The woodland garden has a more relaxed, casual, carefree look than some other garden styles. The best way to create a lovely woodland garden is to strategically place shade-tolerant plants in a cleared area. First, remove all trash, poison oak and ivy, unwanted saplings, and underbrush. Make a nice walking path, if needed, with stepping stones, cross-ties, pea gravel, or flagstone.
Groundcovers and mosses are nice for a woodland garden, along with other shade-loving plants. Some groundcover plants that work well are ajuga, ivys, and a wide variety of ferns, including Bracken fern, Christmas fern, wood fern, ebony spleenwort (fern), Southern Maidenhair fern, and Japanese painted fern. Virginia creeper also covers fast and is good for large areas; however, it can be difficult to remove should you decide it is not what you want. Other plant choices include trillium, coralbery, Heuchera (chocolate ruffles, coralbells, Persian carpet), some hydrangeas, violets, liriope, columbine, and mayapple.
Hostas are another great addition. Some varieties that have done well in East Texas are Blue Cadet, Halcyon, Resonnance, and Fragrant Bouquet (which was named one of four “Hostas of the Year” by the American Hosta Growers). Hostas look elegant, are hardy, and need little maintenance.
Small trees for your area could include flowering dogwoods and magnolias, Japanese maples, hollies and birch. For an additional touch of beauty, add a shiny gazing ball on a stand, a birdbath, and a bench. You will have a very special place to take a book and relax with a tall glass of homemade lemonade. Happy hours in your woodland garden!
Sharon Nelson, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service