Living With Limitations

Locus log with Hepatica foliage

Nature’s Containers

I have long been fascinated by nature created containers. While hiking rocky ledges I often find pockets of gritty soil and leaf mold among stones. I find moss covered stones with miniature plants rooted and contained to that environment. Then I find my most favored, the rotting log. Often small trees, shrubs and perennials will have seeded hollows in the log. All around the log will be plants taking advantage of the enriched soil.

Hollow Log

Hepatica nobilis Blue Blooms

Simulating those natural containers and the micro-environment they provide for sometimes “difficult” plants is a design element in my garden I continually attempt to emulate. Some year’s back I was gifted a small mostly hollow log of black locust. The wood of this species of tree is almost impervious to rot and being used as a container will last the life of my garden. Thus far I have been successful in establishing moss both inside and out of the log, a Hepatica and a walking fern, but have not been truly happy with its location. Until now. I have finally located the perfect place for the log and a new design where it can best be viewed up close.

Raised Bed

I have a long narrow raised bed forming one side of a path running parallel to the hillside creating a step-down of the hillside and holding back soil from the path. The section of the bed I intend to use is 3 foot wide by eight feet long. The log six feet in length. The design is taking form in my mind and I have begun to make notes for the coming spring.

The plan is to move the log from its present location to the raised bed without disturbing the plants already established. I will remove the stone edging to the raised bed and replace it with the log so it is first and foremost in view. I will backfill between the back of the log and the rear of the bed with a mix of native soil, pine bark mini chips and peat for well-drained, lose acidic soil. With the soil mix raising to about one-half the height of the log to keep it moist and cool.

Dwarf  Woodland Perennials

I have a hepatica that crossed with others in the garden and seed was sown close to the parent plant. I have watched it for a few years and this was the perfect time to dig and divide into what I thought was the mother plant and what was seedlings. I ended up with seven plants of varying sizes and color of bloom as well. My intention is to match the hepatic established in the log with more plants outside the log.


Mosses, Walking Fern growing in log

I have saved three miniature ferns to add to the overall design and location will be determined by stones capping the remainder of the bed edging. Hopefully at least one or two will end up in front of a bend in the log. I am being a bit vague for I have found that reality and drawings seldom make great dance partners.


For trailing groundcovers I am looking forward to establishing my creeping wintergreen. The Winter Splash cultivar with its green, white, pink and bronze leaves will get a space at one end of the log with the Berry Cascade will get the other end. If there is enough room another wintergreen will be used where it best fits.

If a gardener was limited to a small shaded space and restricted by health issues this would not be a bad design for low maintenance 12-month display of color and texture. Nature at the finger tips.

Mark Your Calendar. Will see you February 8th and 9th in Madison Wisconsin.