How to Create a Soothing Woodland Garden

By Kerry Ann Mendez

"Forest Bathing", a trend that originated in Japan, is growing in popularity in the United States. This wellness-centered activity entails walking through a quiet forest while embracing the stillness and calm. The zen-like experience reduces stress and improves one's mood.

If you don't live near a forest, why not plant a small woodland garden as your source of nirvana? All you need is one or more trees (deciduous work best) and some lovely understory perennials to create that "aaaaahhh" moment. Below are a few great plant choices.

Ferns: Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum, native); Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides, native); and Red-Stemmed Lady Fern (Athyrium filex-femina, native)

Columbine (Aquilegia): Aquilegia canadensis is a lovely red and yellow flowering, native columbine.

Foamflower (Tiarella): There are many great choices! Those in the cordifolia species are native. Check out 'Running Tapestry' (ground cover), 'Sugar and Spice' and 'Candy Striper'.

Hosta: Those with dreamy fragrant flowers include 'Guacamole', 'So Sweet' and 'Stained Glass'.

Coral Bells (Heuchera): Those in the villosa species are tolerant of heat and humidity and are native to the Eastern U.S. Cultivars include 'Caramel', 'Citronelle' and 'Mocha'.

Grasses: Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa), Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium, native)

Sedge (Carex): 'Everest', Oak Sedge (appalachica, native), and 'Everlime'

When creating your piece of paradise, remember to work in plenty of organic matter (i.e., compost, rotted leaves) to the soil. To reduce transplanting shock and promote strong root development, use Espoma's organic Bio-tone Starter Plus in planting holes and apply a nutrient-rich mulch, such as our Feeding Mulch, to help retain moisture and reduce weed competition.

Finally, all newly installed plants should be soaked in well (even those labeled drought tolerant) and then watered every few days for the first couple of weeks (or longer), depending on natural rainfall.

Kerry Ann Mendez KERRY ANN MENDEZ is an award-winning garden educator, author and design consultant based in southern Maine. Her latest book is The Budget-Wise Gardener. You'll now find her at our Kennebunk store consulting on garden design, answering your gardening questions and much more.