Tuesday, November 15

Do it yourself mulching

The branches of our large magnolia tree spread across an area that we call our spring or woodland garden. At the moment, after being clothed in golden yellow leaves that looked lovely on the few occasions that we actually had some sunshine, the magnolia is almost bare - the leaves that have been shed are creating a blanket on what we could call the woodland floor. Well we could call it that if it was much, much bigger - as it stands we can’t even call it the copse floor! The term woodland garden more describes the idea of the planting rather than anything else. The idea being to grow plants that are happy in the summer shade and make the most of the early spring sunlight before the magnolia is fully in leaf!
The magnolia flowers before the leaves form but they don’t cast as much shade - the flower buds are already forming and are protected over winter by furry looking sepals.
In a ‘real’ woodland the leaves that fall from the trees provide a natural mulch that enriches the soil and so we leaves the magnolia leaves where they fall to achieve something like the same effect.
The leaves provide a great foraging ground for birds in winter and also provide shelter for any hedgehogs that have set up winter camp. Birds such as dunnocks, blackbirds and robins love sifting through the leaves for something tasty.

We do sometimes do a little bit of strategic tidying when the leaves are obviously interfering with plant growth or fall on top of small shrubs and also we sweep the leaves from the pathway alongside the house. All these leaves are put back under the shrubs where they can decompose over winter.
The 'woodland' area is planted up with lots of hellebores. These should flower in early spring around the time of Lent, which is why they are sometimes called Lenten roses, but at least one plant has other ideas and is flowering now!
I wonder if anyone can come up with a name for a teeny weeny woodland patch - maybe we should call it a woodette or a copsette?


  1. Leaving the leaves in situ certainly beats sweeping them all up, a thankless task really as new ones replace the old just as soon as you've swept. I'm sure the hedgehogs appreciate somewhere to snuffle about.

  2. Most of my back garden is shingled, so I remove the leaves from there. I tend to gather the leaves in and leave them to decompose in a plastic compost bin, and then distribute the "leaf-mould" as a mulch the following year - or sometimes two years later, because some leaves take ages to break down.
    Re very small woods: I like the old word "spinney"...which means a very small copse.

  3. Just came from Rainy Day Gardner. You have a great site. Will be back for sure. : )

  4. Hi Sue, I do the same with the magnolia border, and with the beds under the birches, seems to work really well. Maybe you have a spinnette?!

  5. The hedgehogs do snuffle about in there in spring, Jo

    I think I'd need a word for very small spinney Mark.

    You are most welcome 3onG thanks for the visit

    I like that Janet a spinnette it will be.

  6. I too have resisted the urge to clear the borders of leaves as I would normally do, in order to kick start my natural gardening project. I have been raking them off the lawn though for leaf mould for next year. It will be interesting to see just how the ones that have been left rot down by next spring. Exciting stuff. You could call it a sylvan grove. How's that for poetic.

  7. That's a lot of work to sweep the area!
    For sure hedgehogs and bird appreciate your work!

  8. How exciting that the Mag's show the promise of spring even before winter sets in!
    Spinette is a great word! How do you find the snails with using leaves as mulch?

  9. Elaine - Sylvan grove sounds like somewhere badgers, fawns, and all sorts of birds frolic. A bit Snow white and the seven dwarves.

    Most of the leaves fall where we leave them Malar - and the paths don't take long to clear - we did that yesterday

    We haven't found snails a problem in this area, Phoebe but maybe the plants there aren't the sort they like to nibble.

  10. We have been doing a little mulching ourselves...though we had to collect the leaves and then move them to where we needed them...but it all stands good in the end!!

  11. Doesn't really matter how they get there does it Tanya? We just are saved some work!


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