Creating a Woodland Garden

Creating a Woodland Garden

Creating a small woodland within your garden doesn’t require a massive amount of space, however the wildlife it supports is vast from fungi, mosses and insects to small mammals. Each tree, branch and twig provides networks of corridors for birds and insects. A long term benefit of a woodland garden is the ability of trees to sequester carbon as they mature.  So the small woodland can provide seasonal beauty, fuel and fruit for the household, as well as providing a complex ecosystem supporting wildlife and services.

Birch tree with an understory of bluebells and ferns during spring time

By planning ahead and picking the right species, your garden can transform into a dapple shaded miniature woodland with shrubs and small ornamental trees.  The dormant months of winter and early spring are ideal for planting bare root trees (also known as whips – very young sapling trees) and shrubs. Bare rooted plants are cheap and establish far better than pot plants.  Plant by digging a hole wide enough for the root system and lower the whip and back fill with excavated soil, nothing else. Now mulch the planted whip with rich organic material and this will feed the growing tree in a sustainable way. The mulch replicates the organic matter on the floor of a forest and will sustain the tree without any additional amelioration.

Understory planting is as important, consider berry rich shrubs like holly and for lower ground add flowers like bluebells and foxgloves. The grasses and herbs will naturalise in time and also provide an important habitat for insects that include biological control agents like hoverflies, a gardener’s best friend! Dead wood and log piles on the woodland floor is an important habitat for insects and hibernating mammals like hedgehogs.

Ideal trees and shrubs for a woodland garden

Suggested trees include rowan, birch, hazel and crab apple. Native species are ideal and establish well however ornamental trees provide seasonality too.  Understory planting can include ferns, holly, viburnum opulus, dogwood, and raspberry canes (although these can colonise!).  The grasses, herbs and ivy will naturalise the ground within a year! The addition of bulbs like bluebells, snowdr0ps, cyclamen and aconites provides colour from late winter.

Log pile is a very important home for beetles, woodlice, toads and hedgehogs

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