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Landscape contractor Jenn Nawada takes us on a house call to solve a homeowner’s front yard problem. Despite living in a wooded neighborhood, their street is noisy, and they’d prefer to create some separation for the front yard for their children.

Steps for Creating a Woodland Garden

Jenn surveys the surrounding plants and setting and comes up with a plan to create a woodland garden.

Take Inspiration from the Surroundings

When planning a woodland garden, it’s important to take inspiration from the surrounding plants and environment. Homeowners should strive to use plants native to the area, helping to give the garden a more natural feel. Look for plants that thrive in the growing zone, and match their sun needs to the amount of sunlight the garden will receive.

Think of Seasonal Interest

While flowering plants look great in the spring and summer, the woodland garden should create interest year-round. Many plants, such as red-twig dogwood, have stems that change color when the leaves fall, allowing for color all winter long. Also, look for plants like viburnums, which flower into berries to attract birds to the woodland garden.

Protect the Plants During Transport

After selecting plants that will grow to the appropriate height, thrive in the growing zone, and meet the garden location’s sun requirements, be sure to protect them on the ride home. The best way to do so in a truck bed is to cover the plants with a burlap tarp to cut down on wind damage.

Choose a Natural Arrangement

Arrange the plants in a natural design within the garden bed to get an idea of the layout. Avoid straight lines and perfectly even spacing, opting for more random placement. Be sure to meet each plant’s spacing requirements, however, to ensure they can thrive in the garden space.

Call Before You Dig

Before digging and planting, call the local utility location service. It’s required by law, but it will also ensure that the job goes safely and won’t create problems in the future when the plants’ roots spread.

Dig Holes for the Plants

With the plants in place, start digging holes one by one. Rake back any mulch from the plant’s proposed location and dig a hole twice as wide as the plant. Keep in mind that this might not be possible with competing tree roots. The hole should also be deep enough to add a bit of compost while the plant remains approximately 2 inches above grade.

Start Planting

Place two or three shovel fulls of a compost/peat moss mix and fertilizer into the hole. Remove the plant from its container and gently tease the compacted roots away from the plant’s soil.

Place the plant into the hole so that the top of its soil is approximately two or three inches above the surrounding soil. Rake the mulch back around the plant, keeping it a few inches back from the plant’s stem.

Keep Watering

Water each plant once a day for the first few weeks, spending around one minute on each plant or until the water begins to pool at the bottom of the plant. After a couple of weeks, move to water every other day. If the plants begin to droop, they’ll need water.


Jenn draws inspiration from nature to help a homeowner add a woodland garden to his front yard. Jenn shows the homeowner a variety of native plants that effortlessly blend with the heavily wooded neighborhood. Together, the two decide on a combination of Winterthur Viburnum (Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’), Oakleaf Hydrangea (Snow Queen) and Cardinal red-twig dogwood (Cornus Sericea).