Monday, March 14, 2011

Microclimates and the melting snow

My dear friend, former college roommate, and amazing garden photographer Karen Bussolini and I are seen here at the book signing table at the UCONN Home Gardeners Conference last year. She writes with an artist's eye.
Enjoy her guest post below.

March 10, 2011

This winter’s deep snow protected leucothoes planted later than I probably should have, covered a multitude of things undone and, with drifts of 3 feet or more, allowed me to prune on snowshoes rather than hauling out a ladder. But I missed all the thoughtful time at the window spent gazing at gardens simplified and stripped bare. Winter usually helps me see how to tweak edges and connect everything more gracefully. The gardens are full of herbaceous color – plants I call my foul weather friends. But this year the only visible color was the top 2” of blue wrought-iron chairs sticking up out of the snow. All the ‘Golden Sword’ yuccas, hellebores, Helictotrichon sempervirens, ‘Berggarten’ sage, dianthus, lamb’s ears, heucheras and other perennials whose foliage usually persists long into winter have only just now made an appearance, but they’re looking really fresh.

Snow melted first in perfect circles around each trunk of my oak grove and along boulders and rock walls and got me thinking about microclimates. Snowdrops are blooming like crazy in those warm, protected places. I’ve made a note to plant more in the places where snow first melts, for who can get enough first flowers? But I’m also paying attention to where snow still remains. I’ll plant some there too, so that I’ll have a really long season of bloom. And more of my beloved silver plants will go where it’s high and dry and sunny.

When the garden is bursting with plants, it’s hard to see beds any way other than how they already are. But after 22 winters of window-gazing at this land, I noticed something new this year. Heavy rains that last week flooded the Housatonic River and lifted icebergs onto Route 7, left quite a bit of water in my yard. A patch of sitting water next to a neatly edged bed full of Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’ (yellow all winter) and other moisture-loving plants suggested that I incorporate that patch into the bed. Contours of the land, defined by water, are just now clearly revealed in a way they never are when things dry out. An interesting pattern has emerged, with drier light-colored leaves on higher ground, darker leaves lower down where it is wet, pools of water on low ground and the end of a wood-chip path has washed out onto the lawn. These intricate patterns are far more interesting than the long simple curved line I drew. They show me how to integrate the garden beds and lawn into my wild natural landscape, and give me great clues about what to plant where. When it stops raining I’ll lay down newspapers and old cardboard to kill the grass and mark these patterns before they disappear. But first I’ll take a photo from inside to remind me when all is lush and green, where the water is.

Karen Bussolini is a professional garden photographer, author, eco-friendly garden coach, and speaker. She resides in South Kent, CT. Here books are available for sale at Natureworks.

No comments:

Post a Comment