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Cannon: Repurpose woodland area for a natural look
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Get inspired and create a woodland garden!

Do you have areas with large trees and unused wooded areas in your yard? Use these areas to create a natural woodland setting.

A natural woodland setting is designed to provide a more relaxed and natural look to your landscape. Plus, they are basically maintenance free!

Start by scoping out your area of interest.

Do you already have native plants there? How is the soil condition? How much light does the area receive? Does it drain well?

Factor in all of the elements for plants’ suitable needs.

First, clear the areas of underbrush and roots such as tree saplings, poison oak, poison ivy and invasive undesirables. Dress appropriately, or you could wind up itchy.

Get rid of everything unwanted, leaving a cleared off area for a new array of plants.

In a natural woodland setting, nature is layered with high-to-mid canopies of trees and shrubs. Nothing is planted in straight lines or in a perfectly shaped design. Here gardeners can create a natural look.

Second, strategically place your choices of plant material in the cleared off areas. Leave them in their original pots until you decide where to place them.

Play with the design until you have a look you like. Remember, prior to planting, lay down any hardscape paths or stepping stones to create a pathway through the desired area. Trails and pathways are a wonderful way to create a natural look.

Third, prune any dense foliage in the way. Pruning taller trees to open up an area is usually a good idea.

Fourth, prepare the planting area with added compost for soil amendment.

Fifth, dig holes for a new addition of plants. Add smaller shrubs and trees first, and plant your understory plantings and groundcovers next.

Many suitable plants are available for woodland gardens. Native plants are always a good choice, because they adapt well with little or no maintenance. Supplemental watering during the first year of establishment is important. But once the native plantings are established, the care will be minimal.

Good plant choices for a woodland setting are:

Small shrub and trees: azaleas, birch, flowering dogwood, holly, hydrangeas, magnolias and Japanese maples.

Perennials and bulbs: calla lily, columbine, ferns, goldenrod, heuchera, hostas, foamflower, lilies, trillium and wild geranium.

Ground covers: ajuga, lily of the valley, liriope, vinca, Virginia creeper and creeping jenny.

Add more interest in the new woodland garden with a birdbath, bird feeders or a sitting bench for a beautiful natural garden.

Last but not least, add mulch to the area that matches your natural setting, such as pine straw needles, shredded leaves or bark.

Fall is a great time to design and plant a woodland garden. Then sit back and enjoy the view.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293, Her column appears biweekly and on

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