Choosing the site: water, old roots, pathways, and more
Let nature be your guide. Don't try to create a whole new environment; again, go with what you have. Maybe there is a shaded spot at the back of your lawn. Maybe you have a rich woodland spot where there are already some wildflowers. All wooded areas have their prime spots, often a low spot, or beside a brook, or a slight hillside.
Choose a spot where your wildflowers will show off well, and you and your friends and family can enjoy them. And most important, if you don't have water in the woods (a pond or brook), be sure you can get your garden hose or sprinklers to the area for watering.
Sources of Native Plants:
Today, we're fortunate to have many very dedicated nurseries that are propagating our native woodland wildflowers It's well-known that over the years, many unscrupulous people have gathered many of these precious plants from the wild, sometimes devastating their habitats. So as you go about creating your woodland garden, be sure you acquire the plants you need from reputable nurseries.
The question to ask is whether the plants are "nursery propagated". You'll find several well-known, fine native plant nurseries on the internet. And if you have any questions, just ask your state's Native Plant Society. The societies in North Carolina and Massachusetts (The New England Wildflower Society) list "certified" nurseries and will be happy to help you.
You'll want to create or improve pathways through the garden, and maybe install a bench in a favorite spot. Maybe your project includes putting a pathway from the lawn into the trees to your garden spot. In any case, when you create pathways, top them with clean gravel, and if the soil is muddy, build it up so the path stays dry. If possible, make all pathways wide enough for two people to walk side by side.
If you have water, or at least a spot that is always very moist in spring, you're in luck. This wet area can be a centerpiece spot for your woodland garden. Of course, if you have a brook or pond, that suggests certain flowers you'll really enjoy. And you may want to create a pond in a low spot.
Most all woods have places that are wet or even flood in spring. If the water drains away by June or so, this may be a prime spot for many of your wildflower plants. Trillium, for example, love to grow on hillocks in very wet spaces. Water may be all around during spring, but the raised spots there, out of the actual water, make great sites for trilliums.Cardinal flower and Irises like Blue Flag, conversely, will be very happy right in the wet spots. They'll grow right in shallow brooks, and love other spots that stay muddy all summer.
Once you've chosen the site, there will probably be some plants there you'll want to remove—unimportant young tree saplings, for example. This brings us to the usually solid mat of old roots that are present in most woodland. When you begin your garden, get out your pick and shovel, and be sure to remove enough unwanted root mass to give your incoming plants plenty of good free soil in which to grow. This can be a lot of work, but it's all important…young, new plants cannot compete with a mass of old roots that have been there for years.