Woodland Garden: Part 1

On a knoll beneath 5 large California Live Oaks, running alongside a dry creek bed, we’ve recently planted a woodland and dry shade garden.  The dimensions of the garden are approximately 20 feet wide by 70 feet long. We’ve hyrdozoned the garden into four zones — as the garden transitions from full sun to shade, and from plants that are more drought tolerant to more traditional woodland garden plants needing more frequent watering.

This first image shows the garden in its entirety, from the low point to the knoll in the distant background (reminder — it is still in its infancy, so it looks a bit barren).  Unfortunately, the large California Live Oak in the middle of the creek bed has recently begun to show signs of a fungus that may signal its demise. More on that in a future post.

In the lower left foreground, among the rocks on the edge of the dry creek, we planted Philadelphus lewisii ‘Goose Creek’, which have just recently begun to bud after a dormant, deciduous winter.  This native California plant is commonly known as Wild Mock Orange, and will grow to 6 feet or so (completely filling in the bare dirt areas!), with abundant flowers from May to July.  Here it is from a shot in early May:

On the right side of the creek, as you climb the flagstone steps, on your left you see a small grove of native Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry), and then native Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry), with interspersed non-native, but beautiful Acanthus mollis.  The intent of the “Rubus repeat” is to form a thicket — which we expect by late summer — from which we can harvest berries or which the critters that we happily welcome into our yard (including the neighborhood bear) can enjoy.

Two key distinguishing features between Rubus spectabilis and Rubus parviflorus are the serrated leaf margins and thorns on the Rubus spectabilis — which are less prevalent in the Rubus parviflorus. The leaf shape of the Rubus parviflorus is also more deeply lobed and palmate.

First, Rubus spectabilis:

Next, Rubus parviflorus (my favorite plant in the garden):

And, among them, the exotic, non-native, but unforgettable, Acanthus mollis (shown here in bloom in May 2012):

In our next post, we will transition into the dry shade garden on the upper right knoll. The Chicago Tribune summed up the challenges of a dry shade garden in a November 2011 article: “Dry shade. Those two words are enough to frustrate any gardener. The culprit could be a wall, an overhanging roof, a fence, a hedge, or a towering tree, but the result is usually the same — dusty soil and lack of direct sunlight — two growing conditions that make life difficult for many plants.”

Enter California native plants, and the challenge is met.  More on that to come.

3 thoughts on “Woodland Garden: Part 1

    • Michael Hamilton says:

      Thank you for your comment. Its nice to know that someone finds some joy or useful tips or whatever in these posts. Best of luck to you in your developing woodland garden in Ireland (I can’t imagine a better place to be than Ireland).

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