When I arrived, the courtyard garden was overly crowded and a bit of a mess. A couple plants dominated the space, making it feel heavy and dark.

I’m intent on creating a woodland garden with dappled light–something to provide shade in the heat of summer, yet present a compelling scene to draw the eye. I chose a woodland garden theme because I love the wild pacific northwest and wanted to bring that into my landscape. I also wanted to use native plants that thrive with little maintenance.

Over a number of months, I researched native plants, collected design ideas and prepared the garden. I moved plants out (the largest ones taking some time and effort), removed weeds and conditioned the soil. After finding some large rocks in the garden bed, I positioned a few into a small berm and added mounds of soil around it for added visual interest. I also moved dozens of small rocks from the soil to the edge of the bed to help drainage and enhance the look.

For a focal point, I decided on a Vine Maple (along with the berm). There are a number of these surrounding my property, and I fell in love with its airy structure, bright green leaves, and the dappled light it provides. For groundcover, I decided on Irish Moss, then added ferns, grasses and shrubs to flesh out the space. Another plant I fell in love with is the Hebe–a small shrub with an almost geometric precision of regular leaves that grows in neat little mounds. There are many varieties and I included three of them.

  1. Blood Grass
  2. Bunchberry
  3. Fern, Autumn Fern
  4. Hebe, Champion
  5. Irish Moss
  6. Vine Maple (tree)
  1. Clover, Trifolium Isabella
  2. Fern, Limestone Oak Fern
  3. Fern, Korean Rock fern
  4. Hellebore, Christmas Tree
  5. Wire Vine

As a backdrop, I introduced a couple tall, slim shrubs and a couple mounded shrubs in varying heights.

  1. Euonymus, Green Spire
  2. Fern, Western Sword Fern
  3. Hebe, Buxifolia
  4. Japanese Holly, Ilex C. Mareisii
  5. Japanese Holly, Northern Beauty
  6. Salal (gaultheria shallon)

I also wanted a bit of seasonal color, so I planted some flowers flanking the windows that will be visible from the family room and every time I walk by the courtyard.

  1. Achillea, Voilet
  2. Avens, Totally Tangerine
  3. Gomphrena, Carmine
  4. Hebe, Red Edge
  5. Ixia, Pink
  6. Salvia

It looks a bit sparse at the moment, yet I’m looking forward to watching it fill in. This spring I will see the Vine Maple leaf out for the first time since adding it to the landscape.

Here is the plan I designed to help map out the space and develop my ideas throughout the process. It will also help me track the specific varieties and how they perform.