Woodland ephemerals.

When we bought this house 25 years ago, I had no idea how important the little bit of woodland would become to me as I made a garden here. To start with we had the ancient trees with lots of brambles and nettles, bit by bit I managed to reclaim the woodland floor and as the years went by, more and more bulbs and spring flowers were added. I was aiming for a tapestry of flowers and leaves that would cover the soil and make it more interesting as the months of the year went by. Little spring ephemerals are plants that creep around on the woodland floor, flowers that come and go, they grow, flower and set seed before the leaves come onto the oaks, ash and chestnuts and make the woodland too dark for flowers to shine.

Anemone sylvestris

I think one of the first plants I bought was Anemone sylvestris, the wood anemone. This is now spreading nicely among the snowdrops in the leaf mouldy soil that I have built up over the years. You would think that after a couple of hundred years of leaves falling in the woodland that the soil would have been beautiful, but no, the same heavy clay as in the rest of the garden. I don’t know if the previous people had used the soil from here in the couple of beds that they made in the rest of the garden, but I spread leaf mould as a mulch every year and the soil is becoming nice and friable now.

Cyclamen repandum

Cyclamen repandum is a fairly recent introduction, the ants are spreading the seeds of this the same as C. coum and  C.hederifolium. They have beautifully patterned leaves creating interest when the flowers are over.

Euphorbia robbiae

Euphorbia robbiae is on the banks to the ditch, I’m just so pleased that something will grow in the soil which is full of tree roots, yes it spreads, but so far is quite well behaved.


The wild primrose is very much at home in the woodland, this plant has now been completely stripped of all its flowers, like a lot more of them in the garden, thanks to Mr P! I have managed to save my fritillaries but  at the cost of lots of my primroses!


A tiny Veronica is happy amongst the ivy which I should really pull out.

Pulmonaria longifolia

Pulmonaria longifolia needs rescuing from the campanula before it gets strangled! The leaves are long and thin and the flowers a beautiful blue.

Forget me not

Forget me nots, Myosotis, are now spreading nicely and filling any gaps in the planting.


Pachyphragma is at the far end of the woodland on the slope, in previous years it has spread quite a way, but this year the patch is much smaller, I wonder why?


Claytonia is a tiny little creeping plant, but it never seems to come up in the same place twice! Little pink/white flowers are so pretty, this year they are edging the woodland path, the leaf is nice and shiny too.


The wild celandine is ruthlessly weeded out in the garden but a few are allowed to remain in the woodland where the flowers twinkle against the dark ivy leaves.


Erythronium Pagoda is looking beautiful at the moment. I always say, don’t go on holiday at this time of year or you will miss it! The flowers are over very quickly, but they are so beautiful, just like miniature lilies.

Anemone sylvestris William Robinson

Anemone William Robinson is a blue form of the woodland anemone and is gently increasing amongst the snowdrops.


Honesty which I grew from seed, has come up in white and lilac, which was a very pleasant surprise as I thought they would all be lilac.

Tulip sylvestris

Tulip sylvestris, a species tulip, which I thought had to be a woodland flower with “sylvestris” in it’s name, apparently not, it will grow in the sun, but mine seem happy here. They start out with their heads bent over but straighten eventually. They also send out long runners underground and you find the odd tulip about 6 ft away, they are all welcome!

Maidenhair fern

Adiantum venustum, the hardy maidenhair fern, is a fern which creeps about on the woodland floor, looking so delicate in the sunshine. All the new growth is coming through in a pinky brown colour, they will all soon turn green and make  a weed suppressing mat for the rest of the year.

Anemone blanda

Oh no, Mr P is attacking my tiny Anemone blanda! It seems nothing is safe from his great big beak!

Pink violet

As well as the usual wild violets, we seem to have aquired a pink one and…

Pale blue violet

…….a pale blue one. I don’t mind the nibbles on the leaves as once I found that violets were the larval food for the Orange Tip butterfly, they are welcome to eat them!

Viola labradorica

I have planted Viola labradorica in the woodland and it is spreading it’s seed about, the pale green foliage in front is from Meconopsis cambrica, the yellow Welsh poppy which will be flowering soon, adding more yellow to the woodland and other borders.

Corydalis solida

Corydalis solida is on the side of the ditch with its lilac coloured flowers……

Corydalis solida seedlings

……but these are the seedlings from it. The one on the left has come true, the one on the right looks like C. Beth Evans and the one in the centre could be like C. George Baker. These seedlings will be potted up for putting elsewhere in the woodland in the autumn.

