Winter Gardens

I started writing a blog post, got a bit bored and checked out twitter instead. I wish, and you may also wish, I hadn’t. The social media we make for ourselves usually coincides with our work, our aspirations, people who make us laugh or make us think. So it should come as no surprise my twitter timeline is jam packed with horticulturalists and gardeners.

Over the last few weeks it’s been a visual assault, starting with the apparent need to make orange great again, closely followed by multiple pictures of purple plants. Then red plants and flowers got in on the action with a hashtag. Today apparently had to be cheered up because multiple photographs of a Summer Garden will stop us feeling Blue.

Enough now, please!

Gardening is seasonal, life is seasonal, so shouldn’t we take the now of life and celebrate it a bit more. The winter garden has subtlety and beauty that is all it’s own, you may have to look a little harder and plan a little smarter to benefit from it, but it’s there. Low winter light is a bit of a pain, in that it shows every mucky watermark on your windows, but it also picks out russets, golds, greens and silvers perfectly.

As a designer winter is a perfect time for planning and implementing a new garden. Yes we start to think about spring bulbs in September and right now in the depths of winter we are all about planning for summer bulbs. But it’s also the season for bare root hedging and perennials, soups, stews, root vegetables, winter woolies, waterproofs, open vistas between deciduous trees, guilt free biscuits hidden beneath layers (refer back to winter woolies) blue skies, frosts, rest and taking stock. Don’t wish away the year, revel in its uniqueness and look harder for its beauty if at first you can’t see it. For those that seek, the rewards are out there.

Shy Oaks

Example of Crown Shyness in Oaks
Crown Shyness

Well lovelies, it’s been rather some time since we last got together on the blog, how the devil are you all?

Like a good swathe of the country we have been enjoying a splendid snowfall. I say enjoying, I know it makes travel, work and school difficult, but from an aesthetic point of view it has brightened a dark and gloomy run up to Solstice. I still have a child like delight when it comes to snow and this year, unlike others, it came on a Sunday which was most considerate. No panic about the commute or how to get the children to, or from school, and, as I can work from home (plus said children are now at Uni) even a snowy Monday could be enjoyed rather than endured.

Originally I had thought this post would be wordless in a Wednesday kind of way, however when I was looking through the numerous pictures I’d taken over the last few days this one perhaps deserved a little explanation.

On the one hand, it’s just a group of oak trees, lightly dusted with snow against an almost azure blue sky, clinging precariously to the ridge of a hill. Nothing much needed by way of an explanation there, on the other, it’s an example of Crown Shyness*. Not the finest example you’ll ever see (to actually get directly beneath them I would have had to be a mountain goat with crampons) but an example none the less.

When we talk about Crown Shyness, it has absolutely nothing to do with a suited and booted actresses meeting her future in laws for the first time, but, a phenomenon occurring when tree crowns avoid touching or overlapping their neighbours.

Nobody seems to know why it happens, although there have been various theories in the last 100 years, from self pruning where branches rub together, the effects of differing light levels within the canopy and evolved self preservation to prevent the spread of parasites and diseases travelling from crown to crown. The only things I concluded from looking at this particular group of Oaks is that they seemed to be the same age, rather beautiful and probably just do what they do with no regard to the inquiring minds of humans.

Oaks in the snow Ankerdine
Gratuitous Oak in the snow picture

*also described as Canopy Disengagement, Canopy Shyness, or Intercrown Spacing.

Spot the Epiphyte

Vergette Garden Design Coastal Oak Tree
Coastal Oak furnished with Ferns

It is a universal truth that tree surgeons never look at what they’re walking on, this can be nightmarish for the gardener whose main focus tends to be on that ground and all the precious plants they’ve added. Sometimes though it would be as well for a gardener to emulate the tree folk and look up into the canopy, for who knows what delights may be hidden amongst the boughs.