Creating woodland wildlife garden is simple with this design plan

Woodland wildlife garden is ideal ecological choice

For many of us, the most difficult part of creating a backyard garden is deciding on the design and the style.

In an effort to simplify the process and help to put readers on the road to success, Ferns & Feathers teamed up with garden designer extraordinaire Angela den Hoed of Soil&Ink in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to offer readers a blueprint for their own Woodland Wildlife garden design.

What’s the most ecological style of garden?

A woodland wildlife garden is one of the most ecological garden choices and one that, if more gardeners created one in their backyards, would be a giant step forward to rewild our urban and rural landscapes and create environmental green spaces that will go a long way in rejuvenating our native flora and fauna.

By following the design plan and the attached planting guide (zones 5-6) it is possible to create the Woodland Wildlife garden you may have only dreamed about. Use the plans to create the garden over several years as a DIY project, or hire professionals to create the garden for you. You may already have some of the elements in your garden or you may want to start from scratch. Either way, there is no reason not to get started on the garden of your dreams.

Angela has created an impressive Meadow garden. If you are interested in seeing how she created a meadow garden, go here.

If you are interested in exploring the world of shade gardening further, you might like my recent post on The Natural Shade garden.

For more on Angela’s outstanding work, check out her meadow garden and her five favourite plants for the meadow garden.

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In addition to providing readers with this detailed landscape plan, we have written a comprehensive post on creating a Woodland/wildlife garden for a small yard. You can find this article here.

By joining our woodland garden community newsletter, you will receive a downloadable ebook with the complete design plan. To sign up for the newsletter, go to our home page here, scroll to the bottom and complete the newsletter form.

Professional woodland design using native plants

The highly detailed plan is scaled for today’s typical backyard, but can be scaled up or down depending on the size of your lot. In addition, if you have a large property, this plan can be used for a corner of your yard or an area that might already have many of the elements already in place.

Special thanks to garden designer Angela who has put together a tremendous resource for readers by providing them with the Woodland garden design. The complete, detailed design was originally unveiled in a series of newsletters in 2020, adding specific tree, shrub, flower and ground cover suggestions for a Zones 5-6 garden design.

This article presents the finished product, including the planting scheme for readers.

Angela has used a traditional woodland multi-layered approach in the design, leaving room for entertaining but also incorporating a water feature, a grassed area for children to play on as well as a separate sitting area to bring you into the garden and have an opportunity to view the garden from a different angle.

Angela recommends the use of many native plants in her final design. Native plants and trees are vital in a woodland garden not only to attract birds with seeds and berries, but by encouraging more insects and caterpillars into the garden that, in turn, provide protein for the early growth of nestlings and insect-eating birds like warblers.

It is often asked: What tree should I plant in my backyard? The answer is most often an Oak tree. To find out why the Oak tree is my tree of choice, check out my article here, about what tree you should consider first when it comes to planting your first tree.

To contact Angela or to see more of her work, please take a few moments to go to her website @ www.soilandink

The following valuable information has been provided by Garden Designer Angela den Hoed

Welcome to our woodland garden.

The plants chosen for this garden are all native, suited to Eastern North America, in growing zones 5 & 6. They are all chosen to support and attract wildlife, particularly birds.

A quick tour of the garden design

We start on a natural stone patio in the sunniest portion of the garden. Here there is ample space for entertaining, a grill, and for planters filled with plants that prefer sunnier conditions. You can choose to include lots of plants that will attract pollinators and hummingbirds, perhaps even adding a trellis to the planters for a flowering vine.

In the center of the garden is a lawn. Not everyone needs a lawn, but if you do, you have one. In the next newsletter we will give you options for alternatives to using grass in this space.

There is a bird bath located within the perennial garden next to the house. You may use a simple solar bubbler here if you like or install a larger fountain. As you walk around the garden to the right, you will follow a stepping-stone path, passing under a multi-stem tree underplanted with one solid groundcover. We have left the choice of groundcover up to you but choose just one species. This is a place for a special, interesting tree.

In the back corner you will come to a seating area. This will become a cozy place when the plants have grown up around it. If you like you may continue down a more intimate path within the woodland garden and pass by a larger water feature. This could be a waterfall, a pool, or a combination. The small path continues back around to the patio again.

