mini woodland

Creating a Mini Woodland

If you can’t get into the healing environment of a real forest to do some ’forest bathing’ you can go for plan B, which is to create your own mini woodland area.

In many cultures across the world trees are often planted to commemorate births or marriages, or given as housewarming gifts. But sometimes trees are also planted in loving memory of someone lost. When I was asked by a friend to recommend a tree for a mini-forest of nineteen small trees to plant in memory of her son’s life, I delved into the treasure chest of rewarding trees that we can plant in ordinary suburban gardens to create a cool woodland – even in small gardens.

I also read that our lunar gardening expert, Ilona Thorndike, reckons that the best tree planting days of the year will be the last fertile days at the end of June when it is full moon. So let’s make the most of this great opportunity and all plant some small trees to create a perfect mini-forest. The trees under discussion are all indigenous, hailing from fairly widespread habitats, and all can be planted close to paving or other structures as none of them have aggressive root systems.

But let’s look at a few mini-forest points before we plant:

Tree Sizes for your Mini Woodland

The dimensions of some of the trees highlighted might scare you, which is why they’re not mentioned here. Outside of their natural habitat they will seldom grow as tall and wide as their official maximum sizes. Be assured that most will seldom grow higher that about 5 – 7m in a garden (unless your garden is called Eden!).


Many small trees are actually large shrubs that will grow into a wild bush if not tamed. It is vitally important to train most of them into the shape of a tree with a single main stem right from the start. This means that you will have to keep pruning off all lower branches until you are happy with the height and character of the main stem. Only then can they be allowed to grow a bulkier crown and shade canopy.


How to space the trees for a mini forest look is a difficult question. The best thing is to close your eyes and to visualise the effect you would like to achieve.

The Mini Woodland Forest floor

Mini forests can be planted in an existing lawn, which will give them a very serene ‘green’ effect. If the shade becomes too dense, causing bald spots in the lawn, simply overseed it with a lawn type that grows well in shade. If you plan to plant your mini forest where nothing else is growing at the moment, you have a wide scope of options to use as the forest floor. You can spread gravel around the trees and add a few attractive rocks between them, or you can cover the whole area with groundcovers and ornamental grasses that love to grow in shade. If you choose deciduous trees you can plant dainty spring-flowering bulbs that will naturalise over the years, like bluebells, daffodils and snowflakes. A simple option can also be to just cover the area with a thick mulch of bark nuggets, peach pips or old autumn leaves.

Small trees can also be used as screens and hedges, read about it here.

The Gardener