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Useful Info And History For The Home Gardener



WOODLAND PLANTS

People have always had a fascination for plants encountered in the wild, particularly deep inside Britain’s woodlands, which continue to stir popular imagination and be presented, even in today’s cinematographic productions, as the mysterious and magical places they have been perceived as since the beginning of time. The appeal and charm of mat-forming or crawling plants for instance has never dissipated and they are as aesthetically pleasant, if not wonderfully eerie as they were in past centuries.

Some of these plants are truly native to Britain as a normal part of the development of its flora, in accordance with is geographical position, geological structure and climate. Others were introduced from abroad, yet many centuries ago, and have been growing naturally for so long they are now classed as native species. Hybrids have also occurred, some thriving and surviving to this day. Woodland plants are very diverse in appearance and behaviour, some producing strikingly coloured flowers whereas others, evergreens in particular, are used for ground covering and left to spread at their will.

Woodland plants often prefer growing in full or partial shade, although that is not a general rule and there are plenty species, predominantly those encountered on meadows, which grow ideally in full sun and in open spaces. Some can be found on river and stream banks, where they spread freely and enjoy the moist, rich soils. Shade loving plants typically require moist soils as well, as their optimal setting is a dark, humid one. Others in this category are the complete opposite and thrive in dry and poorly fertile, sandy or even acidic soils. There are also certain wild varieties of well known herbs or vegetables, parts of which are edible (tubers or foliage) and eaten raw or used as cooking ingredients to this day.

If you want to naturalise a woodland plant in your garden, the first step is determining whether you can provide auspicious conditions for its development. Roughly, woodland plants can be selected according to the following criteria:

- plants requiring full or partial shade and moist soils

- plants requiring full sun or at least partial shade and moist soils

- plants requiring full sun or partial shade and well-drained soils

- plants growing well in dry, sandy soils

- plants requiring a fair amount of space , hence should be planted in open spaces

- plants which are known to adapt to a variety of natural conditions

Moreover, just as wild as these plants has been popular imagination with regards to them and as a result quite a few are associated with myths and legends, whereas others have been noticed to have curative properties and have been used for medicinal purposes, some from ancient times and some from the Middle Ages. A number are linked to fabled creatures such as elves and fairies, some of the myths involving a magical participation of other animals as well. Others are symbols of certain philosophies, religions or feelings – romanticism has used floral symbols since ancient times and their significance has been propagated through the generations.

Wood SorrelOxalis acetosella – Suran y Coed

Origin: Britain

Flowering: March, April

Its light green foliage reminiscent of shamrocks, this shade loving plant grows graceful white flowers in mid spring. Also, its leaves are edible and used in salads as those of the common sorrel. It naturalises well if planted in a rich organic soil, preferably covered by a stratum of leaf mould. It also requires a sufficient amount of space, which is why it is suitable for planting in open spaces or under deciduous trees.

Pignut Conopodium majus – Cnau’r Ddaear

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July, August, September

This plant, which produces charming white blooms in the summer and at the beginning of Autumn, is appreciated for more than its decorative qualities. Being a member of the carrot family, parts of it, namely its tubers, are also edible and much endeared by children, as they are evocative of hazelnuts in terms of flavour. This leads to the alternative name of this species, which is also referred to as Earthnut. As to favourable growing conditions, it suits open spaces and partial shade.

Pennywort Umbilicus rupestris – Dail Ceiniog

Origin: Britain

Also growing from a tuber of similar structure, this plant belonging to the Sedum family develops rounded leaves which are rich in fluid and used by children in their games instead of real coins, hence the name. It is a beautiful plant and prefers a high level of moisture, developing well in any soil and type of space which provides it.

ValerianValeriana officinalis – Triaglog

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

Valerian has gained worldwide recognition for its properties and is used on a large scale as a painkiller and relaxant, valerian tea being very popular. Its rhizome, which is used for making medicinal tea, releases a conspicuous, unmistakable smell. Its umbellate white blooms are very attractive, which makes it an ideal feature for any garden. It is essentially a woodland plant yet can adapt to gardens if it is provided with adequate shading and humidity.

Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina – Mysglys

Origin: Britain

Flowering: April

A beautiful species which can be found on river and stream banks as well as in woodlands, its foliage resembling that of fumitories. Religious symbolic significance is attributed to it due to the symmetry of its corollas, which point in four directions (to the cardinal points) as well as upwards, towards the heavens. The plant is therefore associated with Christianity and its vigilance. It needs a fair amount of room to itself as it doesn’t develop well when closed in by other plants; in the wild it is always found in open spaces.

Wood CranesbillGeranium sylvaticum – Pig Aran y Goedwig

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

A geranium variety, it is so sturdy it grows all over the world, even in very cold climates such as the northernmost parts of Europe. It reaches a maximum height of 18 inches and every part of is very resilient to nature’s harshness, especially its durable rhizome. This species is native to Britain and boasts beautiful mauve flowers during the summer season. Also, it is not particular about the amount of sunlight it receives and can be planted in any type of area.

Meadow CranesbillGeranium pratense – Pig Aran y Weirglodd

Origin: Britain

Flowering: May, June

Boasting large flowers blooming late into the spring season, it is commonly seen bordering country roads. Its delicate petals are deep blue whilst its leaves are bright green over spring and summer and undergo a chromatic transformation, turning to a brownish green during autumn.

Bloody CranesbillGeranium sanguineum – Pig Aran Ryddgoch

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July, August

In spite of its name, this plant does not produce red flowers but pinkish violet ones, which delightfully grow in most dry soils, particularly sandy ones in seaside settings. It is associated with sand dunes and limestone. Blooming during the summer season, this species should always be planted in full sun.

Wild StrawberryFragaria vesca – Sifi Goch

Origin: Britain

Flowering: May, June, July, August

This valued plant, which easily spreads if left to its own devices, is mostly renowned for its tasty berries and less for its ornamental qualities; however it is pleasant in appearance as well and flowers throughout summer, producing lovely white flowers, complemented by a rich, elegant foliage which shimmer in the sun. It is optimally grown in full sun yet adapts to partial shade as well.

PrimrosePrimula vulgaris – Briallu

Origin: Britain

Flowering: January, February, March, April, May

Blooming remarkably early, as early as January in fact, it adorns Britain’s woodlands for months on end, and can implicitly adorn gardens in the same manner of enchanting continuity. It prefers soils with a high level of humidity and is excellent for naturalising in grass or hedge banks.

CowslipPrimula veris – Dagrau Mair

Origin: Britain

Flowering: April, May

A lovely plant flowering in mid season, it is rarely found in the wild nowadays, as its optimal setting for development, the hay meadow (hence its name, an agricultural reference to bovine grazing), is slowly becoming part of history. It grows optimally in grass which is not mowed until the end of the summer season and prefers moist soils. Also, they should be planted in full sun, although need be, they can adapt to partial shade as well.

Oxlip Primula elatior

Origin: Britain

Flowering: March, April

Akin to many species which were plentiful in past centuries, this variety is rarely encountered in the wild nowadays; however it is ideal for naturalising and requires little maintenance. Growing at its best in soils rich in clay, it blooms in mid spring, producing a bunch of bowing yellow flowers, as each stalk generates multiple blooms held on one side.

Red CampionSilene dioica – Blodyn Neidr

Origin: Britain

Flowering: April, May, June, July

This plant is quite content in a variety of natural settings ranging from pastures to woodlands and river banks, providing its surroundings with beautiful flowers, which grow in different tones of crimson. The visual effect its abundance of blooms creates is said to be enhanced when planted near or among bluebells, due to the chromatic harmony achieved. It naturalises easily and spreads by itself, as each plant develops flowers of one gender and pollination occurs naturally.

