THE FIRST TIME I SAW WHAT WOULD BE OUR HOME, I WALKED INTO THE BACKYARD OR WHAT I COULD SEE OF IT. THE TREES WERE OVERGROWN TO THE PATIO AND DENSE WITH UNCONTROLLED SAPLINGS OVERRUN WITH IVY. A SET OF CEMENT STEPS LED TO A CURTAIN OF IVY HANGING FROM A TREE. WITH A SLIGHT WAVE OF MY ARM I PASSED INTO THE DARKNESS AND BEFORE ME WAS WHAT I HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR. OH SURE, IT WAS NEGLECTED, THE REALTOR TELLING ME NO ONE HAD BEEN IN THE BACKYARD IN OVER TEN YEARS, AND IT SHOWED. AT THE BASE OF THE YARD I COULD SEE THE FRAME OF AN OLD GYM SET AND THE ASPHALT OF A HALF BASKETBALL COURT.

THE REALTOR ASKED ME WHAT I WAS DOING AS I BENT DOWN TO GRAB A HANDFUL OF SOIL. I EXPLAINED TO HER I CAN BUILD OR REPAIR A HOUSE, I CANNOT CREATE THE LAND IT SITS ON. SHE THOUGHT I WAS NUTS, BUT IT SOLD THE HOUSE. AND NOW, THIS OVERGROWN PRACTICALLY STERILE PIECE OF LAND HAS BEEN BROUGHT BACK TO ITS NATURAL STATE. IT THRIVES WITH HUNDREDS OF SPECIES OF PLANTS AND IS HOME NOW TO MANY OF OUR WILD FRIENDS. THIS GARDEN, ACTUALLY SEVERAL COMBINED WAS THE FIRST TO BENEFIT FROM RESCUES FROM CONSTRUCTION SITES WHERE WE SAVED HUNDREDS OF FERNS.


THE IMPORTANCE OF LEAF LITTER                               

Say it with me, leave leaf litter. Mother Nature provides everything a woodland garden needs. Not only is Fall a truly amazing sight to see in colder climates it ultimately provides a massive amount of fertilizer in the form of fallen leaves. Nutrients are replenished and provided to the woodland soil each year. They decompose and provide food for mushrooms and thousands of insects. In fact many of our Native Orchids are dependent on fungus found in the soil. We find that the leaves provide an insulating blanket to many a plant and creature. Let it rain, the leaves maintain moisture which provides a perfect environment for Salamanders, Newts, Toads and one of our favorites, the Wood Frog. Several species of Butterflies and Moths overwinter in the leaf litter. All of this is lost when you rake it up, shove it in bags and haul to the street to be picked up. The leaf litter creates a home to an incredibly diverse universe of insects, which in turn provide food to many a creature, including songbirds. So if you are planning a woodland garden, start with what falls from above, leave leaf litter in place. Its what Mother Nature intended.

                                                                                                   THE SIMPLICITY OF FERNS

THE ONE THING THAT TIES THE WOODLAND GARDEN TOGETHER IS THE FERN, IT CREATES WAVES OF DELICATE FRONDS THAT MOVE GENTLY IN A BREEZE OR MINGLES AMONG THE OTHER PLANTS FORMING ONE COHESIVE PLANTING. THEY ALSO HOLD MANY FALLEN LEAVES IN PLACE, THE LEAVES EVENTUALLY DECAYING INTO USEFUL NUTRIENTS. ANOTHER BENEFIT IS THE COVER THEY PROVIDE. SINCE PLANTING HUNDREDS OF FERN, WE NOW HAVE TOADS, WOOD FROGS, EASTERN BOX TURTLES, GARTER SNAKES, NEWTS AND SALAMANDERS. A SURE SIGN OF A HEALTHY ECO SYSTEM.

ALL OF OUR FERNS ARE RESCUED FROM CONSTRUCTION SITES AND NOW AFTER OVER TWO DECADES HAVE MULTIPLIED INTO THE THOUSANDS.

Marginal Woodfern - Dryopteris marginalis
Broad Beechfern - Phegopteris hexagonoptera
New York Fern - Thelypteris noveboracensis
Christmas Fern - Polystichum acrostichoides
Northern Maidenhair - Adiantum pedatum
Royal Fern - Osmunda regalis (foreground) Ostrich Fern - Matteuccia struthiopteris

  OUR RESCUED FERNS:

