Plant ideas to line wooded area?

queenoftheforest(7)June 23, 2014

Hi all,
I've just started working on the garden of a new construction from scratch, and I'm semi new to gardening in general. The black ugly plastic environmental fence was removed last weekend, and now I'm looking for ideas on what I should do with this backyard! I was thinking of lining the woods with something like hostas or butterfly bushes but I'd like to plant something there I can split up that will multiply on the cheap side because we have 5 acres (2 cleared.) any advice on what to do here would be greatly appreciated!!!!

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aachenelf z5 Mpls

No suggestions other than first figure out what critters you have living in that woods. Rabbits? Deer? If you have either, you might be limited in what you can plant. And no, they won't stay in the woods if they know you have a banquet for them in your yard.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 3:49PM
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Deer. And they are bad here :( I like tropical looking plants, so maybe I'll
Plant some cannas there...

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 5:37PM
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I don't now from butterfly bushes, but a couple of deer will plow through hosta in a flash and they'll retain the instinct to return to your yard daily/nightly forever. A transitional planting zone from grass to woods could be tough if you don't know what's going to come out of the woods and decimate it - you've got a lot of space for a wildlife buffet.

Keep plants with strongly scented foliage in mind when any plans start to firm up - nepetas, salvias, artemesias, ferns... things you could use to space and dot rather than going for a full border.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 6:00PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Duluth is right... forget the hosta plantings because the deer will go nuts. Word will spread that a deli has been set up at the edge of the woods.

How about some ornamental grasses to use as a buffer? Check to see what deer do not prefer in your area ... a little research at your state's experimental agricultural station website would be wise before investing in plants.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 6:11PM
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Deer tend not to like monarda and it spreads well if you find one that works well in your situation. I've tried many different types in a wild area on the edge of a woods, and Raspberry Wine is what does best here.

For a groundcover-type plant, geranium macrorrhizum multiplies extremely well and the deer don't eat it.

Rudbeckia laciniata is a tall, rampant spreader, and the deer don't seem to eat mine, but some of them get spayed with Liquid Fence.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 6:37PM
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Also, I think they'll leave Leucanthemum x superbum Becky alone (at least here) and it's a very strong grower.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 6:40PM
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Good information from folks above. The critters--large or small--are always a consideration but there are things they don't like that hopefully will appeal to you.

Buddleia/butterfly bush needs full sun to thrive. On the plus side, they're easily grown from seed via winter sowing so inexpensive and grow really tall really fast. My own seed-grown plants are in their 5th year and grow lush and full every year.

Shade plants other than hosta that have been shunned by deer or deer-resistant in my garden for many years with sufficient moisture:

Alchemilla mollis/lady's mantle
Hellebore/Lenten rose
Heuchera/coral bells
Astilbe/false spirea
Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum 'Variegatum'/variegated Solomon's seal
Athyrium nipponicum/Japanese painted fern
Cimicifuga racemosa/black snakeroot
Brunnera/Siberian bugloss
Polemonium/Jacob's ladder
Stokesia laevis/Stoke's aster
Trollius ledebouri/Globeflower
Carex morrowii/Japanese sedge grass
Tricyrtis hirta/toad lily

My soil is slightly acid sandy loam which seems to suit them. Some of my plants have crabapple tree roots to contend with but given how they've grown over the past few years, they seem to get along fine. If you have maple tree roots competing with plants for moisture, the maple tree roots will win.

Gardening is a journey, not a goal. Celebrate your successes as you travel the path.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 7:31PM
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Wow, thanks everyone for the great info. So while you guys were here posting intelligent solutions, I decided to go into the woods, and dig up some ferns to transplant there. Not a good idea. They're not tall enough at all. Plus it wasn't as easy to dig them up as I thought it would be. And there are ticks. So I don't know, maybe i'm thinking the ornamental grass idea. If I buy some ornamental grass, can i break it up into pieces to spread it along the woods line so I don't have to buy as many?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 7:45PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

You know, maybe you need to spend some time figuring out exactly what you hope to do here - what's your goal, what kind of look are you going for?

From that photo, it appears you're dealing with hundreds of feet of space if you're looking to plant something along the entire perimeter of the wooded area. Do you have some measurements?

There is no way you're going to do this cheap. Even a single row of something along that perimeter is going to involved potentially hundreds of plants. And quite frankly, a single row of anything is going to look just plain odd IMO and not very attractive. But that's me. I could maybe see a border many feet in width along that area, but then you're talking many, many, many hundreds of plants.

My advice would be to spend some time thinking and looking through garden design books and magazines first to see what you like and what you can afford. Come up with a plan before you do anything.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 8:53PM
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I have thought about it, and I know I want something there that will sort of spread on it's own... Or something I can break apart and move along the woods line. Earlier I was thinking hostas, but now by posting on here I've learned that's probably a bad idea with the deer. I would say the woods line is 700 ft entirely, so I won't have the same thing along all of it, but I'd like to get started with something soon because there is a trench from the environmental fence, and I won't have to do much digging to plant some things. Leaning towards butterfly bushes (in sunnier spots,) some sort if tall ornamental grasses, and canna lilies?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Gardenweed mentioned Hemerocallis/Daylily. The deer like to eat mine unless I spray, but every place is different. If yours will leave them alone, and you're looking for some inexpensive, tough spreaders, "ditch lilies" (Hemerocallis fulva) can often be found on craiglist or similar places for free, especially if you'll dig them.

There's a reason they're often free - they're very aggressive spreaders, so you don't want them in a mixed border. I wouldn't have them in my garden (in addition to their take-over-the-world tendencies, the flower stalks are too long for my tastes), but I have some out near a woods and love them out there. They keep the weeds down and start blooming fairly early.

