Description

The Woodland Garden is designed to evoke the sheltered, comfortable, and cool feeling of being in a natural wooded area. The majority of the plants work well in partial shade of existing trees, and some will grow happily in full shade. There is perhaps no more comfortable place to be outdoors in the inland summer than in the shade of a native oak woodland. These plantings have an ability to be calming and simple while maintaining a sense of the magic of a wild landscape.

This design creates a shady and cooling area vibrant with the beauty of California native plants. This plant palette also works well planted around many trees which may already be existing in your yard if you are renovating your landscape but keeping your trees. Most of these plants also thrive on the seasonally-shady north side of houses, garages, and other buildings.

While focused on providing a shady and relaxing oasis for your yard, these plants are also great at providing food and shelter for songbirds, hummingbirds, and many pollinators.

This plant palette is available as an option for the Waterwise Community Center's Landscape Design Assistance Program. Visit cbwcd.org/desgin for more details.

Plant List

Trees

Coast live oak

Botanical Name: Quercus agrifolia
Plant Type: Tree, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 30 ft. - 60 ft.   Width: 40 ft. - 70 ft.

Toyon

Botanical Name: Heteromeles arbutifolia
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 12 ft. - 25 ft.   Width: 12 ft. - 18 ft.

Shrubs

California buckwheat

Botanical Name: Eriogonum fasciculatum
Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 2 ft. - 3 ft.   Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft.

Chaparral currant

Botanical Name: Ribes malvaceum
Plant Type: Shrub
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Moderate shade, Partial sun
Height: 4 ft. - 6 ft.   Width: 4 ft. - 6 ft.

Coffeeberry + cvs

Botanical Name: Rhamnus californica
Plant Type: Shrub, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, All day sun, Partial sun
Height: 8 ft. - 10 ft.   Width: 8 ft. - 10 ft.

Creeping barberry

Botanical Name: Berberis repens
Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Morning sun, Moderate shade
Height: 18 in. - 30 in.   Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft.

Fragrant pitcher sage

Botanical Name: Lepechinia fragrans
Plant Type: Perennial
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Moderate shade, Partial sun
Height: 2 ft.   Width: 2 ft. - 3 ft.

Golden Abundance barberry

Botanical Name: Berberis 'Golden Abundance'
Plant Type: Shrub
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Morning sun, Partial sun
Height: 6 ft. - 8 ft.   Width: 6 ft. - 10 ft.

Perennials

California strawberry

Botanical Name: Fragaria vesca
Plant Type: Ground cover, Perennial
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Moderate shade, Partial sun
Height: 2 in. - 8 in.   Width: 2 ft. - 6 ft.

Common yarrow + cvs

Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium
Plant Type: Ground cover, Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 2
Exposure: Moderate shade, All day sun
Height: 18 in. - 30 in.   Width: 18 in. - 30 in.

Evergreen currant

Botanical Name: Ribes viburnifolium
Plant Type: Shrub, Ground cover, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, Moderate shade
Height: 5 ft. - 7 ft.   Width: 5 ft. - 7 ft.

Hummingbird sage

Botanical Name: Salvia spathacea
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: Morning sun, Moderate shade, Partial sun
Height: 12 in. - 18 in.   Width: 12 in. - 18 in.

Island alum root

Botanical Name: Heuchera maxima
Plant Type: Perennial, Native
Water Needs: Moderate 3
Exposure: Moderate shade
Height: 12 in. - 18 in.   Width: 12 in. - 18 in.

Grasses

Canyon Prince Wild rye

Botanical Name: Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince'
Plant Type: Grass, Native
Water Needs: Low 1
Exposure: All day sun
Height: 4 ft. - 5 ft.   Width: 4 ft. - 5 ft.

Horticultural Preferences

The Woodland Garden plant palette is a combination of large plants (coast live oak and toyon) and the smaller plants that will grow well underneath them. All of the other plants will also grow well under many existing established trees, already casting shade. Check the sun / shade preferences of each plant, because some require shade to thrive, while others are more sun tolerant, and others need significant sun, so are best used in patches of sunlight between trees or out at the edge of an established tree canopy.

The plants in the Woodland Garden palette are easy to grow and are adapted to a wide range of soils, from sand to clay.

If you are starting a woodland planting without any pre-existing shade, it will take quite a few years for the trees to become large enough to cast the shade to create a woodland effect, but the wait is worth it. In this situation, you may need to select additional plants that thrive in full sun, until the shade canopy from the trees grows in, beyond the options available in the Woodland Garden plant palette. In that case, you can find easily compatible good choices in the Butterfly and Songbird Garden, Pollinator Garden, and California Native Color Garden plant lists.

The plants in this palette are easy to care for and generally do not require any pruning more than once or twice per year to keep them looking great in the garden, but it is important to do that at the right time of year for each plant. Refer to the “maintenance” entry for each individual plant.

Aesthetic Character

The Woodland Garden focuses on evoking a sense of the cool and dappled shade of a loose natural canopy. Plants in the list are all low water but evoke a sense of lushness. It is a comforting and welcoming planting. Many of the smaller plants work best as simple large “swaths” of the same plant, while the larger shrubs work well as taller accents. The larger shrubs can also be combined to create an informal hedge for a greater sense of privacy for the yard. Woodland gardens are inviting, comfortable, and informal spaces that are great to spend time in.

Moisture Needs

All the plants in this palette have a low need for irrigation. In most inland valley garden situations, established plantings using this group of plants will thrive with a deep watering of 1 to 1.5 inches approximately once every three to four weeks, depending weather, soil type, and sun exposure, in the months when there is no or little rain. In most situations, young plantings will thrive with a deep watering of approximately one inch per week during dry weather, until they begin to become established, usually approximately one year after planting. Then, begin to increase the time between watering events, keeping an eye on how the plants are doing, until you reach your “established” irrigation schedule.

Beyond this, bloom season and plant appearance may be improved with a bit of additional summer irrigation provided to some of the plants on this list including chaparral currant, creeping barberry, fragrant pitcher sage, California strawberry, common yarrow, hummingbird sage, and island alum root. In many cases, these plants can survive perfectly well with the lower level of irrigation, but an occasional hose-watering by hand of just these mentioned plants, in between monthly deeper irrigations to the whole planting may provide for a longer flowering season for the pollinators and a more lush look for the humans enjoying the plants.

All of the plants in this palette, other than the coast live oak are well adapted to being used under many established trees, even those considered to be medium or moderate water-demanding trees, which are generally watered deeply twice per month to keep them thriving. Plants in this list were carefully selected to be low water-demanding, but tolerant of this more frequent “established” water schedule to allow for maximum flexibility in using an existing shade canopy in your yard to create a woodland garden.

The chart shown below provides a baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth. Several winter months noted by an asterisk (*) indicate when rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. It is important to note that these plants can successfully grow within a range of supplemental moisture each month; the actual irrigation schedule should be adjusted to reflect specific soil, slope and exposure conditions to achieve best plant performance.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.