Oh, December. Walking around the Garden with my camera, I see brown, and brown. The light at this time of day, late afternoon, is just lovely, but not much is inspiring me to take pictures…
The Stewartia bark stands out, with it’s peeling layers.
The stone walls with moss.
A bit of color here on the Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’. I don’t particularly like yellow variegation –looks sickly!– but it definitely catches the eye in this brown landscape.
And a bit here too with the berries on Nemopanthus mucronatus (soon to be Ilex mucronatus).
When it snows, I’ll get the camera out. Fresh snow makes me think black and white, shadows, texture. Bright sun and sky, bright snow, dark trees. The contrast of evergreens and red berries, the outlines highlighted by frost. I’m not really ready for it, still savoring the wonderful Thanksgiving week I had. Maybe by Solstice I’ll be dreaming of a white Christmas, camera in hand. What catches your eye at this time of year?
Today I am daydreaming about an early spring garden. It would be against the south-facing stone wall, for winter protection and early warmth. The sun would embrace it from dawn to dusk. All the earliest bulbs and flowers would be growing there, encouraged to rise and bloom for springtime cheer.
Being so close to the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay, springtime here is cold. The water temperature warms slowly, leaving a chill in the air as our March and April breezes pass over the water. (Of course, the flip side to that is a long warm autumn, September days at the beach with just us year-round residents, and tomatoes holding on til October…) After last year’s “non-winter” and early spring, this year Old Man Winter seems to be hanging around for an extra long stay.
Back to my early spring garden: It would be full of crocuses and snowdrops, witch hazels and hellebores, tiny dwarf irises, winter aconite, and the earliest daffodils. All these beautiful flowers are here at the Botanical Gardens, but not all together in my imaginary garden. They are scattered about, each creating a tiny spot of color in a landscape just beginning to awaken from winter. Walk through the garden and welcome them, and welcome spring.
Summer help! What would I do without them? I guess I would try to do the work of 5 people…but it sure is nice to have strong young men around! In exchange for all that heavy lifting, digging, lots of weeding, and everything else, I’m trying to make their summer job a great hands-on experience.
We have edged beds, weeded, and top dressed with our compost. We’ve deadheaded and staked. Earlier this week we renovated an area between the water garden and the main garden which had been trampled into a path. “The Boys” moved plants and shrubs. They found large rocks from a secret stash and planted those too, creating a garden with no evidence that it had been walked on all semester. It looks great!
The Conservatory and greenhouses have been cleaned and organized, making room for lots of new plants. The Gardens have been touched up for two weddings so far, with another this weekend and more to come. Hedges trimmed, low branches pruned, more rocks moved. In other words, all the things a crew can do that an individual can’t do alone. I am thrilled to have the help to make the Gardens look their very best. It’s only June, but I hope by the end of the summer that Mike, Kyle, Chase, Giles, and Ryan will say it was worth it!
By now the colors are definitely more muted in the garden. Some remains — a few trees hanging on to their yellow leaves, the calendulas STILL blooming. Today what really began to stand out as I prowled the garden with the camera, was texture and shape. (duh). I am so entranced with– intoxicated by– color through spring, summer, and fall, that I forget to look with a more discerning eye for the shapes of things. The unbelievable variety in the shapes and textures of the leaves that are yet green, and those that are not. The bark — rough, smooth, furrowed, flaking,peeling, cracking, in many subtle shades of browns and grays. The difference in the way the top and undersides of the same leaf reflect the light. The difference in form of the trees. Some tall and narrow, some spreading; twiggy or sparse, some with buds for next year standing out against the sky, and some with buds hidden.
Then standing back: the landscape itself. The lack of color allows me to see the big picture. One of my favorite things about the Botanical Gardens is the stone walls. These were built in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration during the Depression. They are beautiful and well made. The contrast of the stones with the plants is wonderful and the walls have great texture on their own. They create the “room” of the main garden where the stage is. A little bit of clearing this past year has made some sections more visible. My early spring photos always include the walls because the delicate new foliage and flowers against the rough and enduring stonework is an irresistible image. Now, in this more subtle season, the walls add texture, shape, and a sense of permanence to the landscape.