  Northern Maidenhair - Adiantum pedatum

  Common Ladyfern - Athyrium filix-femina

  Spinulose Woodfern - Dryopteris carthusiana

  Marginal Woodfern - Dryopteris marginalis

  Ostrich Fern - Matteuccia struthiopteris

 Sensitive Fern - Onoclea sensibilis

 Eastern Hay Scented Fern -Dennstaedtia punctilobula




Cinnamon Fern -Osmunda cinnamomea

Interrupted Fern - Osmunda claytoniana

Royal Fern - Osmunda regalis

Broad Beechfern - Phegopteris hexagonoptera

Christmas Fern -  Polystichum acrostichoides

Western Brackenfern - Pteridium aquilinum

New York Fern -  Thelypteris noveboracensis



IT'S ABOUT LEVELS IN A WOODLAND GARDEN                                                     

TREES. HAVE LARGE TREES ON YOUR PROPERTY? IF SO, YOU CAN CREATE THE PERFECT WOODLAND GARDEN BY TAKING CUES FROM GOOD OLD MOTHER NATURE HERSELF. LOOK AROUND AT NATURE AND FOLLOW HER EXAMPLE.

MAPLES, OAKS, WALNUT, ASH, HICKORY AND MORE ARE SCATTERED ON OUR JUST UNDER AN ACRE LOT. WITH SOME AREAS GETTING MORE LIGHT THAN OTHERS, THE LARGE TREES ARE THE FIRST LEVEL OF A WOODLAND GARDEN.

HOME TO WOODPECKERS, JAYS AND HAWKS, FOOD SOURCE TO WARBLERS AND ORIOLES, FULL GROWN TREES PROVIDE THE FILTERED SHADE AND LEAF MATTER THAT THE WOODLAND GARDEN DEPENDS ON. SALAMANDERS, NEWTS, TOADS, SNAKES, TURTLES, SONGBIRDS AND A HUGE AMOUNT OF INSECTS THRIVE ON THE FOREST FLOOR DUE TO THE TREES.

SMALL TREES AND SHRUBS. BENEATH THE TREES ARE SOME OF THE  BEST NATIVE PLANTS YOU CAN FIND. NATIVE AZALEAS AND RHODODENDRONS PROVIDE AMAZING COLOR IN THE SPRING. OTHER SMALL TREES AND SHRUBS INCLUDE DOGWOODS, SPICEBUSH, WITCH HAZEL, HYDRANGEAS, VIBURNUM, BLUEBERRIES, AND MORE.

THEY CAN PROVIDE COVER FOR MANY A CREATURE AND PROVIDE FOOD FOR EVEN MORE. CLUSTERED AROUND LARGE TREE TRUNKS THAT PROVIDE A PERFECT THICKET FOR SONGBIRDS TO RAISE THEIR YOUNG AND FEED THEM. SCATTERED HERE AND THERE THEY MIX WITH WOODLAND WILDFLOWERS TO BLANKET THE FOREST FLOOR.

RESCUED AZALEAS AND EXISTING DOGWOODS IN THE LOWER WOODLAND GARDEN

OH THE WILDFLOWERS!!!!!!!!! HERE IS WHERE THE FUN BEGINS, OH SO MANY WONDERFUL CHOICES. YOUR HEAD WILL SPIN WITH THE VARIETY NOT ONLY IN COLOR BUT IN LEAVES, THEIR SHAPE AND COLOR. THE NATIVES SHINE HERE BUT THERE ARE A LOT OF NON NATIVES YOU SHOULD NOT PASS UP. BUT WHERE TO START, OH WE KNOW WHERE, TRILLIUMS.

ONE OF THE FINEST SPRING WILDFLOWERS ARE THE TRILLIUM. THEY HAVE ONLY ONE DRAWBACK, THEY ARE ONLY AROUND A SHORT PERIOD, A CLASSIC SPRING EPHEMERAL. BUT WHEN THEY ARE HERE THEY HAVE VIRTUALLY NO EQUAL. THIS YEAR WE MOVED A SAMPLE OF ALL OF OUR TRILLIUM INTO ONE AREA TO CREATE A TRILLIUM GARDEN. THESE PHOTOS REFLECT THE FIRST YEAR MOVE. THEY WILL SLOWLY MULTIPLY AND FILL IN.

