A Woodland Border

Saying I’m planning on having a woodland area sounds rather grand, but our new garden isn’t huge – it’s about 24m by 12m. The back area faces north and when we moved in it already had a large (too large) silver birch, a huge lilac and several evergreen rhododendrons. It also had a 16ft tall leylandii hedge, along the boundary, but it was dead on our side and much too big. Tackling this was one of the first jobs in the garden to be tackled. Tree surgeons came in and chopped them down and then ground out the stumps. Doing this has meant we’ve lost some privacy, but the extra light coming into the garden now more than makes up for this.

With these already established shrubs creating shade it seemed natural to make this a woodland area. It’s also the part of the garden that needs the least amount of work for it to be transformed. While the rest of the garden needs paving, paths and raised beds before we can do any planting, this space has had some simple oak sleepers added around the front and sides so that we can raise the soil level up above the clay.

We’ve moved some old slabs that were elsewhere to create a path to a bench underneath the birch tree and to make a path for wheelbarrow access to the space where the compost bins will stand. The slabs are concrete, but they’re thick and nicely aged, with mosses growing on them, and once they’re properly bedded in place rather than perched, as they currently are, they’ll blend in.

The birch tree has been tamed by a tree surgeon. It’s a beautiful tree but the classic case of the wrong tree in the wrong place. But we really would be exposed to our neighbours if we cut this tree down, and it looks lovely at the moment with its glowing golden leaves, so it’s staying. We just need
to make sure it’s kept under control with a trim every few years.

I love lilacs. I can’t get enough of their scent when they’re in bloom in May, so much so that walks around our old village would take twice as long as I stopped to sniff each lilac. So I’m thrilled I have one in this garden. It’s not the most attractive plant once its leaves have dropped, but again because it’s over 3 metres tall it’s provides some privacy during the summer.

The rhododendrons aren’t my cup of tea because they’re pink. One in particular is bright pink. However, they only flower for four weeks of the year and the rest of the time their evergreen leaves are providing a good backdrop. I’ve also pruned out lots of lower branches to expose their twisted, mossy-covered stems, which has given them a sculptural and modern feel.

We’ve dug in lots of gravel to hopefully improve the drainage, and there are 4 bulk bags of topsoil now waiting on the drive to be barrowed around to the back. Then I can start the fun bit… the planting!