Woodland Shade Gardening

Woodland shade gardening with a purpose – pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!

The North Trail Series – a new entrance to the west end

This began as a single post, sharing with you the process of creating a new entrance for the west end of The North Trail.  As I perused my collection of pictures, I realized what an ongoing process this north side of my back gardens has been, mostly during the last year.  This trail remained in a rather rough, unaddressed state for many years – simply because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it.  Necessity was the catalyst for change.  Suddenly I had free-flowing ideas and a feeling of excitement and creativity.  One necessity was a new entrance that didn’t have large, exposed tree roots on top of the ground, causing me to trip often, no matter how much attention I tried to give to this possible danger.  Another necessity was a new entrance that didn’t include a maturing cypress tree blocking the path.

eRoots in old path cause tripping

Roots in the previous entrance were growing larger each year. After creating the new entrance, I placed excavated clumps of variegated vinca in the low spots between these roots, for filler and for erosion control.

eOld Path

This is the cypress tree that wants to overgrow the previous entrance. I trimmed it back a bit last summer, then regretted the misshapen look. It is slowly filling out again, and beginning to reshape to its natural look. It will be fine for it to grow as much as it wishes, now.

eOriginal entrance, 2007. Crooked tree & tree against fence were removed

Original entrance, photographed in 2007. You will notice how we used trenching to designate the edges of the separate areas. If you are on property that is even lightly sloped, DO NOT TRENCH. These trenches become rainwater routes, carrying loose soil away to somewhere downhill! This is called erosion. Notice the very small size of the cypress tree!

eOriginal entrance to west end of North Trail in summer 2007, prior to completion of patio perennials bed in foreground, do not trench

Original entrance to west end of The North Trail, prior to completion of the sunny part of the patio perennials bed in the foreground, which is lightly shaded in this picture.

The North Trail has always been, and will continue to be, a place with a feeling of stepping off into the wildness of the forest.  My neighbor’s truly natural woodland, immediately outside our fence, enhances this feeling.

eClay berm is in place and leaf cover added. No cleyera or chipped leaf backfill yet

A look to the other side of the fence shows the natural forested area my neighbor graciously left in place when her home was built. This small forest is a wonderful, busy habitat for quite a lot of wildlife.

Last fall, my decision was to move the entrance to the opposite side of the large forest tree.  This involved removing quite a bit of variegated vinca (periwinkle), and many jonquil bulbs, to open up the entrance, using clay from another excavation to build up and level the now-elevated beginning of the pathway, and placing a retaining wall of concrete pavers along the front so the soil wouldn’t be washed away with each rainfall.

ePounding dry clay & dirt into all the low spots, creating a raised, level surface for the path's entrance

After the clearing of vinca and jonquils, to begin to designate the entrance and path placement. This is the look while in the process of bringing buckets full of dirt to tamp into the low spots created by digging out plants.

This spring we were surprised by a bountiful display of jonquils, IN THE PATHWAY, whose existence were missed during the removal of plant material to open up the entrance.  These were enjoyed at the time, and have now been relocated.

I used more clay to form a berm on the uphill side of the curve between the new entrance and the fence.  This is the natural path of rainwater flow from my neighbor’s downspout on the back corner of her house.  I am grateful for this extra rainwater to nourish my plantings, and this new berm will catch and hold that beneficial moisture.

eClematis (solid green) as groundcover at base of maple, see relocation story here

Clay berm is in place along left side of pathway, in curve, and chipped leaves have been pressed into it, and on top of it. More chipped leaves were added later in the fall, to fill the space behind the clay berm.

eJust beginning transformation, trying to include the rotting stump in the leaf cover

Beginning the effort to bring the clay berm farther along the path to hide the decomposing stump, into which I had already planted small sprigs of rooted Alexandrian Laurel, also known as Poet’s Laurel. They will mature to arching, evergreen limbs about 3′ in length, with the mass being 2-3′ tall.

Low-growing plant material is subtle, on each side of the entrance, to quietly announce this as a beginning to somewhere else, and tease the walker to venture along the pathway.

ePlanting on right of entrance include August Lily hosta, which will mature to 3-4' in diameter

The vinca on the right is still in place since before this modification began. It now includes an August Lily hosta, which will mature to a strong presence of about 2’x3-4′. The evergreen shrubs to the immediate right of this low plant grouping will mature to reach the edge of this area.

The passionate gardener may install the basic bones of a garden, and be compelled to make changes based on many factors, including changes in personal preferences.  One of the undeniable traits of a passionate gardener is the satisfaction of tweaking the basics.  Yes, a new entrance can be created, and stones placed to eliminate erosion.  But that is only the beginning.  A passionate gardener sees these basics as a chance to let imagination and logic spin into more and more design possibilities and gardening project delights.

eConstruction stopped for first rain - a good opportunity t alsounderstand design's ability to route rainwater.

Construction stopped for a couple of days, due to a heavy rain. This rain was a good opportunity to see what the rainwater flow would be. It also indicated I needed much more height at the entrance. MUCH more!

eNorth Trail - temporary retaining wall of rocks collected from the property. Rise of clay berm is now evident along left side of pathway

Temporary retaining wall of rocks collected from the property, holding soil in place while I raised the soil level of the entrance even more.

eSince completion, with the berm holding extra rainwater, this vinca is flourishing

The current look, with the variegated vinca looking healthy, probably a result of all the extra rainwater being held by the berm, long enough to soak the soil well with each rain.

eImproved retaining wall

My feeling about this new entrance is that it is complete and will grow into its more mature look quite beautifully.  Of course, I’m making no promises!  Who knows what additional details I may imagine, to tweak it a bit more!

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This entry was posted on July 15, 2015 by in My Woodland Garden and tagged .
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Woodland shade gardening with a purpose - pleasure, creativity, rainwater collection!

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