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Old 03-29-2013, 08:19 PM   #1
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Default Planning My Pocket Woodland (aka 'Woodland Woes...Well, Woodland Worries')

Maybe woes is too strong a word. Over the past week or so, I've been working out in the yard every day--including after work. Mostly I'm focused now in our "would be woods"...currently just a few scattered trees. Prior to my removing several monster multiflora rose bushes and Japanese honeysuckle bushes (I still have a few of those to go), the whole section was inpenetrable. I'm proud to say that there are now paths through it...one of which passes along a slope with some beautiful boulders. Jeff just saw these boulders for the first time yesterday--sad, but the fact is that most of the year, this section is so overgrown, I don't even get into it except for winter and spring.

So, I am determined, this year, to plant as many trees as I can to grow up and shade out the section and turn it into a true pocket woodland. I have a few silver maples that have come up in the meadow ("meadow in the making")...so, I plan to move them into the woodland (along with one that I bought last year).

My concern is that they and other maples I've added, have shallow root systems...and I envision wildflowers throughout the woodland. How serious of a problem are the shallow roots? What grows best under maples?

Do you think it is wise to plant the maples together in one section and other taprooted species together in other sections so that my future wildflowers will stand a better chance of growing under them?

My other concern is the black walnuts. I know there are many things natives that can grow under them, but other cannot due to allelopathy.

The mature black walnuts don't concern me that much, but I have small ones growing up in various spots. One is coming up almost through the spicebush that I planted a few years ago. My first thought was to let it go--it will add another tree to the woods that I don't have to buy or transplant...and it will provide shade. My concern is that is: will it negatively impact the spicebush already thriving there?

I guess that is enough questions for now.

Hopefully I'll add some photos of what it currently looks like.
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Last edited by Cirsium; 04-01-2013 at 12:01 PM. Reason: OP request
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Old 03-29-2013, 09:13 PM   #2
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Default Our "Woodland"

What I'm working with:

Planning My Pocket Woodland (aka 'Woodland Woes...Well, Woodland Worries')-dsc03085.jpg

Planning My Pocket Woodland (aka 'Woodland Woes...Well, Woodland Worries')-dsc03051.jpg
(as you can see, not much shade provided yet)

Planning My Pocket Woodland (aka 'Woodland Woes...Well, Woodland Worries')-dsc02965.jpg

Planning My Pocket Woodland (aka 'Woodland Woes...Well, Woodland Worries')-dsc02679.jpg

Planning My Pocket Woodland (aka 'Woodland Woes...Well, Woodland Worries')-dsc02680.jpg
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Old 03-29-2013, 11:56 PM   #3
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What's the history of this piece of land? Was this open land at one time (maybe an old farmstead?)? What's the soil like?

Maples can be a problem with respect to using up the available water resources, but I think this problem is given too much emphasis. That problem usually occurs in someone's yard where the landscape is nothing like it is in a forest. The forest has a layer of organic matter (duff layer) that acts as a mulch keeping the soil cooler and more moist than you would find in a typical lawn dominated landscape.

I suggest you simply choose the trees that you would like to grow (and are suited to the soil conditions of your site) and not be too concerned about the wildflowers that will grow beneath them. In a forest I have seen just about every type of wildflower around my area growing under maple trees. The degree of shade and the soil type seem to me to be more important to the wildflowers than which species of tree they are growing under.

Speaking of species of tree, I would suggest adding some conifers to your forest. Maybe some firs, spruces, cedars, pines or whatever you like. They will add some dense winter cover as well as add to the aesthetic appeal. And the conifers will have a more immediate impact (both aesthetically and functionally) than the deciduous trees that you plant.

I would also consider 'over planting' the area with more trees than it would support when it is mature. If you've seen an open piece of land being reclaimed by trees you know that it is full of saplings fighting it out for space. As that struggle for space goes on you can selectively remove some of the saplings to suit your desire for a finished product.

My personal preference for a woodland would be a forest of mixed hardwoods and conifers. Each species has it's own special appeal. And the variety of species offers something new/interesting with each passing week. A white birch highlighted by the dark green of a fir or spruce, the yellow fall leaves of poplar contrasted against the reds of a maple, etc. I'm sure you get the idea.

Not sure if I've done a very good job of answering your questions, but hopefully you'll find something useful in my ramblings.
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:15 AM   #4
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I agree with NeWisc...You should definitely plant some conifers. They add character contrast, and attract other types of wildlife to your woodland setting. As far as putting maples in one area and tap rooted species in another...By doing so it wouldn't look very natural. In the forest seedlings fall and grow haphazardly.

In an open yard you can toss stones and where they fall you plant. In the type of setting you have...I'd just look for an opening and set the trees in or if there are things you are already noticing you like...Set the new ones in behind them. It all depends upon which way you are traveling upon your trails.

Myself.... if I see an area I was thinking of planting into. I would brightly spray paint an old shovel or pole. Pound it into the chosen spot, then traverse the trail from both ways to see if it works or blocks something you already like to view..If it is view-able from your home or a special spot you favor in your yard...I'd take a look at the pole from there as well. Just move it about until you feel it works...

I've always rammed poles into the soil when ever I've added trees to the yard, ran back and forth and into the home like a billion times before I've felt they were in the perfect spot for viewing from the inside out. If the neighbors were watching (And I hope they weren't) they probably think I'm nuts or at least a bit compulsive but it works for me and I feel they've been placed JUST right.
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Old 03-30-2013, 11:52 AM   #5
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I think that was a fine response, NEWisc.

