Once upon a time there was a mess. A very icky sticky mess. Think mosquito-infested swamp type mess.
Cottonwoods, chunks of concrete, asphalt, beer cans, rocks and general debris were all in the scrub. And invasive weeds of course – Japanese knotweed (foreground above) and reed canary grass to name just two. Let’s just say one needed a good imagination.
Thankfully when my imagination took a nosedive, my friends, colleagues and heavy machinery came to the rescue!
We knew this area was a swamp, the question was why and could we do anything about it? Turns out that MANY truckloads of fill dirt had been added to this part of the property which in turn had blocked the natural water course . Add to that the fact that there is clay soil, a high water table and we can even see water bubbling up out of the ground in one part of the stream bed and suddenly it starts to make sense.
Next problem was the ‘grass’ and weeds which we tackled by sheet mulching with cardboard and a truckload of Moo-doo. That transformed the icky stuff into remarkably good, plantable soil in less than a year.
Playchips were used for paths, two rustic bridges were added (courtesy of my ever patient and talented husband) and river rocks were gathered and set in the stream bed.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago;
It’s certainly not finished and is still a baby woodland but you can at least see where we’re going with this! We’ve used bugleweed (Ajuga repens ‘Catlin’s Giant’) as a groundcover to hold the streambanks in place and suppress weeds. It has gorgeous blue flowers in spring and glossy blue-black foliage year round. It spreads quickly but is easy to pull out if it gets out of bounds. We’re happy to let it scramble to will.
It seems that wherever it wanders it makes a great plant combination.
Thinnings can be transplanted farther downstream.
It will be some time before the trees cast enough dappled shade for us to really call this a woodland but it’s fun to see the difference in just 2 1/2 years.
(Oh and in case you were wondering, the stream RUNS in the wet season! Almost good enough for a game of Pooh-Sticks.)
Swedish aspen, golden locust, Japanese maples, Autumn Blaze maples, Himalayan white birch
Barberries, Ogon spirea, chokeweed (Aronia), Rhododendron ‘Impeditum’
Hosta, iris, astilbe, Virginia sweetspire, variegated Jacob’s ladder, grasses, ferns, Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, bugleweed, bleeding heart, primroses
Many shrubs, perennials and smaller maples were transplanted from other parts of the garden or moved house with us and had been patiently waiting for a home! Some were gifts and others were bargain finds.
NOTE; the ornamental pear trees at the right of all the main photographs will help you orient the perspective.