The Q&A Archives: Woodland Plantings

Question: I would like to start a woodland garden. I have a sloped bare sandy soil area approximately 80ft x 40ft oval shaped. Could you recommend low maintenance flowering shrubs, bulbs and ground cover? Great morning sun exposure, (~6 hour in summer.

Answer: Most traditionally woodland plants require a soil high in humus, so you will probably need to add copious amounts of organic matter to the soil before planting. You might also want to run some basic soil tests to check the pH as many of these plants also require an acid soil. There are many plants to consider, and you may find that the light varies from place to place and will require some experimentation. If your six hours of sunlight includes the hour of noon, you may in fact have some full sun locations rather than "shade"! Some easier plants to start with might include azaleas, hydrangeas including native varieties , summer blooming spireas, and Itea virginica. For bulbs, crocus, many daffodils, grape hyacinths, scilla, chionodoxa, and wood hyacinths often naturalize well in woodsy areas. Groundcovers could include the traditional vinca minor and English ivy but could also include any other plant that is either a native or prone to naturalizing in your area or prone to spread where it is happy. Some to consider might be epimedium, Virginia creeper, fall blooming clematis, cimicifuga, pulmonaria, Black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, perennial geraniums, creeping thyme, creeping phlox and woodland phlox, stoloniferous hostas, sedums, and so on. In making your selections I would suggest looking for plants that tolerate dry shade unless you truly have some moister areas or plan to water regularly during dry spells. Have fun with your project!

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