If you had asked me a few years ago which of my gardens I favor most, hands down the answer would have been my English-style flower border. It’s the garden I dreamed about and yearned for, but never had room to grow when I lived in the city.
But today my story has changed because my woodland shade garden has stolen my heart. I look out at it every day from my office window. In summer, from that distance of 20 feet, I can see a colorful mix of hostas, heucheras, astilbes and a host of hydrangeas. But it’s the smaller plants, those that stay close to the ground, that call to me to come and take a closer look.
I am thrilled my lungworts Pulmonaria, with their leaves splotched, spotted and glazed with silver, are reseeding. And tiny Japanese painted ferns are popping up everywhere. Native ferns got wind that the living was easy in the humus rich soil I prepared and have also taken up residence.
What are missing are the lovely native flowers that once filled the woodlands that surround my house. The dogtooth violets Erythroniumamericanumand trillium Trillium grandaflorumof my childhood are nowhere to be found. The large deer population that roams my acreage and adjacent family homestead has ravaged the wildflower population that thrived in the surrounding woods when I was a child, so now I will have to buy native plants I want to grow in my woodland garden. And I want to expand the collection.
Many woodland natives are early blooming ephemerals that flower in spring and then go dormant, so they are best purchased and planted in early spring. But they can be hard to find.