Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden

The Many Merits of Woodland Gardens

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Mother Nature delivered Parterre’s woodland garden a one-two punch this winter, between big winds that took down major trees and an obscure hosta fungus that destroyed a large grove of our 23 year old favorites. A bit dazed and dumbfounded, I fortunately had a favorite garden tome to turn to, Gardens of the North Shore of Chicago, written by my good friend, Ben Lenhardt, Jr., Chairman Emeritus of the Garden Conservancy. My spirits were soon restored by a welcome offering of varied concepts for woodland garden design, all enhanced by Scott Shigley’s photography. Now we’re starting anew on our woodland garden (thank you, Mother Nature, for this opportunity)! A must to keep in mind…the amount of light-to-shade in your garden; that equation has certainly changed for us.

One instructive lesson learned was that “not one size fits all.” Look at the many styles of design that incorporate woodland areas, from the to-be-expected predominantly all green version (where subtle shades of green play a role)…

to one that incorporates a gracious plenty of colorful plant options. This image also points up the importance of considering the myriad shades of green, as well as a plant’s leaf size and shape. Your goal here is visual interest!

Aaah, that you are fortunate enough to have topography to work with! Look at the drama and fascination wrought in this woodland landscape. You could literally spend days wandering these trails, up and down, alongside the creek, “discovering” to your heart’s content.

And never overlook any opportunity to incorporate a water feature.

Creating a woodland garden (and taking advantage of existing trees) is also a way to break up a sweep of lawn. I find this a fascinating concept, where one slides gracefully into the “woodland” experience (unlike Parterre, where we are more of a secret garden behind a tall yew hedge).

And then there’s what I’m calling “woodland lite” where the few trees permit a change in plant selection and retreat from the sunny parts of the property. This is a perfect example of being cognizant of your light levels. Tulips need just the right amount of sun; hence they are planted along the tree edges.

I adore this image and wouldn’t not include it; it could, and does, count as a “woodland.” All the more exciting if you create it yourself as a welcome respite spot…or as a remembrance of the Tuileries in Paris (don’t forget the pea-size gravel).

Speaking of a spot in which to pause and reflect…this simple yet well considered design can be applied almost anyplace that you wish to create a stop along the way on your garden stroll.

Such a soothing topic as we head into summer…

All images credit, Scott Shigley Photography.

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About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “The Many Merits of Woodland Gardens

  1. I particularly loved the willow tree in the last photo sticking out like Albert Einstein’s hair over the bench.

  2. I love it all but especially the tulips dancing in between the tree trunks. I may like trees amid these tupis more so than the ones in Holland that only feature trees in the background. You have much to take pride in!

  3. Perfect spring landscape before the heat of summer. Then it because an lady of beauty.

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