Naturalistic Planting

Last month I wrote about planting field grown trees and shrubs in the November-March bare root season while they are dormant.  One of the reasons for planting these woody plants is to create an area of Naturalistic planting.  This style does not limit you to native plants and is not a copy of the local countryside.  Rather it can create a ‘garden version’ of a woodland edge either to bring the countryside into an urban garden or to transition a formal garden to surrounding woods and fields.

Naturalistic planting photo

Ferns & Bluebells thrive in the partial shade of a woodland

Naturalistic planting is also easy to look after and ideal if you already have trees that cast shade – either your own or in a neighbouring plot.  And trees are the key structural element providing the upper storey or canopy.  Choose deciduous trees rather than conifers or evergreens that block out all the light so that you cannot grow anything else!  Also avoid forest trees – oak, beech, ash, chestnut – in all but the largest gardens.  Small native trees such as Field Maple, Rowan or Whitebeam make a good framework.  I suggest Himalayan White Birch instead of the native Silver Birch as it is generally smaller and with whiter bark.

The middle layer requires a few well spaced shrubs and here you can include evergreens especially to disguise a boundary fence.  There is a huge choice and some familiar shrubs we buy from a garden centre are native to the UK such as Viburnum opulus (Guelder Rose), Cornus sanguinea (red stemmed Dogwood) and Euonymus europaeus (European Spindle).  Avoid anything too exotic looking but variegated Holly and purple leaved Hazel or Elderberry strike a good balance.

Finally we come to underplanting with shade tolerant perennials: hardy Geranium, Periwinkle and Hellebores all flower and have evergreen leaves to cover the ground and suppress weeds.  Add in spring flowering bulbs and create casual paths by mulching between the plants with chipped bark.  In a small area there is no need for defined paths, you just walk through the planting.  In a larger garden you may have room for blocks of planting separated by a curving path: just as in nature there are no straight lines in the naturalistic garden.

Do get in touch if you want to learn more or book a one-to-one consultation (online consultations work really well!) on any aspect of developing or looking after your garden.

Happy Gardening from Alison


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