I love going into the woods, even the most familiar of them beyond my backyard seem the keeper of some mystery. Despite the extent to which modern-day woods have been tamed by suburbia, roads, and even parkland, they still hold a dark mystery in our minds. All folktales that include woods, use them to conceal wild magic. It is where the witch’s gingerbread house is. It is where Beauty goes to find Beast. It is where we will find the fire circle surrounded by four spirits that can give and take away. This is the strength of woods in landscape design.
Your woods may contain old trees, trees of protection, As in all old tales, we are warned to respect woods. The story of Pan’s death, of the last unicorn, of the end of a golden age when humans saw beneath the surface of the world’s activities, is tied to woods. A group of trees becomes a wood when you can’t see through it. This density or distance of uncleared land lures our consciousness and sharpens our senses to the wild world out there.
If the idea of woods is part of what you need for your garden to fully satisfy you and you do not presently have one, then making one can be the central effort of your garden design. Creating a wood in open ground offers design opportunities rarely found in perennial garden design. Most of the great urban parks are created woodlands. In many cities, the places we associate with the old wild places were planted less than a hundred years ago.
Because a wood comprises of many trees, we must think of the whole as a community. In our own human communities there are figures that possess physical and personality influence that endures, the matriarchs or founding fathers. Others do the daily work that keeps the community going and incidentally fill the streets and stores. And then there are those who are passing through, the contributors to the community’s commerce.
If we look to Nature again we see that certain tree species have the form and endurance to dominate. Others, such as birch, create a lively visual activity that brightens the forest but does not seem eternal. Planting a wood from saplings may seem like a long wait for gratification but in many instances, ten years will find the planter of a wood entirely enthralled by his or her work. The added benefit to a woodland garden is its lessening care. The older you get, the bigger and more care-free become the trees so that by the time you reach an age when you just want to stroll through your garden and rest, the shade of your woods and the stoutness of the trees you have planted welcome you.