I should've given more of a history and an explanation of this site. This is an old farmstead (I believe it was farmed for a hundred years or so); we have only 2 acres around the original house. The soil is moist and well drained. Based on the rounded rocks and gravel I find while digging it, it seems to me it was scraped by a glacier at one time. There is a floodplain below us--this section slopes down towards it.

Thank you for mentioning that available moisture and woodland duff is a big factor in supporting wildflowers--more so than what they are growing under. I think I will be fine.

This particular section is probably under a half acre. I have a woodland setting (that is a good bit further along in succession than this area...and a hedgerow fairly close to this section that I *may* end up incorporating into the woodland--I may extend the woodland to the hedgerow. I am adding evergreens to both of these sections--mostly hemlock, but also a few white pines. (I've read that white pines can't grow with black walnut...so I've placed a hemlock or two near the existing black walnut and will place more white pine where I originally planned hemlock...it will create a natural look, I'm sure...with white pine mingling with hemlock farther down the slope.)

I have not decided if I want any evergreens in this half-acre section as it seems to me the shade they provide will inhibit most wildflowers growing under them. I do, however like the look of them mixed (and they will be mixed in other parts of the yard). Over the past two years, I have considered adding just a few...but I've yet to decide--you and havalotta have a great opening if you really want to sway me.

I do love the look of fall colors and evergreens--and the winter landscape definitely benefit from the mix of evergreens and deciduous...as would those critters seeking shelter. I have 25 hemlock seedlings in addition to the half-dozen or so I planted a few years ago.
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Old 03-30-2013, 11:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by havalotta View Post
Myself.... if I see an area I was thinking of planting into. I would brightly spray paint an old shovel or pole. Pound it into the chosen spot, then traverse the trail from both ways to see if it works or blocks something you already like to view..If it is view-able from your home or a special spot you favor in your yard...I'd take a look at the pole from there as well. Just move it about until you feel it works...
A very interesting suggestion you gave, havalotta.

There are already a few standing trees, paths have developed naturally over the past few years, and there are some beautiful boulders that I want to highlight, so I will keep your suggestion in mind. So far, I've just been envisioning what it will look like...and I know I will add a scattering of trees in the certain sections between paths and such. The hillside with the rocks may need a bit more planning...so I might use your method there. So far, I've planned a spot for a witch hazel there...I know it won't block too much with its slender trunks, and I like the idea of it growing out over the path like an umbrella.

Thanks for your suggestions, all. Keep 'em coming.
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Old 03-30-2013, 02:44 PM   #7
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With respect to conifers, pines and hemlocks tend to be rather wide in form and have a somewhat open density; pines more so than hemlocks. Nice trees to be sure, but they might be too dominant in a small location. If you like the dense, spire shape I would suggest one of the firs (Abies spp.) or spruces (Picea spp) that are in your area. It's a look that I really like and they provide really dense cover for birds and other critters. They are distinctive and functional even at an early age.
PLANTS Profile for Abies (fir) | USDA PLANTS
PLANTS Profile for Picea (spruce) | USDA PLANTS

One of my favorites is Abies balsamea:
PLANTS Profile for Abies balsamea (balsam fir) | USDA PLANTS
UW-Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium: Featured Plant

To me, balsam fir is what Christmas smells like. And that tall spire shape is really distinctive in a mixed forest.
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Old 03-30-2013, 04:25 PM   #8
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If you're worried about the evergreens-conifers being too tall or shade producing you could bend them over like the natives did to mark their paths... They add an interesting twist to the woodlands. You could incorporate some of your huge boulders as weights upon them in the process. It's really cool watching how the trees try to right themselves as they grow.
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Old 03-30-2013, 08:40 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by NEWisc View Post
With respect to conifers, pines and hemlocks tend to be rather wide in form and have a somewhat open density; pines more so than hemlocks. Nice trees to be sure, but they might be too dominant in a small location. If you like the dense, spire shape I would suggest one of the firs (Abies spp.) or spruces (Picea spp) that are in your area. It's a look that I really like and they provide really dense cover for birds and other critters. They are distinctive and functional even at an early age...

One of my favorites is Abies balsamea...

To me, balsam fir is what Christmas smells like. And that tall spire shape is really distinctive in a mixed forest.
I am most familiar with...and most fond of hemlock and white pine. The fact that they are kind of open makes me more hopeful to have wildflowers under them...especially the hemlock. I'm guessing the openness means they provide less cover for the birds.

I do have one native (I think) spruce already growing in the hedgerow...along with a couple blue spruce--which to me look out of place in the landscape...especially natural areas. I plan to turn the blue spruce into snags once the hemlocks grow in. Although the other spruce is not where I would have planted it, I will leave it if it is indeed native...and maybe add another one or two so it doesn't look alone or out of place.

There are mature white pines along the hillside opposite our front yard and hemlock along the road a little ways from our property (and scattered throughout the area here. The neighbor put in a lot of blue spruce in his back yard, and they seem to be growing pretty quickly...so, there will be cover for birds there too. We have two acres, so I'm hoping that the stands of hemlock and the few white pine (again in a small stand) are not going to overpower the property.

You are making me appreciate the firs and spruce more based on your description and obvious love for the species.
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Old 03-30-2013, 08:46 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by havalotta View Post
If you're worried about the evergreens-conifers being too tall or shade producing you could bend them over like the natives did to mark their paths... They add an interesting twist to the woodlands. You could incorporate some of your huge boulders as weights upon them in the process. It's really cool watching how the trees try to right themselves as they grow.
I saw a picture of a trail marker tree in one of my books...it happened to be a deciduous tree. Come to think of it there is a mature, old serviceberry that either slid part way down the slope or was nearly strangled and bent at one time. It has several vertical branches that are almost trunks themselves.
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