Butterfly bushes are marginally hardy here, but i know they're considered invasive in many places, so not sure about there. They do grow from seed, and can be winter sown.

The suggestions I've offered have been geared toward your request for things you can split up and multiply on the cheap. I think you have a beautiful spot there and a chance, over time, to do a lot with shrubs (you can keep your eyes open for deals on the clearance racks at Lowes, etc.), perennials, and ground covers.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:36PM
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I would haunt stores for fall clearance plants and look into winter sowing (it has a forum on gardenweb). Through winter sowing you could have a wealth if perennials next spring. You could look into local garden clubs for spring plant sales. I also think a deep garden bed would be good there. Just lining the edge if the forest is going to be out of scale compared to the tall trees.

I know around here cannas are easy to find, often free. You could check out craigslist for people giving away plants if you come dig them. Always be on the look out for diseased or infected plants though! So yes, cannas might be a good way to fill in some ground quickly if they have enough sun. Deer have never bothered mine here. They have a decidedly tropical look though.

But, my thoughts are that you have a beautiful woodland edge and it would be lovely to have a transitional zone that fits in with that look--a mix of shrubs, evergreens and perennials with maybe a few grasses in sunnier areas. Some cannas as a tropical or foliage accent could be a nice splash here and there, but large swathes of them, to me, might be out of place.
Best of luck with your new property!

Some other plants I have growing on forest edge that deer leave alone:

Tradescantia Sweet Kate
Deutzia (shrub)
Viburnums (some nibbling)
Goat's beard/aruncus
Dianthus--sweet Williams are easy, fragrant and beautiful .

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:48PM
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I like that you have basically a clean slate. Personally I would tuck a few low growing evergreens in the bottom here and there. Different height and colors. Or creeping junipers etc. nothing that needs a lot of maintenance.

You could also get an appointment with your local extension service to look at your property and have them assess what you have. Then get recommendations for native plants that deer and rabbits leave alone. Intermix those with some of the plants or shrubs you're drooling over.

If you are trying to cover a big area for cheap(er) some nurseries offer plugs of perennials. Yes, you start small, but you also only have to dig small holes. In three years no one will be able to tell the difference to a gallon size plant.

For shrubs to tuck into the back of the tree line, see if your town or county offers a spring bareroot sale of trees and shrubs. Check with your local master gardener chapter when or if they have an annual plant sale.

And of course you can grow your own cuttings, seeds. Still venturing into that myself, and I have only an acre to cover but I need shrubby stuff to screen the neighbors. YouTube has a wealth of videos on how to.

Looking forward to a picture two years from now :)
Good luck, Megan

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 10:05PM
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IME planting garden plants in unimproved woodland soil may be a frustrating exercise. Your yard has a long edge, so planning the whole thing out now, but then executing it over several years in stages will end up giving you the most finished and cohesive look. I would think about design goals as Kevin suggested. Do you want to create a gentle transition between the woods and the yard? Do you want a bazzilion flowers? Do you want fall color or winter interest? Are you looking to reduce the "new" look of your yard? Or . . . ? If you put a single row or even a double row of perennials along the base of those tall trees, they will just disappear because of the height difference and it won't look too different. There are books on woodland design that you can peruse in a bookstore and may be able to borrow from the library, but in general, the edge of a woodland naturally goes from the tall tree layer to small trees and shrubs to perennials and lower growing plants.

When I started in a similar situation, I started with planning and setting up a beds during my first year or two. I tested my soil, watched where the sun and shade are at different times of the year, checked out sources for organic matter to make the soil better for growing plants, and found inexpensive sources for plants. In my succeeding years I planted native plants (mostly rooted cuttings and seedlings) suited to the area in unimproved soil area and more finished beds were planted with garden plants. I ended up planting my woodland edge with large clumps of plants rather than straight beds. That gave me "windows" into the woods, but still allows the woods to step down more gradually than simply tall trees to grass. I planted largely for spring flowers and fall color.

Possible sources for inexpensive or free plants:
- Consider buying a shrub or two each year that can be used to start more from cuttings (this won't work with all plants, but there are some like willows or dogwood shrubs that root easily from cuttings)
- Buy small starts of plants from your local conservation service, usually a state or county agency. For instance, in spring I can get from the NH state nursery seed-grown first-year or second-year woody plants for two or three dollars apiece. When planted in a prepared bed, they grow well.
- You might be able to collect cuttings or small seedlings from shrubs in the surrounding woods that are local natives and so will grow well, and start your own. I don't want you give you specific plant names since our growing conditions are too different, but take the time to learn what grows well where you are without being invasive, and then plan where you want shrubs, small trees and perennials.
- Are there plant exchanges in your area that might be a good sources for plants? (Around here new gardeners need not bring plants and may just take plants.)

Possible sources of free or inexpensive materials to improve and add organic matter to your soil:
- city compost
- tree trimming services for woodchips
- horse farm for manure

Is there a nature center or university or arboretum that has displays of ornamental native plants in a woodland edge setting, or are there talks or courses you could attend? Are there garden clubs in your area where you can hear other local gardeners' experience? That will help you figure out what critters other than deer might be problems for your plants, and what plants will grow happily in the soil and sun/shade conditions you have.

I realize that it may appear that I am raining on your parade, but having gardened on two properties that included open areas carved out of woodlands, I am hoping to prevent you from making some of my mistakes.(Also, since you mentioned ticks, get in the habit of checking yourself, and if you have them, your pets and kids, every time you come into the house from the yard and every evening before bed.)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 11:29PM
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