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Maryland Native Garden: Waterside Woodland

Woodlands, walls and water.

native woodland with wild ginger and cinnamon ferns
wild ginger and cinnamon ferns

Ann doesn't have a point in time when she realized she should plant native plants; it was a sense that was always with her. When she moved to a home along a small creek in Anne Arundel County fifteen years ago, she immediately noticed the home's gutter system was connected to a drainage pipe that emptied directly into the creek. She disconnected it and soon realized her lot served as a sort of catchment for drainage from areas far behind her home. During rain storms, sheets of water scoured the side garden as the water rushed to the lower shoreline.

native mayapples, carex Pennsylvanica in a woodland
mayapples and Pensylvania sedge

She knew she needed professional help and contacted Matt Ciminelli, whose landscape design business, Ciminelli's Landscape Services, is a sister business to Ecoasis Garden Center, a nearby nursery that sells native and ornamental plants. With Matt's help, and a number of 'bio-logs' made of coconut coir, the drainage issue was quickly solved and Ann found herself with a woodland, waterside tableau. She began adding native plants. Ferns, yellow wood poppies (Stylophorum diphyllum), wild ginger (Asarum canadense) and more. Matt created new beds out of poorly growing, shaded lawn and Ann just kept adding plants.

native sensitive ferns
sensitive ferns

She also made sure not to disturb the mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum), jack-in-the-pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum) and sensitive ferns (Onoclea sensibilis) already growing.

Ann did not need professional help to create a series of perfectly dry stacked stonewalls to terrace her garden. For those, she consulted a book from the library. Not a surprise for a librarian. Just look at the perfection of these walls!

Always with a project in mind, stones placed just so line the driveway ready for more permanent locations.

Her favorite plants are trout lily (Erythronium americanum) and trilliums (Trillium grandiflorum) that bloom earlier in spring. The moist shaded parts of her garden are perfect for those as well as Christmas ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides), cinnamon ferns (Osmandustrum cinnamomeum), wild ginger and mayapples. Trout lilies, wild ginger and mayapples will spread readily in moist shade.

native bayberry shrubs in full sun, creeekside
bayberry shrubs

In sunnier areas near the water, bayberry shrubs stabilize the bank. Common bayberry (Morella pensylvanica) are semi-evergreen shrubs reach five to ten feet high and grow in a range of soils.

woodland seating area
serviceberry seating

In a part sun, part shade area with a fire bowl, a ring of Adirondack chairs are flanked by two service berries (Amelanchier laevis) -- a tree that does well in sun or shade. Almost the perfect tree for Ann's garden, these thrive at the woodlands edge. Bursting with white blooms in spring, serviceberries add red fruits in summer and brilliant foliage in fall.

Everywhere you look, Ann's touches of the natural subtly appear. One of my favorites was running water through a hollowed out log.

Once Ann became a certified watershed steward, she began helping create other gardens. As we talked, she shared stories of walking in the Ohio woods as a young girl with her Mom. Her Mom was always enchanted by the trout lilies and trillium. Native plants have always been there for Ann.


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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