is a view from your woodland, place seating for you to enjoy that view. Seating can be very simple and rustic like the stump of a tree or a log bench—or you may prefer regular manufactured outdoor furniture. You can continue a contemporary look by using modern materials. For instance, a sleek steel bench replaces the log bench.


4. Plant Decorative Flowers and Plants

One of the charms of a woodland garden is the casual plantings of plants and flowers. There are so many plants that need shade to survive. Many woodland plants will bloom in spring when they still get light until the tree’s leaf out. Columbine is a favorite and comes in many colors as well as unique flower shapes. The flowers are held on stems well above the foliage each spring. Astilbe is a great plant with airy plumes of blooms in white, pink, purple and red. Other plants that do well in shade include hostas and sedum, ferns and so many others. Consider adding native wildflowers like jack-in-the-pulpit or trillium. Remember to never dig wildflowers out in the woods. Many are protected and even endangered. There are nurseries that specialize in wildflowers and have special certifications or licenses to grow the wildflowers in a sustainable way if that’s the direction you want to go with your woodland garden.

5. Add Bird Accommodations to Your Woodland Garden

Your woodland garden will bring in the birds eventually, but there are a few things you can do to make them want to stay. Add a bird bath and feeders. Bird houses made for the specific bird you want to attract are the perfect way to attract the birds and keep future generations.

A woodland garden is a special place that you will enjoy for years to come with these ideas for flowers, shrubs and so much more.