Since we are having rain almost every day lately, now is the time to get a little bit done back in the woods in-between showers. Our little woodland is one of my favorite places to be.
This is a very peaceful time of the year here at the farm. Most things are dormant so the garden is quiet, except the noise from all the birds in the distance. It is the time of year I am drawn into the woods.
We have just an acre and a half of woods but it feels much larger because the adjoining properties are also wooded. Our little woodland was logged off about 100 years ago and then not touched until about seven years ago when I got the neighbor kid to help me make trails through it. It is kind of a perfect little microcosm of northwest native woodland plants. We have a stand of the native Red Alders (Alnus rubra) that are about 80 feet tall. There is also a grove of Vine Maples (Acer circinnatum), a few Big Leaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum), one Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) and a few Douglas Firs (Psuedotsuga menziesii).
It is mostly deciduous trees so in spring and summer there are a lot of native perennials but this time of year, since they are all dormant, the ground cover consists mainly of Sword Ferns (Polysticum munitum), Licorice Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza) and Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa). Sword Fern and Oregon Grape have always been one of my favorite native plant combinations, especially planted in mass like they are in the woods. They create a great textural contrast.
The other big plant groups in the woods are the mosses and lichens. Many of the trees just hang with them or the trunks are coated with them. The silver lichens make the branches shine with a silver color while the mosses give the trees and shrubs a softness that adds to the atmosphere on these grey winter days. The leaves are mostly broken down now but still have enough shine to the rotting mass to make the woodland floor appear red.
This limited plant palate set against the simple color palate of green, red and silver makes for a nice contrast while still being quite restful. I did place one very simple stone bench deep into the woods to create a place of solitude. It is usually just me and the birds. Sitting quietly and seeing a peacock wander by is just a bit magical.
A few days ago it was very foggy which also adds to the atmosphere in the woods. Grey and silver are naturals together. While spending just a little time in the woods the sun happened to break through just briefly. The rays of sun lit up the bands of fog which looked like flood lights shining on the mosses. Seeing the light and color appear so dramatically stopped me in my tracks and made me appreciate this simple beauty.