Best Way to Build a Woodland Garden

The focal point of this garden is the lawn, which is surrounded by taller planting in deep shrub borders, making it resemble a woodland clearing. The height of the planting also provides privacy and gives the garden a secluded air.

The basic layout of the garden is geomet­rical, but the patterns are softened and elon­gated to blend together. The strength of the design lies in the way the different elements of lawn, shrubs, trees, flowers and spacious patio have been combined to create a harmo­nious garden that will be a joy to come home to all year round. This garden is easy to create and will provide a spiritual rest from the busy world, changing subtly with each season but always providing colour and texture.

Woodland Garden1 Best Way to Build a Woodland Garden


The only formal feature in this garden is the paved patio, which is adjacent to the house. It is constructed from large, plain paving stones and provides a warm and sunny seat­ing area. It also serves as a break between the shrubs, which are the main feature of the planting, and the house. Two shallow steps from the patio allow descent to the lawn, which is on a slightly lower level. The pro­portion of hard paving to lawn is about one-third paving to two-thirds lawn, which is appropriate for a site of this size.

The lawn is shaded, but not so much that it stays cool and damp, and it is an ideal area for alfresco eating. The furniture is lightweight and can be easily moved from the lawn to the patio for a change of scene. It is white to provide contrast and interest. The grass seed is a mixture that is selected to with­stand some wear and tear and also to do well in shade, and the lawn is kept lightly mown and not too short.


The plants around the grassy space lend this garden its woodland feel. The boundaries are totally disguised by the plants, and their branches overhang the lawn, creating areas of dappled shade and masking the edge of the lawn. Movable pots are used to introduce plants to the patio area, and a planted urn marks the change in level of the steps and also reduces the width of the approach into the lawn area, emphasizing the sense of entering a woodland clearing.

Woodland Garden 11 Best Way to Build a Woodland Garden

The range of shrubs and other woodland plants means that there is constant changing interest throughout the year. Woodland plants tend to be tall and strong growing or small and shade loving, and it is important to choose plants that flower at different times to provide interest throughout the year.

A mix of deciduous and evergreen shrubs provides an ever-changing pattern of colours that is both natural and easy on the eyes, while the lush growth and darker shadows of the beds create a sense of intrigue and mystery. Native species have been chosen, because they will thrive in these conditions and create a natural-looking garden. Lower growing woodland plants are used in the area nearer the house to introduce variety and colour and to prevent the house from look­ing swamped. Plants that have berries and fruit will attract birds and other small visitors to complete the woodland atmosphere.

A walk in the garden brings many sur­prises, with herbs and shade-loving wood­land plants among the more usual ones. The front of the far border has been planted with shade-loving plants, such as Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’ (greater woodrush), to make the most of this sheltered spot. Wildflowers have been sown in areas of rough grass at the sides to lessen the need to mow and fill the gaps left by overhanging plants.

The paved area makes it possible to include container-grown plants that would not suit the shadier parts. The containers, which can be moved to exactly where they are needed, are filled with plants such as bright pelargoniums, but they could equally be filled with grasses in order to extend the woodland theme or with bright annuals to give splashes of colour. The mass of shrubs and climbing roses near the windows is set off by the large shrubs behind them and helps the planting to make the transition from dense lush greenery to the lighter feel of the patio area, while the climbing plants on the wall by the window bring the garden right up to the house.

Woodland Garden 21 Best Way to Build a Woodland Garden

Placing a brightly coloured small tree, such as Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’, at the far end of the garden will draw the eye towards the far boundary, emphasizing the length of the garden. Winter-flowering shrubs, such as Daphne laureola, are used to provide colour before the spring bulbs come into flower, and white-flowering plants, including Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Flake’, are used as highlights against the dark green background and to create additional points of interest.

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