A detailed plants list

Plants are listed along with the number of butterfly and moth species (caterpillars = bird food!) they support. Many other insects and pollinators are also supported by these plants.

Upper Story Tree Options (1)

Try to find a variety that won’t get too outsized for this small garden – 30-40’. These trees provide both habitat and food in the form of caterpillars and insects for birds.

Oak – Willow (Quercus phellos), Pin (Q. palustris), or Bur (Q. macrocarpa): Oak trees support the highest quantity of wildlife of any plant in the region including 519 species. Their acorns also provide food for other wildlife.

Maple – Red (Acer rubrum) or Sugar (A. saccharum): Support 293 species. It may be easier to find a maple the appropriate size for a small garden.

Understory Tree Options (3)

• Flowering Trees (2) – choose 2 of the same variety, or mix them up:

Crabapple – American/Sweet (Malus coronaria): Flowers in spring and provides fruit in the fall and throughout the winter. Supports 287 species.

Dogwood – Flowering (Cornus florida) or Pagoda (C. alternifolia): Flowers in spring and supports 124 species.

• Multi-stem Tree (1):

Plum - American (Prunus americana) or Chokecherry (P. virginiana): Plums are #2 on the list of trees in terms of the number of butterflies and moths they support (435). These will flower in the spring and provide berries for birds in the fall.

Serviceberry – Canadian Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis) or Allegheny Serviceberry (A. laevis): These also bloom in late spring, support 135 species and provide birds food in the form of berries in the fall.

Magnolia – Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana): Supports 20 species including a few that can only live on Magnolias.

Shrubs to consider

Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum): Spring flowers lead to blue-black berry like drupes that are an ideal fuel for bird migration. 111 species supported

Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra) ‘Gembox’: 44 species supported

Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) – ‘Arctic Fire’: White flower, blue drupes in summer, red fall color, bright red branches in winter. Like the dogwood tree, supports 44 species

Pinxterbloom Azalea (Rhododendron periclymenoides): Pink flowers in spring, supports 53 species

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) ‘Ruby Slippers’ or ‘Munchkind’: Supports 10 species.

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americana): White flowers in spring, supports 44 species.

Summersweet/Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia) ‘Ruby Slippers’: Fragrant pink flowers in summer, attracts hummingbirds and pollinators.

Perennials to consider

• White Wood Aster (Aster divaricatus): White flowers late summer, supports 115 species

• Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis): Red flowers in spring, Supports 12 species.

• Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea): Cinnamon red new growth, supports 7 species.

• Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica): Blue flowers in spring, supports 3 species.

• Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum): Greenish yellow flowers in spring, supports 15 species.

• Short’s Aster (Symphyotrichum shortii): Blue-violet flowers in fall, supports 11 species.

• Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus): Tall white flowers in May.

• Coral Bells (Heuchera villosa) ‘Autumn Bride’: White flowers late summer.

• Tall Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana): White flowers in summer, supports 2 species.

• Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia): White or pink flowers in May.

Ground covers to consider

Choose one of the varieties below for the groundcover under the multi-stem tree

• Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris cristata): Blue-violet flowers in April, supports 13 species.

• Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense): Burgundy flowers in spring at the ground.

• Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricate): Blue flowers in spring, supports 3 species.

• Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum): white, pink, or purple flowers in spring, supports 27 species.

If you like what you see here but would like more guidance consider using the on-line services Angela offers at Soil&Ink. She can create specific plans for your backyard or offer plants that might be more suitable for your particular zone or style you are trying to achieve. Contact her through her website @ Soil&ink

Other important links for Woodland/Wildlife gardeners

• Chelsea Award winning garden designer Mary Reynolds. See my earlier post about her book here. Go to Mary’s popular website here where she promotes land stewards to create natural Arks to help protect and restore our natural environments.

• Earlier post on Garden mulch: organic vs non-organic. Link here to my earlier post.

• Earlier post to my favourite ground covers for the woodland garden. Link here to my earlier post

• Earlier post on using a local woodland as inspiration for the woodland garden design. Link here to my earlier post.

As an affiliate marketer with Amazon or other marketing companies, I earn money from qualifying purchases.

Vic MacBournie

Vic MacBournie is a former journalist and author/owner of Ferns & Feathers. He writes about his woodland wildlife garden that he has created over the past 25 years and shares his photography with readers.

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