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I first created this site back in 1998 to document the wild plants that I encountered.  But it has grown into a clearinghouse of information on landscaping, backyard birds, butterfly gardening, plant identification and making paper from plant fiber. After leaving Kansas, I thought of deleting the site. But realize it has a wealth of information that people rely upon.

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Garden > Woodland

Woodland Gardens

About My Woodland Gardens

My shade gardens replicate natural Kansas woodlands. One is located under the shade of trees in my yard. My shade gardens were originally turf grass (fescue). I converted the fescue by covering it with about six inches of wood chip mulch I acquired from the City of Topeka Forestry Disposal site. Over the year the mulch killed the grass and enriched the soil. I planted some native woodland shrubs in the mulch as well as some wildflowers.

Woodland Garden Image Gallery

These photos are from my shade gardens. My shade gardens get some sun throughout the day.

American beakgrain grass

Bladdernut shrub in flower

Canada wild ginger surrounded by woodland phlox

cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia lanciniata) under elm tree

Drummond's aster under redbud tree

American hazelnuts with catkins (flowers)

twin leaves of may apple

purple milkweed and solomon's seal

sweet joepye under elm tree

Virginia waterleaf leaves

White snakeroot under redbud tree

woodland phlox surrounded by Canada ginger

Planting My Woodland Gardens

I created two gardens in my yard for shade loving plants or those that like partial shade. I started my shade garden in the backyard by spreading wood chips that I got from the city of Topeka. I spread the chips about 4 inches deep over the grass that was already growing in the area to be converted to a native shade garden. My backyard shade garden is growing under an American elm tree. Initially I planted hazelnuts and bladdernuts. Wildflowers that were added include sweet Joe-Pye and cut-leaf coneflower. In the edge of the shade, where there is more sun, I planted purple milkweed and golden alexander .

My front yard shade garden is growing under the shade of a redbud, a crabapple, and surrounding silver maple and pin oak. Some of the spring blooming native plants found in this garden are Virginia waterleaf, Canada wild ginger, and trout lily. Late summer/fall bloomers include Drummond's aster and elmleaf goldenrod.

Grasses in Shade Gardens

Since native grasses are common plants of the forest floor, I've been establishing more of them. Shade grasses include Canada brome, american beakgrain, deer-tongue dichanthelium, and hairy wildrye. Since I've added the grasses, the soil has improved. This is probably due to the fibrous roots of grasses. The grasses definitely give form to the garden in the summer when many of the woodland plants are dormant. I've also been establishing sedges in my gardens. Sedges are related to grasses but have certain characteristics that separate them from grasses. Most woodland sedges are grow in small bunches.

Woodland Plants Growing Season

The mayapples, Virginia waterleaf, and Solomon's seal have really spread since the initial planting.Woodland plants are much slower to spread because they have a shorter active growing season, which generally is in the spring before the trees have completely leafed out. Furthermore many woodland plants become dormant during the hot dry days of summer. There are some woodland plants that like dry shade conditions and do not become dormant. They include elmleaf goldenrod and Drummond's aster


Taking care of shade gardens is definitely less work than sun gardens. One reason for this is most weeds like sunlight which is lacking in a shade garden. Tree seedlings are a problem and require yearly removal. Don't rake the leaves out of your shade gardens. They improve the soil, and mulch the soil. The plants will push through them in the spring as nature intended.

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