The main period for flowers in the woodland are Jan/Feb/March/April for snowdrops, crocus, hellebores and narcissus, then March/April for the fritillaries, soon there will be foxgloves flowering, but all the while there are tiny little flowers flowering in between the main flowers adding extra interest right down at floor level before it becomes too dark. Reading Beth Chatto’s books “The Green Tapestry” and “The Woodland Garden” has been such a help in deciding which little treasures would be happy on the woodland floor.

This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Woodland ephemerals.

  1. Alison says:

    Your woodland has some real beauties in it! I need to check out that Tulipa sylvestris, it looks interesting and I love species tulips.

    • Pauline says:

      Tulipa sylvestris is a real beauty Alison, the way it unfurls to open up and then stands straight to open its flower. I’m just so glad to find a tulip that actually likes our soil!

  2. Angie says:

    I have loved this visit to your woodland Pauline and I can see why it’s a spot in your garden that you truly love. You’ve worked hard over the past 25 year and it shows. Your selection of plants works well. You’ve got the succession of plants just right and as that’s something I’m just getting to grip with, it’s been really helpful reading you account.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Angie, but it isn’t finished yet, there’s always another little treasure to fit in somewhere! I think for the summer months when all the leaves are on the trees, I will have to be content with contrasting foliage as it is too dark for flowers. This is when Hostas, ferns and Heucheras will have to step forward and be counted!

  3. Cathy says:

    You have got a lovely range of spring flowers in your woodland and must be quite proud of it now. It’s a little treasure grove for all the wildlife and it’s no wonder the pheasant likes wandering around for a nibble now and then! Thank goodness you have had a chance to enjoy the fritillaries this year. I love seeing Corydalis cava growing wild in the woods here – do you also have that sort in the UK? It likes moist shade best but I have seen it next to the roads here too, in pale cream, pink and purply blue. Lovely post Pauline!

    • Pauline says:

      I looked up Corydalis cava Cathy and my book tells me it is the same as C. solida. I haven’t seen it growing wild here, it must be lovely seeing it in all its different colours.
      The pheasant has now started eating my fritillaries as well as the primroses and cowslips, he must think I grow them all specially for him!

  4. Frank says:

    It’s always so interesting to visit your woodland in the spring. From snowdrops to the earliest spring flowers there’s always something interesting to see! I hope Mr P hasn’t been too rough on the plants this year, you threatened more fritillary photos and I am far from being tired of them!

    • Pauline says:

      I do tend to go overboard Frank, when there is something I love flowering away in the garden. Mr P is a menace, there is no other word for it! Just yesterday I noticed that the fritillaries next to the path have had bites taken out of them, this is as well as most of my primroses and cowslips! I think maybe a water pistol might be on the shopping list!

  5. Sigrun says:

    Your woodland garden is a place I would like to see, Pauline. It is so silent and so beautiful. Viola labradorica is at all places in my garden, but not so big and nice as in the gardens of my friend. I have a very bad soil, fertilicer everywhere but the soil is cold and heavy.
    Claytonia I have never heard.


    • Pauline says:

      My soil was originally very cold heavy clay Sigrun, but over the years I have added so much compost, leaf mould, ash and soot from the wood burning stove, that it is now quite nice soil that plants seem to like.
      The woodland isn’t very quiet at the moment, the birds are all making such a noise with all their singing, but it is a lovely sound.
      I have never bought Claytonia, it just turned up in the garden one day and made itself at home, it is a lovely little plant.

  6. Everything is looking gorgeous in your woodland. You are not as far ahead as I thought you would be given the mild winter in England and the freezing winter here.

    • Pauline says:

      We had a very cold spell in February Caroline which put everything back a couple of weeks, I think we are still trying to catch up.

  7. rusty duck says:

    The anemones look so pretty and always seem too delicate to survive the rough and tumble, along with corydalis. The maidenhair fern is lovely too, especially with its new foliage.
    The primroses are still mostly looking OK here, by virtue of their sheer numbers I think, but welsh poppies have also been known to disappear down the big beak..

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks Jessica, I had hoped that he would go back to the fields any time now! Mr P. is very delicate the way he walks through the garden, it is only the flowers at the sides of paths that have been eaten so I suppose I have to be grateful for that.

