Ann Munson’s woodland garden invites mystery and play

August 05, 2022

A woodland garden doesn’t look like a pony with a bright flower color. Their beauty lies in the delicate, shade-loving foliage plants, the light shining through the leaves, the cool shaded paths, which slowly reveal hidden art and hidden secrets. This is Anne Munson’s garden, which I toured at the Madison Fling in late June.

A rustic wooden arbor with purple clematis invites you in and announces its garden name: Moor Garden.

The main garden behind the house spans a deep, 3/4-acre suburban lot. For 43 years Anne has been expanding her gardens and planting trees and shrubs — over 250 of them! Today most of the plants in the garden wind under his collection. Wood-chip paths meander around two ponds and a connecting stream, past mysterious found-object art, and lead to various secret spots deep in the garden, including a firepit patio in an open glade, a hammock under the pines, a mural-painted playhouse. , and a rustic tepee.

Ann says, “My gardens allow me to participate in the ongoing cycle of life — to find beauty, health and creativity. I want the garden to have mystery, excitement, interaction and health. I like to make color, design, natural critters, and the flow of the seasons real. I want to look out my window at the natural world, and walk out my door to bathe in the forest.”

A poetic manifesto for a garden!

The deeper I wandered into the garden, the more it impressed me. I soon understood why. It brought back memories of a wooded garden where I played as a child, hidden paths and sheltered shelters under the trees.

Anne’s garden evokes a childlike sense of discovery when you come across her artistic vignettes, such as a metal bird in a cage…

…or a masked, ghostly figure that seems to float above the page…

…or a curious relic from farm country that marks a bend in the path.

Ann clearly enjoys recycling castoff machinery into artistic displays in the trees.


A metal dino rampages through the understory.

In a clearing, a relaxed patio offers a mix of seating around a firepit.

And at the back of the garden, a secret hideout has emerged.

A blanket-bright hammock for lounging…

…and a two-story playhouse for adventuring. Is that Godzilla coming out of the ocean waves?

Another mural adorns the front of the gymnasium. I think the structure is a garden shed with mirrored art.

Reflective surfaces bring depth and light to shadowy spaces.

A place to grow some things for the grandchildren, perhaps?

Just up the path, a rustic tepee is half-swallowed by vines.

An inviting forest hideaway for little ones

Peeking inside

A fiery begonia appears to be growing out of a bird’s nest on a tree.

The trunk and long branches make useful materials for woodland arbors.

A dead tree seems to dance near a lonely bench.

Stained-glass dragonfly on a Gothic wire trellis

An inviting, lighted path through the garden

A wider view

Anne’s plant collection includes some blue-green conifers that I love, such as ‘Horstmann’s Silverlock’ Korean fir.

Look at those frozen, curled needles.

A vertical view shows Horstmann’s Silberlock with a taller, and oppositely drooping, cone — a weeping Nootka cypress.

It’s fantastic! I bet these conifers make the garden beautiful even during snowy winters.

A pale lilac clematis

An open space near the house offers space for sun-loving plants.

Irises were blooming.

As many other beauties were in the fir-fringed meadow.

Next: Lilies, clematis and alliums glow amid raindrops in Cindy Fillingame’s garden. For a look back at Jane and Duane Miller’s artistic, colorful and semi-portable garden, click here.

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All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Excavation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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