Monday, June 30, 2014

Planning a Garden

Growing Blueberries in Alkaline Soil is
Out of Harmony with the Environment.

Sandra Goranson, Prince Edward County

John Brookes, who is considered to be one of the most influential garden designers of our times, stated that “ The preservation of our landscapes, of which your garden is part, is vital – and to do this we have to find the essence of our own particular place and work with it.“ The simple version is to work with, rather than challenge, the environment when creating your garden. Look beyond your property to the larger surroundings be they urban or rural, and look at contributing to the whole as well as your own property when designing or redesigning gardens. This does not restrict creativity; rather it asks that creativity will focus on preserving the essence of the place rather than fighting with it.

A simple example of ignoring this would be to grow rhododendrons or blueberries in much of Southern Ontario where the underlying base is limestone. Limestone provides an alkaline soil while rhododendrons or blueberries grow most successfully in an acidic soil. The constant struggle to vary the pH level so that this is not an issue significantly increases maintenance requirements and is out of harmony with the environment.

Environment includes our urban or rural neighbourhood as a part of garden planning. The best plans for an urban front garden will not work if they fail to consider nearby trees and the shade and the droppings of seeds and leaves. Local traffic, including the habits of dogs and children, is also part of this process. Planning works better than signs or arguments after the fact.

Being a good neighbour outside of the city may have different caveats regarding the environment. Proximity to wetlands, for example, would require caution around introducing any invasive plant forms. Gardeners might want to ensure that neighbouring rabbits have access to their preferred weeds. This is easier than fencing and more effective than mothballs. Enhancing and working with the environment takes many forms.

John Brookes called gardens an “ephemeral art form”. Last winter’s cold weather and ice storms changed many gardens. This was hard in that treasured trees and shrubs were badly damaged and some of these, as well as perennials, did not revive in the spring. On the positive side, it also gave many of us unique opportunities to rethink what we were doing in our gardens. Climate modifications are always part of the process.

 Watching the natural world is currently in vogue as a way of increasing your sense of well being, so enjoy the newly recognized benefits of watching your garden evolve in its appropriate setting.

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