Let the sun shine in

Lighten up a woodland landscape with bright foliage and flowers

Jim McCausland

In spring, woodland gardens like this one in Woodinville, Washington, are irresistible.

Epimediums and forget-me-not flowers crowd the forest floor; daffodils form yellow clumps where sunshine reaches them; and chalky white birch trunks rise above a variegated carpet of bishop's weed.

But this corner garden wasn't always so charming. When landscape designer Karen Steeb and husband David bought the property, it was shaded by dark evergreens and choked by a 10-foot-tall thicket of blackberries.

Karen decided to keep the native trees, which provide a sense of scale and help screen her house from neighbors and the street. But the blackberries had to go, and the shaded, all-green landscape needed a serious infusion of color and texture.

She started by planting birches (Betula jacquemontii), dogwoods, a saucer magnolia, and a tapestry of shrubs, since they would cover the slope and supplant weeds (and take the longest to fill in). Given her love for flowering evergreens, she added a fine collection of camellias, rhododendrons, and viburnums.

Finally, Karen planted perennials, ferns, and groundcovers, including lilies-of-the-valley, sweet woodruffs, and violets for fragrance. The sun-dappled woodland still has a native feel, but with a more personal and unexpected touch.

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