Woodland Shade Gardening

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

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

Prior to a redesign this spring, the east entrance to The North Trail just faded off into a composting and rainwater retention area.  It was often swampy and inaccessible following heavy rains.  It was not a visually attractive composting area, but was good for plants that might need a little extra water and plenty of rich humus.

eeeLooking into the stick pile corner when there was still and often-submerged patio in place

A view from 2006, looking into what is now the composting and rainwater retention corner.

I installed clay berm dams, about 12 inches inside the fence, because this corner is the absolute lowest spot on our property.  Before the berms were in place, the rainwater rushed to this low corner, then exited to the creek along the back of our property, carrying topsoil from our yard and gardens.  So much good soil was lost over the years, before we realized this detrimental process was happening.

eeeclay berm built for this rainwater out of control, creek high 9 7 2004

Standing in the rain to photograph the water level in the creek rising to approximately 4′. It is easy to see the flow of rainwater racing along in this September, 2004 view. The flow of the water is visible inside the fence, and along the high edge of the creek bank just outside the fence, and the creek is partially visible through the green foliage farther to the right.

eeeClay berm built to control this rainwater Erosion in stick corner

Rainwater leaving the property, somewhat visible in the middle left of this picture, in August, 2005. Yes, I saw all that water, but still didn’t realize it was flowing into the creek at such a fast rate.

eeenotice setup for eronsion

A design from July, 2007, before realizing the lowest ground level is between the front of the rock border and the next fence post. Unwittingly, I mistakenly installed this situation that would function as a chute and route rainwater away and into the creek, instead of holding it for the benefit of the gardens.

eeeNotice setup for erosion 7 1 2007

At the time it seemed like a good idea – a patio offering cool shade on a hot summer afternoon. We later learned the patio would often be submerged during rainy weather, and the ground around it would stay wet for a few days following rains, making it inaccessible.

eeeClay berm holds rainwater

A strong, wide clay berm dam is now in place to hold back the rainwater, and repeatedly works very well, even during heavy rains.

While digging out clumps of vinca to open up rainwater routing channels into the interior of other garden beds, I decided to use the large, well-rooted clumps of vinca to define the edge of what I envisioned as the new and improved east entrance.  This vinca edging was necessary, due to the existence of a remaining, old-path-interrupting stump from a recently removed diseased and dying maple.  The vinca edging was placed to include the location of the slightly protruding stump, directing the strolling gardener away from danger of tripping.

eeeNext sprin - huge amount of jonquil bulbs planted behind

Vinca edging, to the right of the path, separates the path from The Compost Corner. Evergreen shrubs along the fence, in each direction, will mature to various large sizes and shapes, providing greenery and privacy during the winter months when all the deciduous trees are barren.

This spring, after jonquils in some of the garden beds had completed their colorful display, I dug and transplanted a LOT of jonquil bulbs along the immediate outer side of the vinca edging, and covered them with rich humus that had been composting.  There should be quite a show here next spring when these bulbs produce their assorted blossoms.

eeeNext spring

Various colors, forms, and sizes of jonquils will cheer us as winter begins to turn to spring next year, and for many springtimes afterwards.

The east entrance leads from The North Trail into an open space we call The Park – our largest rainwater retention area.  In addition to holding excess rainwater, The Park is useful in the fall when I am chipping and storing leaves for a few weeks.  Mountains of chipped leaves can be stored in The Park until all the leaves have finished falling, and have been chipped, at which time I begin to use these to mulch the garden beds.

eeeEnter here, turn left,

A view from The Compost Corner, with trail leading left to The Park, and right to The North Trail along the fence.

eeeLeaf processing

Leaf mulch is like gold to the gardener of shade plants! Decomposing leaf mulch adds acid to the soil – extra reason to use this resource in addition to commercial mulch.

eeeLeaf processing in 5 2005, tiller must have been there something else

Working on a spring project in 2005, using the last of the stored leaf mulch.

A small opening in the vinca edging allows standing rainwater in The Park to drain slowly into The Compost Corner.  I don’t use an official compost bin, but prefer to stack organic debris on the ground in this low corner and cover the debris with chipped leaves.  Here, the rainwater is held by the clay berm dam, and can stand as long as it will, keeping the nearby garden beds from being swampy during rainy weather.  The extra rainwater, sitting in place and slowly soaking into the soil, keeps the compost wet longer, helping it decompose more quickly.  The height of this flat-topped compost pile collapses as it decomposes, so there is always room for more debris to be added.  Will it finally become too full someday, leaving me to need to designate another area for this composting process?  Definitely not, because I like to harvest decomposed, rich humus from here to improve other soil.

eeesmall spirea in left foreground, will be large someday

Between the liriope in the foreground, and the vinca edging past it, there is a break in the edging that allows the rainwater to flow to the right, into The Compost Corner. In the left foreground of this picture is a small spirea which will become large someday, further enhancing the east entrance to The North Trail.

The pool of standing rainwater in The Compost Corner is often too wet for the roots of most plants, so I have planted evergreen shrubs around the perimeter, where the ground is higher by a few inches.  This officially makes this a rain garden!  Rain gardens are a good way to improve the ecology of the planet, beginning with this action in your gardens at home.  Research this wonderful concept, if you will.  What I have here is actually a rain garden with composting taking place in its center.

eeeA view into the stick corner. The evergreen shrubs along the fence

Looking across the mass of variegated hosta, then across The Park, and into The Compost Corner.

The look of an entrance is not very strong at this time, but in the future the liriope, vinca, and the small spirea to the right will become a stronger indication of direction while strolling.  Also, the evergreen sarcococca to the left of the entrance will mature to a nice rounded 3’x3′.  So, in my mind’s eye (also known as dreams) I can see the beginning of a nice presentation that will mature and draw the eye to this entrance.

eeeHosta elegans, fern assortment, and wild ginger, clustered for maturing into a defining presence at the entrance to The Park

Looking across The Park from another angle, and into The Compost Corner in the distant right. Here is a grouping of Hosta ‘Elegans’, Autumn Fern, Champion’s Wood Fern and Wild Ginger. All these are young plants, but will mature to provide lush vegetation to the entrance on this side of The Park.

The final frontier of my garden design – The North Trail – is addressed now.  I will send you another peek at this trail and the entrances next year, when the spring bulbs and perennials are in bloom, and the maturing shrubs may have grown enough to show you the intended design a bit more clearly.  I hope seeing the many transitions in this corner of my gardens, through the past years, will assure you of one thing – you can always change a design.  Often Mother Nature directs you, and changes need to be implemented accordingly.  Most importantly – just ENJOY THE PROCESS!

The End – of The North Trail series!


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This entry was posted on July 18, 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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