Your Native Woodland: If You Build It They Will Come
Well you might have to plant a few first. What am I talking about? How to create your very own woodland filled with native plants. I have written before about how important native plants are to our survival. To read about it, click here. Now I am going to tell you how to create a shade garden in which mid-Atlantic native plants thrive and multiply with abandon.
It is really quite simple. All you do is take one woodland area, mix with generous amounts of compost, add the appropriate native plants, and wait a few years. The key is knowing which plants to use.
I started with the worst possible soil in the worst possible conditions. Not only were the beds composed of the hard baked clay and rocks prevalent in our area, but they were filled with roots from 100-year-old London plane and—hold onto your hats—black walnut trees. Add to that, years of trash, including roofing slate and coal furnace shovelings, dumped in the woods before municipal collection came along and construction debris from the 1960s.
Nature does not dot the landscape with precious collectibles but “designs” with large sweeps of single types of plants, and that is what I have done in my woods To create a woodland like mine, all you do is plant at least five but preferably seven and ideally nine of the plants profiled below in beds amended with generous amounts of compost, mulch heavily with ground leaves, and stand back and wait. Really….that’s what you do….it works.
I wanted to recommend six plants, but when it came down to slimming the competition, I had to go with nine: seven spring-blooming and two fall-blooming. All are native to the mid-Atlantic and Pennsylvania and all seed freely in a woodland setting once they get going. And the winners are:
Golden groundsel, Senecio aureus: the wintergreen leaves are topped by attractive purple buds in March followed by fragrant yellow flowers in April and May. This vigorous spreader is a great native substitute for vinca, pachysandra, and ivy.
Northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium: pendulous oat-like flowers grace this native shade grass in October and November. The foliage ages to a lovely khaki color that remains ornamental through winter.
As the spreading, woodland plants profiled above establish themselves, you can add pockets of other special natives like trilliums, jack-in-the-pulpits, mayapples, bloodroot, and ferns. The result is magical.
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Nursery Happenings: My Native Wildflower Weekend will take place Friday, April 6, from 10 am to 4 pm, and Saturday, April 7, from 10 am to 2 pm. Look for an email listing the native plants available if you are on my customer email list.
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