Sunday, May 5, 2013

Woodland Garden

It is always interesting to watch the first leaves and buds unfurl in spring, and yes, it is spring in my backyard now. Here are some of the woodland plants I grow under the shade of hemlocks and spruce and black walnut trees.

The black walnut tree is the last tree to have leaf buds in the spring and is usually to first to drop its leaves in the fall. An often maligned tree for its tendency to inhibit the growth of many plants, including its own seedlings, I have found that planting woodland plants native to the area grow well in its proximity. I grow Phlox stolonifera and Rubus odoratus (flowering raspberry) and Sambucus canadensis (American elderberry) under this tree.

leafless black walnut

Not far from the walnut and certainly under its canopy you will find the following spring flowering woodland plants. Some are ephemeral like the Hepatica americana and H. acutiloba and the trout lily in the yellow form.

Unfurling leaves of H. acutiloba

flowers of H. americana

yellow trout lily
Then of course there are the fleeting flowers of bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis called thus for its red poisonous juice in the roots. Also keep a sharp eye for the rue anemone's small but cheerful blooms. It is a member of the same family as all thalictrum, with fine and delicate foliage and flower.


bloodroots magnificent foliage

rue anemone
Then, there are the stalwarts of the spring woodland garden. These are plants that like to make themselves at home by slowly  spreading outwards. No garden should be without wild ginger (Asaram canadense), or solmon's seal (Polygonatum), false solomons's seal (Maianthemum racemosum), merrybells (Uvularia  grandiflora)

wild ginger with its flowers
solomon's seal
false solomon's seal
Finally there are the two iconic woodland beauties, the trillium and the Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

the trilliums are just beginning to open

amazing stalks of Jack in the pulpit

There are plenty of wonderful reasons to grow a woodland garden. Having a walnut tree, or three, should not deter you at all for the choices are vast.


  1. Beautiful pictures! My woodland garden is my favourite, I love shade plants, and collect hosta. We have 2 walnuts on the border of our property, and I don't have many problems with the hosta, heuchera, bleeding hearts, foam flowers, and Solomon's seal that grow under them.
    Debbie :)

    1. Hi Debbie, I think if you stay away from ericaceous plants that is most of the problem solved. I have come to prefer shade plants too, but I do love the punch of colour you get from the sun lovers.

  2. I love woodland plants, they look always so delicate. I especially like this rue anemone, it differs from the anemones that normally grow in Polish forests.

    1. Hi Dewberry, you are right that woodland plants look more delicate than other garden plants. Perhaps it is because they have more protection from the sun under tree canopies, and have more moisture in the air around them, that they retain that delicateness. The flowers of our rue anemone are small and last only a few days or so.

  3. You have so many woodland flowers! Many of these same plants struggle in my heavy clay but can be found in our undisturbed forests. A friends black walnut tree has killed almost everything near its dripline. I'll pass your advice on to her. :o)

    1. Compost, compost, compost! for clay soil, and in a year or two you will see and feel a difference. I sympathize with your friend.

  4. Lovely photos, and great choice of plants. I have a woodland corner too, under a huge cedar tree, and I have many similar plants to you; trilliums, anemone, crocus, arisaema amurense, Disporopsis pernyi, cyclamens, Lily of the Valley, hellebores and ferns.

    I didn't know the as arums from before, had to look it up, I can actually get 4 different asarums online here, Asarum canadense looks great but Asarum maximum om looks very impressive! I have added them to my wish list.

    1. The asarums are great plants. The native one for me has lightish, soft downy leaves. There is asarum european that looks similar except it has glossy leaves -very choice. I looked up the A. maximum and had to look twice! Quite an impressive ginger.