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Anticipatory Gardening: The Woodland Border

February 7, 2021

imageA snowy day in early February seemed like the perfect time to begin thinking about this year’s major garden project (and the last piece of my new front garden), the woodland border. This is a small flower bed (8’ x 16’) that will sit at the edge of the woods on the far side of the grassy path, filling a gap between the shrubbery at the front corner of my property and the rain garden near the corner of the house.

The impetus for thinking about the woodland border was discovering that Prairie Moon Nursery in Minnesota was now accepting orders for spring. I wanted to order the last three plants for last year’s front border from them, straight species Baptisia australis plants that are difficult to find at local nurseries. Last year, I had waited too long to order, only to find them already sold out. But, if I was going to place an order with Prairie Moon, I should first figure out what other plants I needed from them.

I began by making a list of plants that would work well in the mostly shady, sandy soil conditions of the woodland border. For this, I drew primarily on lists from the Maine Wild Seed Project and on plant information from the Prairie Moon catalog. Some were plants I already had on hand in my holding area, but most needed to be purchased and were added to my Prairie Moon order.

My next step was to distribute various sized circles representing the various plants around on a drawn-to-scale diagram of the planting area. I always enjoy this part of the process, as I play with various combinations of plants. I don’t use any fancy computer-assisted design software, just the basic drawing tools available in Microsoft Word. I discovered that I had some unfilled space left over after I distributed my list of plants, so I added some Siberian irises, spiderwort, and daylilies that are in my holding area and that can tolerate partly shady conditions. Here is what I ended up with:


This is a first draft and will undoubtedly be tweaked on paper in the months to come and on the ground when it is time to actually put in the plants.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2021 10:48 pm

    I’m always impressed by your methodical approach, Jean. Happy online shopping!

    • February 16, 2021 8:33 pm

      Kris, It is such a treat to hunker down inside and dream of spring while winter is raging outside.

  2. February 15, 2021 11:52 am

    I’m doing the same thing here in Michigan. I LOVE Prairie Moon! I’ve already pre-ordered my trays. Still waiting on the Viola Pedata 3 packs to be back in stock. I don’t know what kind of critters you have in your garden, but I’ve tried repeatedly to grow Baptisia of all kinds and something (probably my groundhog) eats them down to a nub every time. I’ve pretty much given up on them. Hope you have better luck!

    • February 16, 2021 8:36 pm

      Julie, I often have a resident groundhog (or woodchuck, as we call them here) in my garden, but I’ve never had trouble growing Baptisia. I did have a woodchuck one year who loved Baptisia, but that animal was primarily interested in the fruit and would stand up on its haunches to pull down the pea pods and eat them.

  3. February 16, 2021 6:01 am

    Hello Jean, you’re so methodical and systematic when planning new borders and areas. I can’t wait to see this develop over this and subsequent years. I get the “blank page” syndrome when I try and plan anything and my head empties.

    • February 16, 2021 8:40 pm

      Sunil, My strategy for dealing with the blank page-blank mind syndrome has long been to start by making a list in random order (of ideas to include in this lecture, or plants to include in this section of the garden). My systematic brain quickly starts organizing the list into some kind of order, and I’m off. For me, the more daunting part is figuring out how to arrange the plants in the landscape. One of the benefits for me of doing this with simple graphics on the computer is that the “plants” are so easy to move around in the diagram.

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