Eclectic Woodland Garden

Japanese cedar, fern-leaf bleeding heart, chain redbud, Raulston allspice and Oregon grape holly number among the favorites in this large garden.

By: Martha Tate



Bob Gilbert in his garden

This 13-acre garden started in a roundabout way. After Bob Gilbert and his late partner Richard Smith restored a tumbling-down 1845 brick house, they began noticing that birds were eating the holly berries growing around the yard. This observation led to an interest in birding and the discovery that the property was located on an important migration route. Soon they began acquiring fruiting plants that would attract birds and gradually became discriminating plant collectors.

Many of the rare plants in this woodland garden were obtained from mail-order firms and planted when very young. Over time, trees like the rare parsley-leaf hawthorn have grown into beautiful mature specimens. Along the wide, mulched paths are large swaths of groundcovers, including a bright yellow hosta called 'Golden Sculpture' and the bleeding heart ('Luxuriant'), which has blue green foliage and rose colored flowers.

Some of the very unusual plants in this collection are:



Japanese cedar

Japanese Cedar 

(Cryptomeria japonica 'Yoshino')

The plant: This handsome, stately evergreen was introduced to America in 1861. Japanese cedar grows quickly to 50 feet in a pyramidal shape; the straight trunk has beautiful, reddish-brown bark that peels in long strips. Height in the wild can be 150 feet or more. The needles are spirally arranged, and the ½- to 1-inch cones are borne on wide-spreading branches. Hardy in USDA Zones (5) 6 to 8( 9).
How to use it: This is an excellent tree for a tall screen or to use as a specimen plant in the lawn.
Cultivation: Japanese cedars prefer full to filtered sun and moist, rich, deep, well-drained soil.
Source: Heronswood Nursery



Fern-leaf bleeding heart

Fern-Leaf Bleeding Heart

(Dicentra x 'Luxuriant')

The plant: This herbaceous perennial is an old-fashioned garden beauty with pendants of rose-colored, heart-shaped blooms on plants that are 18 to 30 inches tall. The finely cut, blue-green foliage forms neat clumps. There is a heavy flush of bloom in May and then sporadically throughout the summer into fall. Unlike the more familiar bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), 'Luxuriant' doesn't go dormant during the summer. A good spreader.
How to use it: This is an excellent ground cover for the woodland floor.
Cultivation: This bleeding heart likes well-drained soil with lots of compost and humus added. It will not tolerate clay soils. Plant in partial shade.
Source: Lazy S'S Farm Nursery



Raulston allspice 'Hartlage Wine'

Raulston Allspice

(Calycanthus x raulstonii 'Hartlage Wine')

The plant: This newly introduced shrub (early 90's) is the first generation from a cross between the U.S. native sweet shrub (Calycanthus florida), and the Chinese sweet shrub or Chinese wax plant (Sinocalycanthus chinensis). A fast-growing deciduous shrub, 'Hartlage Wine' produces claret-red magnolia-like flowers with creamy-white-tipped stamens in May. The flowers measure three inches across and fade to pink in sun. The shrub measures 8 feet high by 8 feet wide.
How to use it: As a specimen or in a grouping along a woodland path or in the shade garden.
Cultivation: Provide moist, well-drained soil in a semi-shaded site. Protect from afternoon sun.
Source: Heronswood Nursery



Chain redbud

Chain Redbud

(Cercis racemosa)

The plant: This unusual redbud is native to China and has the familiar heart-shaped leaves of the Eastern redbud. Unlike the common redbud, however, the pink, pealike flowers hang in two- to four-inch clusters. This is the only known redbud that holds its flowers in racemes, rather than flush along the stems. Growing to 20 to 25 feet tall, this rounded, deciduous tree is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
How to use it: Grow the chain redbud at the edge of the woods or in a sunny lawn.
Cultivation: Grow in filtered sun to full sun in moist, well-drained soil.
Source: Cistus Nursery



'Arthur Menzies' Oregon grape holly

Oregon Grape Holly

(Mahonia x media 'Arthur Menzies')

The plant: 'Arthur Menzies' is an evergreen shrub that is a taller version of the Oregon grape holly. The glossy, compound leaves can be up to 18 inches long. In winter the shrub produces upright, bright yellow flowers that measure 12 inches in height. The blue-purple "grapes" that follow the blooms cascade down over the foliage. The shrub grows much taller than other mahonias, reaching 10 feet. Hardy in USDA Zones 7 and 8.
How to use it: Place it in the shady garden, and allow for the sometimes gangly form of the plant. Another evergreen shrub like aucuba could be planted near the base to cover any bare spots in the lower part of the shrub. Also make sure the plant can be viewed in winter when the spectacular yellow flowers appear, followed by the cascading fruit.
Cultivation: Grow in moist, well-drained soil in semi-shade. Allow plenty of room for this plant as it is larger than other mahonias.
Source: Forestfarm

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