ColombineAquilegia vulgaris – Blodau’r Sipsi

Origin: Britain

Flowering: May, June, July

Growing at its best in partial shade yet handling full sunlight exposure as well, this plant boasts bowing blooms of a gentle tone of lilac, said to resemble the shape of a specific type of hat, which is why it is popularly referred to as Granny’s Bonnets as well. Although there are many hybrids on the market, many growers infer that the native species found in the wild, in verges for instance, is more aesthetic and preferable.

Sweet VioletViola odorata – Crinllys Aroglys

Origin: Britain

Flowering: February, March, April

As suggested by its name, this plant produces sweet fragranced flowers, yet the intensity of their scent seems to vary between specific varieties, as does the intensity of its lilac colour, ranging from pale mauve to dark violet. The plant is also associated with romanticism and with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, its appealing symbolism being an additional reason to adorn your garden with it. It is ideally grown in partial shade.

Common Dog Violet Viola riviniana – Gwiolydd Cyffredin

Origin: Britain

Flowering: February, March, April

This attractive violet flowers very early in the season, laying down carpets of blue flowers which last for months on end. Its name remains an enigma, the only possible explanation put forward by some being related to the lack of fragrance of its blooms, which makes the plant undetectable trough its scent – to people anyway. Loving a bit of shade, it naturalises well and remains equally beautiful throughout the season.

Sweet WoodruffGalium odoratum – Briwydden Ber

Origin: Britain

Flowering: May, June

A shade loving plant with rich, intense green foliage, it blooms at the beginning of the summer season, producing a plethora of small, dainty white flowers shaped like stars. The species has a long history in Britain, where, hundreds of years ago, its leaves were used for giving a fresh fragrance to textiles, after being dried, which made them emanate a pleasant smell of hay. It grows well in a variety of soils, preferably rich in humus and with a low acidic content.

Greater StitchwortStellaria holostea – Serenllys Mawr

Origin: Britain

Flowering: April, May

Blooming in mid to late spring and boasting pristine white corollas which shine gracefully in the sunlight, this plant has been known in Britain since ancient times. Its name is a reference to a mythological creature, the elf, whose arrows were thought to cause sudden pains to humans, also referred to as ‘stitches’. This plant was medicinally employed for its analgesic properties. Today it is only sought after for the beauty of its flowers. It should be planted in a relatively shaded place.

BugleAjuga reptans - Glesyny Coed

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July, August

A summer bloomer, this plant develops spiking blue flowers which create an exquisite visual effect against its rich, dark green foliage, which also shimmers. It spreads easily on its own and doesn’t require any maintenance.

Ox Eye DaisyLeucanthemum vulgare – Aspygan

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

Also known as moon daisies and found in Britain’s woods during the summer season, beautifully assorting with other wild flower species, this variety produces white corollas with bright yellow centres, which in terms of structure resemble an eye pupil and its surrounding variegated iris. This species also has a superstitious association in some countries, believed to provide protection against electrical discharge from the sky, and was planted by many around their homes for this purpose.

Musk MallowMalva moschata – Hocysen Fws

Origin: Britain

Flowering: July, August

This dainty summer blooming plant, which also has the benefit of attracting honey bees, produces an abundance of small pink flowers. It prefers a warm and dry climate, well-drained soils and plenty sunlight.

White Musk Mallow - Malva moschata alba

Origin: Britain

Flowering: July, August

The white variation of Malva moschata, it also thrives in full sun and drier patches of land, and is equally useful in attracting bees to an area. Its flowers stay fresh for the most part of the summer season.

BetonyStachys officinalis – Cribau San Ffraid

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July, August, September

An equally aesthetic and fragrant plant used for medicinal purposes since ancient times and still employed by homeopathic medicine today, it is reminiscent of mint, as it is part of the same family. It is even claimed by some to generate similar positive effects on human health to those green tea does, although that is debatable. In any case, it creates picturesque views when naturalised in any setting, with its gorgeous red corollas, bound to attract attention. It is mostly found in England and Wales.