  8. Christina says:

    I love your woodland Pauline. You have made what to some would be a problem area into a delightful natural feeling space. I know if it was really natural it would be brambles etc. so it is all the more special because it feels as if nature is in control , but better!

    • Pauline says:

      I would like to think Christina, that nature and I go hand in hand, that is the effect that I’m trying to create. I think there are times when nature knows best what to do and we can just go along with it and not fight it.

  9. sally says:

    Pauline, I love your woodland garden! It’s amazing…..you have so many wonderful plants. Some of them I have as well but many I have been considering. I started a small woodland garden last summer…..You’ve given me food for thought! Happy Gardening!

    • Pauline says:

      I’d love to read about your woodland garden Sally, I feel they are very special places. It takes time to build up all the layers, we were very lucky to have the huge ancient trees to start with.

  10. Cathy says:

    Yes, I shall be investigating T sylvestris too! Thanks for showing us more of your woodland beauties, Pauline

  11. pbmgarden says:

    Such sweet little flowers Pauline. You must be enjoying this rich springtime.

  12. Anna says:

    Oh so many of my favourite plants Pauline. I’ve not come across pachysandra but will be looking out for it. I’ve have well thumbed copies of the same books too and one of them came to my rescue when I was contemplating a blog name 🙂

    • Pauline says:

      Beth Chatto has come to my rescue many a time Anna! Her books are so good for plants for different areas of the garden, I dread to think what I would have planted if it hadn’t been for her advice.

  13. debsgarden says:

    I planted the white wood anemone a couple years ago, and now it is beginning to spread. I love it! I admire all your woodland flowers, as you probably already know. The pink violet is lovely. Nature sometimes gifts us with the most delightful surprises.

    • Pauline says:

      The woos anemone is such a pretty flower, I’m glad yours are spreading too Deb! The violets are such unassuming little flowers, often they just tuck themselves between the tree roots and look very much at home there.

  14. snowbird says:

    Your woodland is utterly delightful, filled with an array of delicate jewels, I was going to say that I loved the Veronica, but I love them all! Your garden gives me hope that one day my newly planted back garden may become just that….a garden. xxx

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Dina, I’m sure your back garden will soon be considered a garden! Have I just been seeing your front garden up to now? We were so lucky to have the ancient trees to start with, I just filled in down below!

  15. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Oh Pauline, how beautiful! Like a delicately-colored Persian rug carpeting your woodland. Spring ephemerals are so dear!

    • Pauline says:

      How kind Peter, what a lovely comparison! Some of them are so fleeting, but so beautiful, I would miss them if I didn’t have them.

  16. First I must comment on the header: how pretty all those little checkered bells look. You have such a nice collection of woodland plants Pauline. I was making lots of mental notes. A few I have but so many I’d like to add to my won garden.

    • Pauline says:

      The header photo was taken here last year Jennifer, I liked the different shades of the fritillary colour. I have really enjoyed making the woodland garden, I think it is my favourite area of the garden that we have made.

  17. Chloris says:

    I love all your woodland plants, what a delight it is in Spring to have so many treasures. I am growing Tulipa sylvestris for the first time this year and I am thrilled with it. Thank you for reminding me what that white flower is called. A friend asked me the other day and I just couldn’ t remember, but you reminded me. It is not actually Pachysandra, they have glossy leaves, it is Pachyphragma macrophyllum. That wretched pheasant, they always pick the flowers off our choicest plants just for fun.

    • Pauline says:

      Spring in the woodland is a delight Chloris. Thanks for the correction, I can never remember which is which, I should have looked up Pachyphragma before writing, I have now changed it. I’m so glad you like Tulipa sylvestris too, it is a lovely flower. The pheasant seems to be staying on the fields theses days, now that he has done the damage!

  18. Helle says:

    What a lovely selection of flowers once again. The pheasant is rather cheeky. We, unfortunately, have lots of wild celandine and it is driving me mad. In the vegetable garden I have managed to clear it out of all the beds, but in the flower garden it’s everywhere, I clear an area and think, finally I have gotten rid of it there, hah, next year it shows up again. If the bees were interested in the flowers I’d be a bit more sympathetic, but they’re not.

    • Pauline says:

      The pheasant is cheeky isn’t he, he seems to have gone back to the fields now that he has eaten lots of primroses and cowslips! I think we fight a losing battle with celandine, I think the bees must visit the flowers or we wouldn’t have seed blowing everywhere would we?

Comments are closed.