Rochelle Greayer, whose garden blog, Studio G, I read every day, was kind enough to mention my blog, and my post on butterburs a few days ago. Her blog is so wide ranging-I can’t think of any topic relating to gardens, gardening and landscape that she is not interested in, and game for. I like this kind of open minded point of view. Anyway, here’s the latest stage of the butterbur flower fright show, Rochelle; thank heavens the leaves are finally coming on. I am so pleased there will be butterburs in your future.
Earth, air, fire and water; the mythology is long and varied. My simple version: the sculpture, which is the earth, makes for life. No less important is air-every living thing breathes.
Air can be wind storms, or breezes. Air can be still and palpable; one remarkable things about fog is how still the air is. Air conditions influence the performance of a landscape as much as the earth. Frost, air laden with freezing water, sinks into low spots, and damages or kills plants. Air moving over water, off a lake, is intense air-whether we’re talking hot, cold, or strong. Hot winds dry out plants; cold winds make for winter burn. Wind is a force to be reckoned with-do you need a windbreak first off-so you can garden in peace?
We had big winds and 80 degrees, today-in April, for pete’s sake. We watered all day. The lettuces in my spring pots had that windblown look-it was not a good look. A straight line wind ripped the roof off my building a few years ago- in seconds. Wind makes very large buildings sway. Windy weather affects everything in a landscape-plan on it.
I cannot figure out how to take a picture of wind-I could only photograph the debris it picks up, the petals it scatters, the rain it drives sidesways. The unseen air can make for airy-loose and beautiful. Good air circulation is an enemy of mildew, and a friend to root development in all plants. Airy is the texture of some trees, where you might want a view through to a far landscape element. A breeze makes for that motion that makes a meadow so beautiful. Heavy foggy moody days soften the view and invite retrospection; a sharp crisp fall day is invigorating. Air at great speeds can make for hell on earth. I think this is a good description of nature- what you are least expecting, happening on a regular basis. Taking nature into account when you design, and when you plant, will help you be successful. I am interested in people being successful with their landscapes; who doesn’t enjoy what they apparently are good at? Some success makes the inevitable failures easier to bear. Sensational landscape design begins with an understanding and respect for the elements. A plant you really like, that requires protection from winter winds, will prosper from the companionship of a windbreak. Farmers plant windbreaks, maybe you need beautiful enclosure.
If I had to, I could live on artichokes, good bread and butter (with enough butter for the artichokes), and sandwiches from ham, asparagus, and hard boiled eggs. Peanut butter would be good, too-and liverwurst. In matters of living, I like the slightly mildewed taste of water from the hose, an occasional whopper and fries from a certain east side location that serves them fresh, hot, and with a hello, and how are you, my garden, and a clean house after a long dirty day-not too fancy.
But I can be very particular about the plants I love. My hellebores are holding court right now-HOW I love them. I am especially wild for the big species, helleborus argutifolius. Then helleborus corsicus. Then Helleborus lividus-you may get from this that I have a big love for green flowers. Then the white and green versions of Helleborus orientalis-I could go on. Being a zone 5-6, some hellebores are dicey; I make the time to baby them. On my small city lot and one half, I give space to the striking argutifolius, paired with beech ferns. What a happy combination-under my Princeton Gold maples. Every day, at the end of the day, I look at this combination over a cocktail, and celebrate my good life. My good life is my good garden-I am sure you know this about me by now.
Its important to figure out what you really love, and what you can do without. This is expressing your voice. Its also the engine that powers your design. Add hellebores to your dictionary if they enchant you-if they don’t, what would go in your dictionary?
Its the season for hellebores-give a look see.
Jane and Ken Cruickshank have been enthusiastic supporters of my store Detroit Garden Works, since it opened 13 years ago. I went out to her house last week to consult with her about her entry porch-more on the outcome of that later. But when I drove up to the house, I realized that I had designed and installed the landscape for a previous owner; I later determined that the gorgeous Magnolia Soulangiana had been planted some 22 years ago. Jane tells me this makes us family. I am glad there is existing proof of my intent to plant magnolias whenever I can; it is incredibly beautiful right now. But really the best part is that making landscapes has made for a kind of community-of which I am a member; gardens are good for people.