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There is something really atmospheric about woodland. Here are my top plants for woodland.

Whether it’s the shine of sunlight suddenly appearing through a gap in the trees, the chattering of birds perched on the branches, or even the rustling of fallen leaves as you walk through it on an autumn morning. These collectively make a woodland a magical place to be in. You may be one of the lucky few to have one, but if not, there really is nothing stopping you creating your own even if you only have a tiny patch of garden.

Mini woodland

Not all trees grow to be tall monsters needing heaps of space around them. Silver birch for example are quite happy growing close together and don’t develop too wide a trunk.

Betula pendula (silver birch)

  • Deciduous tree
  • Fully hardy
  • Can grow taller than 12m
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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Many plant nurseries and garden centres sell multi-stem versions; trees with several stems radiating out from the base, giving the impression that there’s more than one tree to give you an instant woodland effect.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii is the most widely available multi-stem birch with stunning white bark to brighten the dullest winter day. They can be expensive, so a cheap hack is to plant 3 single stem birch together with the trunks slightly angled outwards and hey presto you have the impression of a multi-stem tree.

The money saved doing that could enable you to buy a few other large shrubs of varying heights to plant around it, in the process creating your own varied mini woodland copse.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Himalayan birch)

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  • Deciduous tree
  • Hardy
  • Can grow up to 15m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered or exposed

Birch has a wide range of coloured stems and planting 3 or 5 different coloured stem varieties very close together creates pretty dappled light patterns on the ground on a sunny day.

Turn a shrub into a mini tree

If you have an established shrub with tightly packed leaves from ground up, you could consider turning this into a miniature multi stem effect ‘tree’ by pruning away the lower leaves to reveal bare stems.

Initially, prune no more than a third of the lower leaves to give a balanced effect. Then, to create more space and light around the shrub remove approximately half the lower leaves.

Look for mature shrubs that have a collection of strong stems hiding amongst the leaves and a fairly wide top such as Viburnum tinus and Cotinus coggygria. You can then add spring flowering bulbs and ground cover to create a delightful miniature woodland scene.

Viburnum tinus (laurustinus)

  • Evergreen
  • Hardy throughout most of the UK
  • Grows up to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained
  • Full shade, full sun, or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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Light filtering trees

Where space is limited it’s important to choose the right type of tree for your woodland effect. Look for trees that are not only small to medium height but also have less dense leaf cover and smaller leaves.

This allows more light to fall through creating a light and airy feel rather than an oppressive one that comes from too much dense overhead cover.

Acer griseum (paperbark maple)

This tree has attractive bark that is chestnut coloured and has the appearance of peeling paper, hence its common name. The tree is deciduous but puts on a show all year round, with fiery autumnal tones.

  • Deciduous tree
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 12m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

From October to March, the dark green leaves of this tree are covered with dark pink blossom. Perfect for a smaller garden, there is extra interest in autumn when the green leaves turn yellow before falling.

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  • Flowers in autumn to spring
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 8m tall
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered

Woodland tapestry plants

Complete the woodland look with a carpet of lower growing, shade loving plants, mixing evergreens with deciduous plants.

Polystichum setiferum (soft shield fern)

This is an easy to care for evergreen, that grows well in a shaded spot. The soft texture of these ferns is sure to add some elegance to your planting scheme.

  • Evergreen
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 1.5m tall and 1m wide
  • Moist but well-drained
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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Combine it with the contrasting leaf formation of our native evergreen Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s tongue fern) to create a pleasing, year-round effect.  A very easy to grow, well behaved, low growing, evergreen ground cover that copes really well with dry shade is Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese spurge).

Have a good look around your local garden centre and you’ll find a surprising number of plants available to help you create your own piece of woodland heaven.

Spring is here, see my post on spring pollinators:

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas:

spring pollinators
Spring pollinators
Pinterest
Pinterest Board


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