The Woodland Garden

redbud in woodland garden

The Idea Sprouts

In August 2010, a two-acre weedy section of forest was selected as the future Woodland Garden. The hard-working staff at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve had to remove the non-native plants and prepare the landscape. Then, along with volunteers, including Oldham County Master Gardeners and Jefferson County Master Gardeners, cardboard sheets were layered and covered with wood chips. Thanks to Eagle Scouts, paths were designed, benches were placed, and arched bridges were built.

It has taken several years of fine-tuning the “natural” spring, stream, waterfall, pond and peat bog, but they are the centerpieces of this beautiful garden.

The Garden Takes Shape

A Woodland Garden is a layered garden. Rising from decaying leaves and rich soil are colorful wildflowers, ferns and shrubs. Above is the delicate understory tree layer that gives way to the tallest, multi-branched canopy that filters sunlight and shades the forest beneath. The Woodland Garden at the Nature Preserve is a work in progress. Just as a painter may add new layers of paint and new features on a canvas, so too, are we adding new plants and visitor-friendly features.

Highlighted as part of the Kentucky Garden Trail. This inviting and picturesque garden was designed to emphasize the diversity and beauty of Kentucky’s wildflowers and ferns not often seen in their natural habitats. The Woodland Garden features a shaded section and a sunnier section, with more than 400 wildflowers, ferns, shrubs, and trees, emphasizing native plants that grow well in our region.

The shaded garden section’s peak bloom occurs between March-May, during which a visitor may see colonies of Virginia Bluebells, Dwarf Larkspurs, Foamflowers, many species of Trillium, Anemones, Bleeding Hearts, Lenten Roses, a spectacular variety of Ferns, and many more.

The sunnier garden section (on the north side of the creek) is a Certified Monarch Waystation, featuring native Milkweed species as host plants, along with nectar plants, such as a wide variety of Coneflowers, cold-hardy Hibiscus, Ironweed, Joe Pye Weed, and plenty more. The peak bloom time is between July-September.

Adding to the peaceful setting of the Woodland Garden is a meandering creek, which divides the shade garden from the sunnier side. Visitors may cross two arched bridges, sit by a pond, and a peat bog. Many visitors spend hours relaxing on a nearby bench or swing, listening to birds and the gentle water sounds.

The Plantings

Mimicking a natural woodland, the Woodland Garden Team has planted over 5,000 plants with more to come.

New plantings include:

200 species of wildflowers

110 species of ferns

54 species of shrubs and trees

Groupings of plants have been identified with labels that list the scientific and common names. This helps visitors readily identify plants that may be used in home garden settings.

Favorite Plants


(Sanguinaria canadensis) is an early spring wildflower with beautiful white flowers.

Wild Ginger

(Asarum canadense) serves as a luscious ground cover once established.

“Lady in Red” Lady Fern

(Athryium filix-femina) offers color and interest through three seasons.

Virginia Bluebells

(Mertensia virginica) forms colorful and pleasing colonies and brings a pop of blue and pink to the spring landscape.

Christmas Fern

(Polystichum acrosti-choides) is one of the best native evergreen ferns for the garden.

Weddings & Special Events

At all times of day and in all seasons, the peace and beauty of the Woodland Garden is captivating. It makes people stop in their tracks to listen to the babbling brook, look at the delicate blossoms and textures of sunlight and leaves, even listen to the tapping of a woodpecker. From its inception, the garden attracted special events, especially as a place to share a ceremony.

Click here to learn more about weddings in the Woodland Garden.

Be a Garden Volunteer

We adore our garden volunteers! If you’d like to work with good people, learn about plants, and be part of a fun team, please click here or call (502) 228-4362 E-mail

Education and Garden Tours

The Woodland Garden is used as part of Creasey Mahan’s educational programs. School field trips learn the benefits of native plants and how Native Americans used plants for ceremonial, medicinal, and every day uses.

Garden enthusiasts and clubs from all over the region have enjoyed guided tours of the garden. The plant labels help novice and advanced gardeners identify plants they may want to introduce in their home gardens.

Guided tours are available upon request. Please email the office to request a date.