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Help W/Creating Woodland Look

Posted by goodkamra Pasadena, CA (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 14, 11 at 15:50

Hi All! I need to create a woodland look, in a warm and sunny back yard area, for a job in Pasadena, CA. I'm seeking suggestions for plants that have that "shady woodland" look, but are suitable for a warm and sunny area, and are also appropriate for a lower water use garden. Anyone have any suggestions for how to approximate the look? I'm not interested in using trees (unless they are VERY small) as there is not enough room. MOstly shrubs, perennials, grasses, groundcover, vines. And keeping in mind the space is about 24" x 32". There will be a small center section of turf, surrounded by borders of plants, so I'm seeking plants that fit into this scale.

Thanks so much for your input! :)


Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help W/Creating Woodland Look

As your request appears to be an oxymoron would you car to explain what you mean by 'woodland look'?

RE: Help W/Creating Woodland Look

I'm trying to approximate, as closely as possible, the look and feel of woodland....deep greens, cool lushness, broad leaves, fern-like, etc, knowing full well it is an oxymoron, but also knowing it can likely be done to "some" degree....just as a tropical feel can be loosely approximated and translated to low water garden usage, by using plants that have a lush feeling, such as phormium, drought tolerant bamboos, alyogne, agave, senecio etc.

RE: Help W/Creating Woodland Look

My preference is towards a more tropical look than a woodland look. Some of the images below might be helpful . I noted the plants that can adjust to low water needs.
If you are located in the Pasadena area, take a walk thru the Lummis garden.

A fair amount of California natives will fit your needs such as ceanothus, ribes, manzanita, arbutus and our native ferns - check out Las Pilitas website for inspiration.

myoporum ground cover, lorapetalum, woodwardia fern, ribes , heleborus

From Raised Garden Beds

podocarpus, libertia, choysia, carex

From Raised Garden Beds

In the carmel valley woodlands
madrone, manzanita, choysia, callistoma little john, geranium warleys pink, Japanese maples, Azara, chamacyparis nidiformis

From Carmel Valley Estate

agapanthus, lorapetalum, dicksonia, pittosporum, camellia, iochroma.

From random photos

Asparagus fern , Clivia, Sub acorus or liriope for water thirsty Japanese forest grass

From Pina Colada


From Pina Colada

Abutilon, Brugmansia, Heleborus, Pyrrosia fern, Aspagus refractus, Doryanthus , Euphorbia

From Pina Colada

RE: Help W/Creating Woodland Look

I guess I agree that it is hard to create a "shady" look without trees. In my mind woodland means trees. A lush tropical look is a more of possible.

I think you meant to say 24'by 34' - meaning 24 by 34 feet.

Could you explain a little more how you envision transforming a sunny warm yard into a shady woodland garden without trees? I think you have an idea, but its just not coming across in the way you have described it.

RE: Help W/Creating Woodland Look

Can you bring in an arbor or some kind of shade structure? It would also give you a place to grow some vines. If you add some tropicals in the sunny areas, I think you could blend those nicely with some drought tolerant 'woodland' plants, even if these were only under the larger tropicals and vines. It sounds like a challenge, but if done well, could be a beautiful garden. Best of luck :)

RE: Help W/Creating Woodland Look

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 29, 11 at 20:26

It kind of surprises me that someone would be soliciting open ended design advice for a paid job. I'd feel better reacting to such a designer's thoughts and plant choices rather than being a free source of research. California's. chaparral plant community or South African Fynbos vegetation would be productive directions to research for "busy" plant communities that don't contain trees. Check out the Norton Simon Museum gardens for potential ideas as well, there in Pasadena.

I think you should redefine the look you are after and drop the "woodlands" from the description, because that implies dappled shade and actual tree canopy. Of course you could elect to use narrow canopy palms or palm-like vertical accent plants to give limited dappled shade without creating too much shade inducing canopy, especially since there are so many suitable narrow canopy plant choices for a southern California setting. Trevesia palmata and Cussonia paniculata are two candidates that come to mind.

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