That Woodland Edge Effect

As all gardeners know, particularly those that follow the principles of permaculture, the most productive and fertile part of a woodland or forest is often its edge. This interface between areas not only provides a place where the most interesting growth takes place, but also furnishes habitat opportunities for a diverse range of wildlife species. Did you know that you can create your own mini woodland edge effect in even the smallest of gardens?

This week, we have created a woodland edge in another of our client’s back gardens. It was sooo easy to do. After clearing much of the general over growth (and more nettles!), cutting back the trees, clearing one half of the ground over plants (leaving the snowdrops which are already peeking through)…we prepared the area for our new woodland edge plants. Using the principles of permaculture, we will plant up through several layers of canopy, based on the principle that because plants grow to different heights, a diverse community of life is able to grow in a relatively small space.

For ground cover, we selected the early flowering ‘Lesser Celandine’ whose little yellow flowers will spread in no time to form a yellow carpet (much loved by the Flame Brocade Moth). These will be mixed with the lovely white April flowering ‘Wood Anemone’ (loved by the Fern Moth). From April to June, the pretty purple ‘Germander Speedwell’ (loved by Spotted Fritilary Butterfly) will flower to mix in nicely with late Spring to Summer’s (and sometimes a second flowering in the Autumn) ‘Yellow Pimpernel’ (loved by the Green archer moth), a great nectar plant.

For the second layer in our canopy we planted several semi-shade tolerant currant shrubs; red, white and black! Leaving just enough room to plant a dwarf ‘Gisela,’morello cherry tree. Growing to 7’, it will produce a cluster of slightly sour tasting berries in July, perfect for making morello cherry jam, me-thinks. Only prob, is the birds might get at them first. Half for them, half for us, we say!

For the final layer we planted several climbing honeysuckle plants. Lonicera japonica, ‘Halls prolific’ will work well in the dappled light/semi shade, climb nicely up around the beautiful Silver birch trees, and provide masses of fragrant white flowers turning a lovely buttery shade.

Quickly time to pile all of our tree cuttings into a corner to form a warm and snug duvet of a log pile for resting Winter wildlife…and it was time to retire for a nice cuppa.

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