Thursday, May 8, 2008

Creating My Urban Woodland Habitat

During a walk through the woods the other day, I came across a small, red trillium poking through the tattered layers of debris covering the forest floor. There were white trillium everywhere but only one red one. I needed a picture, of course, but the ground was wet and mucky. Getting down on my hands and knees meant the very real risk of sinking slowly into the earth. I was alone and couldn't take the chance so I used a technique often used by photographers of my calibre who find themselves in this situation. I stuck the camera under the bloom, pointed, and clicked. Terrible technique, I know, but the end result was a pretty good photo. I love the shape of the trillium, the towering trees in the background, and the blue sky. These kinds of woodland scenes have inspired me to create my own woodland habitat.

Here it is. What do you think of it so far? Admittedly, it has a long way to go. Right now, my woodland garden is sitting on the kitchen counter: three flats of native Ontario woodland plants collected and propogated in an ecologically responsible way by Acorus Restoration. My husband and I went out there on the weekend, got lost along the way, reoriented ourselves and made it with five minutes to spare before closing time. The flats were speed-loaded from a wish list I had compiled after hours spent pouring over the Acorus catalogue and the road trip ended in success.

I've put a few things in the the ground already starting with the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). I don't expect much from it this year. I purchased the eight plants well after their bloom time. I'd be happy if they leafed out a bit before going dormant (if they do indeed go dormant, I've heard different things) in the summer heat. The real allure of this plant for me is its early spring bloom time. I need to see flowers in April when winter's grip is usually still holding tight. It will be a year before I can fully appreciate the Bloodroot. I expect it will be worth the wait.

The Starry False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum stellatum) wasn't on my woodland wish list. The individual spikes looked so cute all standing tall in the greenhouse, they called out to me. Even armed with a list, I'm not immune to the impulse purchase.

I love the flowers and foliage of the Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis) but I must admit I planted these with some reservations. Many garden websites and books describe this plant as an aggressive grower. "Aggressive" usually adds up to a headache somewhere down the line. I've decided to give them a shot because they will be growing in conditions that are close to what they prefer but not quite perfect. I'll keep a close watch to make sure they stay in check.

A row of Plantain Leaved Sedge (Carex plantaginea) will separate my urban woodland from the sidewalk in front of the house. The plants will have to hold their own against foot traffic and the inevitable visits from neighbourhood pooches.

I picked up the Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) at a local garden centre last month. I couldn't stand waiting a second longer to purchase something; the garden season needed a kick-start. So far, the wild ginger has been especially impressive in the rain when its leaves get glossy.

The majestic Solomon's Seal was a pass-along from my in-laws who have more of it than they know what to do with.

Two serviceberry shrubs (Amelanchier canadensis) and an Eastern Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) give the woodland bed some height. I'm also planting Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum), Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), Running Strawberry (Euonymus obovatus), Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia), Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) and some wild phlox (type to be determined).

The plants are all soooo small. Nothing like the plants you'd find at your average garden centre. They have a lot of growing to do. With some patience and just the right amount of TLC I hope my former patch of front yard lawn is transformed into an urban woodland oasis. A few trillium might be in order since they are what really inspired this experiment in the first place.


Soilman said...

Shouldn't have said how you got the brilliant trillium picture – I would have believed it was all planned and set up cleverly!!

Connie said...

A woodland garden is a great idea...can't wait to see how it grows. Keep us posted!

Jenny K. Lloyd said...

My green thumbs are sore today from weeding the Spiral Mound. I'd better put them on ice. That trillium photo is awesome! Thanks for the first comment ever on my blog.
See you next week and Happy Gardening!