Fox and CurbsPilosella aurantiaca

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

Optimal for naturalising in open spaces such as pastures, this plant was introduced from abroad hundreds of years ago and adapted very well. Its blooms are evocative of daisies and are coloured dark orange, which is an interesting and attractive colour tone for any wild flower. Blooming at the beginning of the summer season, it grows best in moist soils, although not exclusively.

Pasque FlowerPulsatilla vulgaris

Origin: Britain

Flowering: April, May

With feathery foliage resembling that of ferns, yet with a silvery tinge, this plant was named as such as it blooms every year around Easter time. It develops blooms with luxuriant purple corollas. As to its ideal growing conditions, it prefers dryer parches such as limestone and regions with a chalk substratum, therefore, even if growers cannot recreate its natural conditions to the last detail in their gardens, this species needs plenty sunlight and a very well drained patch of land.

Dames VioletHesperis matronalis

Origin: Britain

Flowering: May, June, July

A plant known since medieval times, the 1500s more precisely, when it was introduced from abroad and naturalised. It seems to be fond of the dim light overlaying its growing patch when the night sets in, which is when its blooms release a strong enchanting fragrance. Its petals are a pleasant violet and come in different tones. Another advantage this plant brings is that it develops well in poorly fertile soils.

White Dames Violet - Hesperis matronalis var albiflora

Origin: Britain

Flowering: May, June, July

This is the white variation of Hesperis matronalis, showing the same characteristics and behaviour and requiring the same condition. Basically, the only difference resides in the colour of the petals.

Field ScabiousKnautia arvensis - Clafrllys

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

Found in the wild on grassy meadows, this species produces beautiful mauve flowers, which in turn produce nectar, attracting a multitude of nectar loving insects such as butterflies. It bears this name not due to any repulsiveness of its own but due to its medicinal use in previous centuries, when its properties of ameliorating skin conditions were discovered and used.

Greater KnapweedCentaurea scabiosa – Pengaled Fawr

Origin: Britain

Flowering: July, August

Another meadow plant which attracts a myriad of insects, this charming species blooms in full summer season and naturalises excellently in grass. It grows fluffy purple blooms resembling those of the popular thistle. Aside from meadows it grown in woodlands, on verges and can also befound bordering country roads.

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea – Bysedd y Cwn

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

This lovely plant, with its nodding blooms which show spots of violet on their exterior, is an excellent addition to any garden. Physically, it is surrounded by nectar seeking insects – however, it is surrounded by legends and superstition as well. A long time ago, a myth existed of this plant being secretly given by fairies to foxes (hence the name) and possessing magical abilities, permitting foxes to enter hen houses unnoticed, grab whatever poultry they wanted and leave unhindered as well. This species spreads on its own and is periodic.

Asarabacca Asarum Europaeum – Canr Ebol y Gerrddi

Origin: Britain

Flowering: Evergreen

An enigmatic mat-forming evergreen plant, it brings an aura of mystery to any garden as it spreads freely and covers patches of land. It belongs to the ginger family, which is not native to Britain, although this particular species is classed as such and has been cultivated here for hundreds of years. Its most interesting reputed feature is that of being effective in therapies for alcohol-related problems.

Stinking IrisIris foetidissima – Iris Ddrewllyd

Origin: Britain

Flowering: June, July

With delicate lilac petals, this iris variety is actually native to Britain, and in spite of its name is a very enjoyable flower. Nonetheless, if its leaves are damaged they releases a very strong and bothersome smell. It blooms at the start of the summer season, and after its blooms fade, the crimson seeds remain and create a different but equally pleasant visual effect. Adaptability has been noticed as one of its qualities, as it seems to thrive in shady woodlands as well as in places where it gets more sunlight exposure.

Great Wood Rush – Luzula sylvatica – Coedfrwynen Fawr

Origin: Britain

This species grows peculiar, beautiful brown flowers, which is probably why it was named with a reference to wood. This plant can be found in many parts of the British Isles and is very fond of dryer solis, or at least well-drained.