Zonal Denial


Change is in the Wind

I am currently working on several design projects. Ultimately I will be producing a planting schedule and plan for my clients. The weather patterns over the past few years indicate  a change,  and at times have  not been conducive for planting or even remotely reminiscent of accepted biogeoclamatic zones.  Coupled with the economic factor, clients tend to look for reduced risk to their investment.  The traditional “tried and true” palate of plant material is in vogue.

The more I travel and see the classical designs with simple patletes, repetition of material and clean configuarations, the more I relate to tradition, a desire for nostalgia and sense of romontacism.  The use of a contemporary adatation of classical design suites the economic, value and climtic influences today.

I enjoy visiting nurseries and looking at the stock as I make selections for projects and piece together a planting palette. When we have weather as we recently experienced over the past several years, I find it hard to be thinking of Phormiums or Pittosporums. I have used many plants that are rated as zone 8a or 8b successfully in the past. We keep hearing of global warming and rising mean annual temperatures. Annual temperatures are rising, but so is the frequency and severity of storm events.  I find that wind events are more frequent and is having greater impact due to the drying and desiccation factor.

I like to try new plants in my own garden and experiment with their tolerances to sun, shade and zonal constraints as listed. I like to have some experience with plants that are rated as marginally appropriate for our climate, weather and growing conditions prior to using them as part of my planting palettes for clients. There are many factors that can effect the growth or mere survival of a particular plant. I have lost significant specimens due to temperature low thresholds, persistent cold winds and freezing conditions. Much of the material lost were well established and survived numerous events. What I have noticed is that mean annual temperatures may be rising and plants are tolerating normal conditions and thresholds. They are however on certain sites, unable to cope with the storm events that have been recorded as new records, or near record conditions pertaining to low temperatures and chill factors.  Storm events have significantly effected many marginally tolerant species. The result is changing our landscape and are impacting our gardens. I like to view such events as new opportunities to make changes in a garden a move the landscape forward as material are edited and replaced. I try to address any deficiency and use new material to further enhance a particular garden.

I will always use a certain amount of higher risk material in my projects, but I am much more discerning as to where and how I use specific marginal plant material. I will put more thought and and emphasis

in the foundational plantings to ensure that the garden structure is not significantly impacted by such events. I may use some more susceptible material in containers or in more sheltered positions within a landscape. Many very localized conditions can determine the outcome of a decision to use certain material. I will never be able to use only zone 6 or 7 plants. As much as I admire the beauty of many Rhododendrons, I cannot succumb to relying on a confined palette. However, I cannot deny that localized weather patterns will continue to change, and I feel that I must recognize the impacts of these changes. Gardening is to some degree a process of experimentation. We are very fortunate in this region to have growing conditions with such a high zonal rating and great access to an increasing number of species and cultivars. The infinite combinations of plants are limitless.

Gardens are opportunities for us to express ourselves and celebrate the wonder, possibility and creation. Beautiful environments have so many benefits. As I look out at the snow, yes I still think of many marginally tolerant species. I still will use them and celebrate the beauty and variety that they bring to a landscape. I have a much better appreciation for sustainability in a landscape and a more balanced approach to creating a planting palette. I no longer have to have the latest cultivar or exotic plant pick or the year, nor am I in a state of zonal denial.

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