Thursday, 5 May 2016

Garden Design - Make a secluded woodland garden for wildlife and children

You can give children somewhere to explore and wildlife somewhere to live, by creating a little piece of woodland in your garden, and you don't need as much space as you think. All you need is the right plants and some imagination.

Many garden plants thrive naturally under trees. Spring plants in particular have adapted themselves to deciduous woodland, flowering before the tree canopy has regrown and created shade. Woodlands are full of spring flowers, create a lovely shade in the heat of summer, and full of natural habitats for garden wildlife like toads, frogs or hedgehogs. Its worth trying to attract these because they feed on the slugs that eat your plants!

Children love the sense of exploration from pushing through thick vegetation, finding secret hiding places or looking for little creatures, so woodland can be educational as well as fun.

Our little piece of woodland is only 6m by 3m, but even this is enough for an  alternative, almost secret pathway to the very bottom of the garden, and provides a transition from the more controlled environment of the rest of the garden to the more naturally wooded area around the stream at the boundary and beyond. 

This is the area before I started. After clearing the weeds and junk, I lined the winding route of the path with logs, round and under the pear tree. The bark chip path emerges through thick clumps of bamboo at the bottom of the garden near the stream. The bushy Fargesia "Jumbo" keeps the final destination hidden until you get there. 

The entrance to the woodland area is almost hidden too, providing an additional, unexpected route to follow when you see it. This was achieved by planting closely at the top end of the path with Acuba Japonica and Viburnum  davidii and on  either side, which have filled out and narrowed the entrance over time. A couple of conifers block the view straight down the garden, making the whole area hidden until you walk into it. Photinia fraseri "Red Robin" was planted to further enclose the area and increase the shade all year round.

... and after
Click here for a selection of plants you can use to create your mini woodland. They are all varieties that enjoy the shade provided by the  trees in summer. 
The kids love to wander through the area, pushing their way through the foliage to a secret stone seat behind the rock garden, and the base of the pear tree is also where the fairies have taken up residence! Meanwhile the wildlife will enjoy the hidden log piles, shallow dish of water and the shady damp earth. In a woodland garden, everyone's a winner!

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