Transforming a soggy site into a native woodland garden

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When Lindsey Cline and Corey Schrader bought their 9-acre property in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, it would be an understatement to say there was still a lot of work to be done. The cabin was taken apart, and the backyard was overrun by invasive species such as Japanese steelgrass.Microstegium viminum). But the couple wasted no time in digging to clean up the culprits, using native plants like Jack in the Pulpit (Aresema triphyllumzones 4–9) and jewelweed (Impatiens capensis, annually) to emerge. While these plants flourished, Lindsey’s first planting efforts failed. Azaleas, hydrangeas, and hostas were no match for the soggy soil or the large herds of deer that were native to the area.

The garden at a glance

Size: 9 acres total, 1 acre landscaped. Location: Amherst, Virginia zone: 7

Conditions: partial to full shade; Wet to moist soil

Garden Age: About 10 years

But early setbacks weren’t enough to deter Lindsey. As she explains, “I wanted gardens that were amazing but also suitable for log cabin and forest settings.” And she was able to draw inspiration from Piet Oudolf, Tom Stuart-Smith, Roy Diblik, Austin Eischeid, and Adam Woodruff, all natural design experts. “Whether you call their style matrix planting, sustainable landscaping, or something else entirely,” says Lindsey, “I wanted features—flowing beds, layered flows, and brilliant colors and Combinations of Structures.” Once she knew the style she wanted, the challenge became translating those designs to the couple’s wooded, hillside property.

Lindsey Kline and Corey Schrader

“Eventually I found species that thrive in our conditions, which I planted in the connecting stream,” she says. “I placed bold textures next to subtle colors and let the contrast provide focal points in the shadowy areas.” Seal of Solomon (Polygonatum spp and cvs., zones 3–9), Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadensezones 2–8), a variety of sedges (Carex spp and cvs., zones 3–9), and woodland phlox (Phlox diurecata, zones 3–8) are some spring starlings. They are followed by summer mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticumzones 4-8), a variety of ferns, bee balm (Monarda spp and cvs., zones 4–9), and yarrow (Achillea Millifolium, zones 4-8). Lindsay believes fall can be the real peak of the garden, with lots of woodland sunflowers (Helianthus divaricatuszones 3–8) and blue mist flower (Conoclinium coelestinumzones 5–10), and with a score of esters (Eurybia divaricata And Symphyotrichum novae-angliaezones 4-8) on the display.

Aerial photo of the cabin and gardens
Photo: Mullins Media Co., courtesy of Lindsey Cline

A small seating area behind the cabin

Small vignettes were created so the couple could sit and enjoy the spaces they had created. A grape arbor, hammock, pavilion, and two fire pits were cozy additions that were welcome but didn’t overpower the tiny house or landscape. In fact, his work on the property was so rewarding that it inspired him to start a small naturist ranch. A landscape design company Now in Virginia, Cory’s skills as a stonemason and Lindsay’s eye for natural garden design help pay the bills. And what about the project that started it all? Lindsay says the cabin and its gardens have become a favorite place to gather with friends: “We say it invites you to kick off your shoes and sip your favorite whiskey!”

A garden of various green plants
Layered textures lead to perfection. Bold foliage paired with delicate foliage creates undeniable interest, even in the shadiest spots of this woodland garden. There aren’t any flowers in sight, but the picture is still charming.

-Kaitlin Hayes is the Digital Content Manager. Bagicha Bazaar.

Photos, except where noted: Amber Mae Photography, courtesy of Lindsey Cline

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