Keppel Croft's Woodland Garden

Steve Irvine photo
A woodland garden gift from a friend brings us much pleasure in the spring!

      In the early fifties a gravel pit was opened on the north and west sides of our house. The gravel was removed and used in the construction of Island View Drive. When we arrived in 1977 these areas were practically without soil. There were a few small self-sown cedars, green ashes and willows. Various grasses and weeds struggled on the perimeter of the three metre deep pit. The whole area was swampy and under water for part of the year. Drainage from the area was slow and water lay in puddles into mid-summer.

Woodland Path
Ferns line the edge of the woodland path.
       Dozens of wheelbarrow loads of topsoil were brought down into the gravel pit on the west side of the house. The soil was used to build up raised beds. Paths were constructed in several ways. Basically most of the paths have a layer of sawdust as the walking surface and to prevent unwanted plant growth. Bill placed some large flat stepping stones in a portion of this path.

       Since this photo was taken the stones have been removed. They seemed out of place in the woodland garden. We filled in the pathway with a heavy layer of sawdust. When the cedar by the arbour is trimmed the snippets are placed on the pathway to make a scented walkway.

      In this particular part of the woodland garden the plant that draws a lot of attention is the Petasites japonica or Japanese Butterburr. Very large, rounded leaves develop throughout the spring and reach a considerable size. Unfortunately the woodland area suffers from a lack of moisture by mid to late summer and the leaves wither and flop down to the ground. We haven't been able to solve this lack of moisture problem yet but the Petasites continues to reappear each year giving us another opportunity to come up with a solution.

      The Ostrich ferns were dug up from our bush and transplanted here. They thrive in the shade of the young poplars which have been trimmed up to allow more light to reach the garden. Ajuga lines the pathways and hostas flourish by the arbour, which is covered by a Virginia creeper. The boxwood has done well in this location. Some boxwood plants were started from cuttings nurtured in small pots until they were big enough to transplant into the garden but other plants grew from cuttings that were just broken off and stuck into the garden right there.

Late Spring
Solomon's Seal flourishes in late spring.
      Solomon's Seal flourishes at the entrance to the Woodland garden. In the spring this garden is full of various kinds of daffodils, fritillaria, trilliums and primula. Fragrant Lily of the Valley plants are never discouraged by the roots of the trees which constantly threaten to take over the beds of good soil. Bamboo plants are one of Bill's enthusiasms. One variety, Yellow Groove, which survives our winters, is planted in the shelter of some cedar trees.

      Early settlers, despairing of being about to dig post holes in the rocky ground, used the stumps of cedars as fences. The stumps were placed around fields so that an effective barrier was created for cattle. This somewhat diminished stump (foreground of the photo) is probably over one hundred years old. It provides shelter for some hepatica and trout lilies, transplanted from the bush at the south end of our farm.

      Along the edge of the old gravel pit a path meanders through poplar and ash trees which have been limbed to allow more light to reach a naturlized area. Here we have left the naturally occuring grasses to flourish. We have planted daffodils throughout the area and have been delighted with the selfseeding of lunaria and pulmonaria. Bill has planted a number of maple and oak seedlings so that there will be a greater variety of hardwoods.
Poets' Walk
Poetry selections feature along this path.
      The sawdust covered pathways through this area wind through the trees. Underneath the sawdust we have put newspapers and old asphalt roof shingles. While putting down the woodland paths we discovered that glossy magazines and catalogues make a disastrous base for sawdust paths. They were slippery and unstable. We had to scrape off the sawdust and replace the magazines with newspapers.

       Poetry plaques are attached to some of the trees along this path. The plaques have selections of garden related poetry written on them. Each little plaque has a wee shingled "roof". We hand lettered the poetry but time and the seasons have taken their toll on the wording. Each season we have to make repairs.

      Although Spring is a very special time in the woodland garden, the Fall is another great season for this area of our garden. For years we lost the battle with the rabbits over the Japanese Maples. A concerted effort to protect the maples during the winter has been most rewarding. There are now several Japanese maples colouring up beautifully for the autumn.

      When friends were clearing out fallen cedar from their property the branches were cut to create this arbour. The arbour will slowly weather and, we hope, will eventually be covered with honeysuckle.
Japanese Maple
John Martin photo
Autumn brings out the brightness of this Japanese Maple.

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