The Woodland Garden: Planting in Harmony with Nature

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9781552977446: The Woodland Garden: Planting in Harmony with Nature

Updated and revised.

This book is both a valuable reference and a practical how-to guide to hundreds of plant species suited for cultivation beneath a canopy of mature trees. Here is all the information needed to get started: design, plant selection, planting and maintenance. These principles can be applied anywhere in North America in any size garden, from large estate to a cramped city lot.

This revised edition of The Woodland Garden features new, beautiful color images throughout, a larger format and more text.

An authoritative guide for gardeners and landscape designers, this edition focuses on:

  • Designing the woodland garden
  • Building the woodland garden
  • The canopy, plus a list of woodland trees
  • The understory, plus a list of woodland shrubs
  • Plants of the woodland floor
  • Climbing plants
  • Planting, pruning and maintenance

The authors list their favorite plants with detailed descriptions of the best woodland garden performers including lilies and rhododendrons. Practical information is provided for soil characteristics, adapting a property, working with a new site and converting an old garden. There are sections on fragrance, water, rocks, pathways, scale and unity, how to analyze a site and much more.

Helpful tips throughout offer useful advice gleaned from the authors' decades of collective experience: dealing with weeds and pests, preparing the land, watering, mulching and propagation.

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About the Author:

Roy Forster is a master gardener who helped guide the creation of VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia, a world-recognized prime example of woodland gardening.

Alex Downie is curator of the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park, also a public garden known worldwide.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

Anthropologists have linked humanity's biological ancestry to the woodland, and psychologists blame many modern urban ills on our alienation from this heritage. Perhaps in reaction, gardeners are turning increasingly to a natural style of landscape. They find deep satisfaction in the subtle play of dappled light on the varied textures of woodland plants or in the soft feel of moss underfoot.

The woodland garden style suits those gardeners whose bent is gentle trial and error, calm observation and a love of natural systems -- those same qualities the frenetic conventional gardener would call laziness! However, in the early stages of site preparation, some hard work is always necessary Undesirable plants must be grubbed out, weeds removed and trees pruned or thinned in a skillful way to enhance their naturalism -- not neatly trimmed as in more formal gardens.

A woodland garden style is not easy to define, because woodlands, on which the idea is based, are found from the tropics to the far north, from sea level to timberline, and these woodlands vary vastly.

For the purpose of this book, the woodland garden can be defined as a relatively sheltered place where there is an upper canopy of large or small trees, beneath which there is a second layer of shrubs, the understory, and a third level of herbaceous plants and other low-growing species, the woodland floor. Because of the tree canopy, the lower levels receive a controlled amount of sunshine. This means the woodland garden is the ideal habitat for plants that need various degrees of protection given by shade. It also means that solar energy and the three-dimensional garden space are used to the fullest potential that nature can provide.

A woodland garden does not necessarily need large trees as the upper canopy. Quite small trees up to 25 feet (7.6 m) in height can provide the necessary shade in small urban or suburban gardens. The trees can be deciduous or evergreen, broadleaved or coniferous or any desired mixture of these, depending on the amount of shade required.

The woodland garden is inspired by a poetic vision of infinite balance and perfect harmony among all the forest components. The foliage canopy contains and defines the landscape, focussing attention on the immediate environment -- fallen mossy trees, lichen-covered rocks and the living matrix of the forest floor itself take on a special significance. The woodland is all the more charming because it is a composition of form and texture without much reliance on color except for tonal variations of green. These impressions are the raw material in the process of making woodland gardens.

The emotions stimulated by the woodland garden may be unwelcome to those whose perception of a garden is limited to structural orderliness. The wildness may intimidate those who feel that the outdoors is something to be tamed and ordered. But for those who appreciate and respond to the special ambience of the woodland garden, we hope that our knowledge of and experience in creating and maintaining woodland gardens will inspire and guide you.

Some woodland gardens are made with existing woodland, some are made on raw land and some on land reclaimed from conventional gardens. Owners of land partially or completely wooded will find information on thinning out unwanted vegetation while preserving what is valuable. Raw sites, small or large, are a special challenge, but help can be found in choosing the best trees to start the canopy. Adapting an older conventional garden to a woodland theme comes between these two extremes. This book will be useful to property owners gardening under many differing site conditions.

The richest North American woodland gardens are to be found in the temperate climate zones. This includes the forested coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest and the Carolinean zone of eastern North America, from the mountains of the southeastern United States to the southern and eastern parts of Canada. in most areas of North America, temperatures cover fairly extreme seasonal differences. Here the woodland garden is valuable for the softening effects of the microclimate created by suitable trees. Such a microclimate may make it possible to cultivate plants that are otherwise tender, either to summer heat or winter cold.

In this book we emphasize the more densely populated, temperate parts of the northern United States and Canada. Gardeners in the more climatically challenged continental interior or in the South, or those gardening on alkaline soils, will find sections of this book useful, if only to encourage further search for information. This book concentrates on those plant materials hardy from Zone 5 through Zone 9, according to the hardiness zone system devised by the United States Department of Agriculture. (See p. 159-60 for a further discussion of plant hardiness.)

The Origins of the Woodland Garden

Woodland gardens are a relatively recent development in garden history. They represent, in every way, a departure from conventional structured gardens. Through many centuries of horticulture, the modern flower garden has derived some of its essential elements from more formal forerunners, such as monastery gardens. The woodland garden, however, has as its precursor what were perhaps the earliest gardens of Europe and Asia: the woodland hunting reserves of ancient rulers. Before the systematic use of land for growing crops (or for the making of gardens), wooded land was more highly valued because it provided fuel and building material. Above all, it gave cover to the many kinds of game animals prized for the hunt and the table. Such a productive woodland required thinning, not with the cataclysmic methods of modern logging, but in the rather random fashion of taking what was needed for immediate purposes. The open woodland fostered by these methods was both productive and beautiful. In a more highly developed form, with areas of pasture between forest tracts, the landscape evolved into parkland.

Landscape of this sort became an integral part of the art and poetry of pastoral peoples and gave rise to the romantic, picturesque style of landscape gardening that changed the face of eighteenth-century England. Even today, it is an important influence in the design of large parks and gardens throughout the western world.

The wonderful botanical treasures of North America, such as American magnolias, halesias, witch-hazels, rhododendrons and many other plants, provided the inspiration that gave rise to the "American," or wild, garden, the nineteenth-century precursor of the modern woodland garden.

By the 1840s, the growing ranks of garden owners in the United States were demanding a wider range of plants and a more informal style of garden design. Nurserymen and landscape gardeners were there to meet the need with newly introduced plants. Andrew Jackson Downing, a leading landscape gardener of the day, was influenced by the naturalism of the English landscape movement that had begun a century before. The so-called English park style, a forerunner of the woodland garden, became popular in the United States. Central Park in New York was the most ambitious example of this style. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the park stands as an important milestone in the development of landscape style in North America. The Olmsted firm later designed the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, which contains some fine woodland groves.

Plant Hunting and Woodland Gardens

Many gardeners are caught up in the enthusiasm for plant exploration and preservation. This enthusiasm is not limited to interest in the plant species themselves, but includes a concern for habitat, ecology and the plant associations and communities of which these species are a part. When these associations influence garden design and the arrangement of garden plants, it is possible to evoke nature.

It would be difficult to imagine the gardens of the southeastern United St

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