LEFT TO RIGHT: WOOD'S POPPY WAS RESCUED FROM A ROAD CONSTRUCTION JOB IN CATSKILLS, A SINGLE PLANT COVERED IN ASPHALT. IT THRIVED ONCE IN OUR GARDEN, AND NOW WE HAVE HUNDREDS. WOOD ANEMONES ARE SMALL DAINTY WHITE FLOWERS THAT ARE PERFECT ALONG A LARGE ROCK. VIOLETS ABOUND IN NJ, THEY ARE THE STATE FLOWER. WHITE, PURPLE AND YELLOW SPECIES ARE FOUND THROUGHOUT THE STATES WOODLANDS. THEY ARE ALSO THE HOST PLANT FOR THE GREAT SPANGLED FRITILLARY. BLOODROOTS ARE ANOTHER SPECIAL WOODLAND SPECIES. IF YOU ARE PLANNING A WOODLAND GARDEN,THIS IS A MUST HAVE. SOLOMON'S SEAL, A GRACEFUL PERENNIAL THAT IS A PERFECT MIX WITH TRILLIUM AND FERNS. EASTERN COLUMBINE PROVIDES AMAZING SPRINGTIME COLOR AND IS A HUMMINGBIRD FAVORITE AND ONE OF OURS AS WELL. SHOOTING STAR HAS ALWAYS BEEN ONE OF MY FAVORITES AND A SPECIES THAT ACTUALLY GOT US STARTED IN RESCUING WILDFLOWERS FROM CONSTRUCTION SITES. WANT THE ODD, THEN THIS WOODLAND NATIVE IS SOMETHING YOU MUST HAVE, DOLL'S EYES. ITS FLOWERS ARE INCONSPICUOUS BUT THE SEEDS LOOK LIKE, WELL, DOLLS EYES.

IT WAS BACK IN 1916 THAT AN AMATEUR BOTANIST BOUGHT A FARM MAINLY FOR ITS LARGE AMOUNT OF WILDFLOWERS ON THE PROPERTY. GUIDO VON WEBERN WAS WALKING HIS PROPERTY ONE DAY AND STUMBLED ACROSS A COLONY OF BLOODROOTS THAT HE IMMEDIATELY RECOGNIZED AS SOMETHING NEW. HE MANAGED TO REMOVE SEVERAL SPECIMANS AND SEND THEM OFF TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND CANADA. UNFORTUNATELY, ALMOST ALL OF THEM WOULD PERISH, EVEN THE ORIGINAL COLONY. LUCKILY, THE DIRECTOR OF THE MONTREAL BOTANICAL GARDEN M. HENRY TEUSCHER MANAGED TO HAVE HIS PLANTS SURVIVE AND MULTIPLY. THE PLANT HAD TO MULTIPLY THROUGH ITS ROOTS AS THIS MUTANT FORM IS STERILE.

EVEN THOUGH NEW COLONIES WERE EVENTUALLY DISCOVERED, ITS FROM THIS SURVIVOR THAT MOST PLANTS YOU FIND IN CULTIVATION ARE PROPAGATED FROM. OURS COME TO US FROM AN ELDERLY COUPLE WHO FOUND US THROUGH THE INTERNET AND LIKED WHAT WE DO (RESCUE PLANTS) AND CALLED US TO TAKE SAMPLES FROM THIER YARD THAT THEY WERE HAVING TROUBLE TAKING CARE OF. THEY HAD COLLECTED WILDFLOWERS FOR OVER 50 YEARS AND WANTED TO ENSURE THAT THEIR COLLECTION SURVIVED.

WE ARE IN OUR FOURTH YEAR AND NOW WE HAVE LARGE CLUSTERS OF THESE INTENSLY WHITE WOODLAND NATIVES. THEY ARE ONE OF OUR FAVORITES NOT ONLY IN THEIR LOOK BUT THEY HAVE AN INCREDIBLE STORY FROM A GREAT COUPLE THAT WILL BE PART OF OUR GARDEN ALWAYS.

THERE ARE ORCHIDS IN THESE WOODS                                                   

NORTH AMERICA IS HOME TO ALMOST 200 SPECIES OF ORCHIDS, WHILE ALMOST HALF ARE FOUND IN FLORIDA THAT LEAVES ALMOST 100 SPECIES OF COLD HARDY ORCHIDS THAT ARE AT HOME IN WOODLANDS, WETLANDS, STREAMS, AND BOGS.

THE LADY SLIPPERS ARE SOME OF THE LARGEST, SOME DIFFICULT IN CULTIVATION BUT THE YELLOW LADY SLIPPER AS SEEN IN THE IMAGE TO THE RIGHT ARE A PRETTY EASY SPECIES TO GROW, NO DIFFICULT THAN MOST WOODLAND PLANTS. THIS PLANT GROWS NEXT TO OUR POND UNDER THE KITCHEN WINDOW. WE WAIT RATHER IMPATIENTLY I MUST SAY EACH YEAR FOR IT TO POP UP THROUGH THE LEAF LITTER.

ORANGE FRINGED ORCHIDS THRIVE IN OUR CARNIVOROUS BOG ALONG WITH PITCHER PLANTS AND OTHER BOG COMPANIONS.

THERE ARE MANY MANY ORCHIDS IN OUR WILD AREAS. NEVER EVER REMOVE ANY OF THESE PLANTS FROM THE WILD. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE MANY NATIVE ORCHIDS, WE RECOMMEND JOINING THE NORTH AMERICAN ORCHID GROUP ON FACEBOOK. THEY ARE A VERY ACTIVE GROUP AND POST AMAZING PHOTOS EVERY DAY.