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Introduction   page 6

1    The Woodland Scene   page 8

2    Soil and Structure   page 20

3    The Upper Storey   page 26

4    The Lower Storey   page 98

5    Dot Plants and Climbers  page 160

6    The Informal Hedge     page 204

7    Useful Groupings     page 220

8    All-year-round Planning  page 233

Index    page 251


Create Your Own Woodland Garden


ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS some people say when they move into a new house is: “Let's clear the garden!” And all the careful long-term planning of the previous occupants is laid low, chopped up and stuffed into the 'garden waste recycling bin'. I once knew a lady who, it seemed, had a phobia about trees: as soon as the top of a tree appeared above next door's fence she would be round to complain and demand something be done about the unbearable intrusion into her treeless life.

 So, all right, this book is not addressed to people who fear the invasion of dangerous jungle which must be kept hacked back. They have their ideas about how a garden should look; I have mine. This book is addressed to people like myself who think 'green', who like trees, and who want to do their bit to prevent our beautiful planet being turned into a waste of concrete, parched lawns and eroded dust. The average garden is fairly tiny, and I am not suggesting we plant great forest trees. In fact, I would say please don't plant great forest trees, because you will only have to lop the tops off as they get too tall.

 Forest trees are for forests. I used to be a forester, so I know about those, too. Garden trees, such as those described in this book, are for gardens. I am assuming that yours, like mine, is a pocket-size garden, and there are plenty of suitably sized trees to choose from. To plant a woodland garden is the best thing you can do for the environment, for wildlife, and for your own well-being. It's  labour-saving too. So if you are faced with a muddy rectangle of bare land attached to your new house, or if you take over a garden which already has trees and shrubs and you want to make best use of what is there, start planning your made-to-measure woodland garden now. It may not be so 'instant' as turf and tubs, but it is not such a long-term project as you might suppose. In a few years' time the restful sylvan beauty will reveal itself and you will be well repaid for your efforts. I hope this book will help.



The silverbells produce their white flowers in the spring  before the leaves open. They prefer a lime-free soil.

H. carolina: Snowdrop Tree. A spreading tree growing up to 6 metres (20ft) tall. The branches are covered with pendant clusters of snowdrop-like white flowers in May as the leaves unfold.

H. monticola: Mountain Snowdrop Tree is similar to but larger than the Snowdrop Tree, with large white flowers followed by brown winged fruits.   The variety Rosea has rose pink flowers.                                                                                                         

Halesia carolina: Snowdrop Tree


The Witch Hazels, valued for their winter flowers, have numerous varieties, some of which will make upper storey trees, others are better treated as shrubs for the under storey and will be found listed in the next chapter. Some of the more upright, tree-like types are listed below, and they can be expected to reach, typically, around 4 metres (12ft) in height.

Parthenocissus tricuspidata: Boston Ivy (on a Weeping Birch)

Liquidambar styraciflua:     Sweet Gum

Clematis Polish Spirit:               Hybrid Clematis

Lonicera periclymenum Honeybush:     Honeysuckle Variety



Chocolate Vine is the name given to these vigorous, twining climbers from the margins of Asian forests, a name referring to the brown or brownish purple flowers, which are followed, especially after a hot summer, by sausage shaped fleshy purple pods. Though classed as climbers, these are trailing, scrambling plants which do not produce tendrils, and need support.

A. quinata: A vigorous climber reaching some 10 metres (30ft) if the support is there, with dark green leaves with blue-green undersides, and producing pendant clusters of fragrant flowers in the spring. Semi deciduous, it will lose its leaves during a harsh winter.

A. trifoliata: Is a less vigorous climber, reaching perhaps 6 metres (20ft), with glossy dark green deciduous leaves, bronze when opening in early spring. It bears pendant clusters of purplish-brown flowers, followed in mild seasons by the showy pods.


The Wind Flowers include many perennial species which do well in woodland conditions, though not all are readily available. The larger growing varieties as a rule need the sun, while the smaller creeping Anemones are at home in woodland conditions.

A. apennina: Takes eagerly to naturalising, with dark green leaves and 4cm (1½ inch) wide clear blue flowers in March. There are also pink, white and double-flowered forms. 20cm (8 inches) high, they may be set out 15cm (6 inches) apart for a rapid cover.


Anemone blanda

Anemone nemorosa

A. blanda: A spreading perennial with dark green leaves and 7.5cm (3 inch) wide deep blue flowers, opening sometimes as early as February and blooming until April. There are varieties with pale blue, pink, white and double flowers. Around 15cm (6 inches) high, they may be set the same distance apart for a massed effect. It does not tolerate heavy shade so well as the previous species.

A. nemorosa: The Wood Anemone, found growing wild in British woodlands, with dainty pink- or mauve-tinged white flowers in the spring. It is a vigorous spreader, around 15cm (6 inches) high, and may be set 20cm (9 inches) apart. There are several selected varieties, including Allenii, with deep lavender-blue flowers, Blue Bonnet, with deep blue flowers in the summer, Robinsoniana with large pale blue flowers, and Vestal, with double white flowers.

Chapter Seven

Useful Groupings

WHEN YOU PLAN YOUR WOODLAND GARDEN, depending on the area available, your choice of trees and shrubs will be very much influenced by the size, the spread and perhaps most of all, the height expected to be reached by these plants after a reasonable time  ̶ say ten years or so. A rough breakdown of expected heights will give you the following list:

10 metres (30ft) or more

Cornus controversa


Crataegus monogyna

Acer buergerianum

Davidia involucrata

A. cappadocicum

Eucalyptus spp

A. carpinifolium

Gleditsia triacanthos

A. diabolicum purpurascens

Liquidambar styraciflua

A. griseum

Liriodendron tulipifera

A. platanoides

Magnolia Galaxy

Betula albo-sinensis

Malus tschonoskii

B. ermanii

Morus alba

B. nigra

M. nigra

B. papyrifera

Nyssa sinensis

B. pendula

N. sylvatica

B. platyphylla japonica

Parrotia persica

B. pubescens

Prunus lusitanica

B. szechuanica

P. serrulata

B. utilis

Rhus verniciflua

Catalpa bignonioides

Robinia x ambigua

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