Berkshire Garden Style • Because it's June! June! June!
It’s June and it’s all in the timing. If you’ve had a chance to take a browse of our June newsletter and see all the pretty pics of container plantings then you know that June offers us the crucial window of time before the summer solstice to get plants —dahlias and warm season plants like solanaceae (tomatoes and eggplants and such) into the ground. It’s also the time to plant the containers which allows me the opportunity to incorporate tropicals and annuals into design (while mixing in unexpected surprises like shrubs and perennials with fabulous foliage).
The May/June planting push is really for the seasonal plantings such as annuals, and some perennials and shrubs. They just settle in and grow most optimally when we get the timing right. For garden plantings to perform for the current season we must be timely for a most authentic effect. Containers on the other hand, can be fudged more than the others for a more instantaneous effect. Autumn is also a fantastic time for planting - perennials, biennials, shrubs, trees, bulbs...
So it’s all about the timing in June, but June also makes me think about time in another way, so I wanted to use this month’s blog post to expand on the theme of time in the landscape.
You can’t buy time, that’s for sure, and as my main gig is to design and install gardens for local homeowners I think a lot about the reinvigoration process of the landscape when I begin a project. When you’re involved in the process of renewing or rejuvenating a landscape it’s important to think twice and then think another four times about removing mature plant material. Thoughtfulness goes a long way when beginning a design project. Sure , you can buy big trees, hardscape material, an old house. You can throw a ton of money at a garden to try and emulate that ‘settled in’, ‘been there a long time’ look and sometimes you can pull it off but you really can’t buy time and you can’t fool me!
Why the crunch of planting in May and June? Because you can’t buy time, there’s a certain point that once you pass it, you miss the window of opportunity - we have a short growing season in this area. That well-grown, settled in, established look takes many seasons and so it’s important that we establish the plantings during our window of time. Here in the Berkshires, we don’t have long periods of time to work with as they do in other parts of the world. We also have these pretty extreme cold and heat snaps as well as precipitation changes that occur during our seasonal transitions. These temperature and precip fluctuations make our jobs even more challenging at the moment as we find the balance between getting the plants rooted ‘in time’ while keeping up with garden maintenance (weeding, thinning, pruning, I could go on…) and the watering.
A good example of how we can’t rush time and in application to our garden design principles, that I’ve been inspired by, is the laid hedge - in Britain, England, in particular.
I started a living hedge at Viridissima and it became quickly evident that it would take much too long to get the privacy coverage I wanted and the containment that I wanted. In England hedge laying is done between September and March and after that you get a ton of regrowth from March through September. If you lay a hedge here, such as a beech hedge, it’s going to take years before it’s going to really grow up. After that thinking, I just piled up a bunch of deadwood and made a dead laid hedge. It’s not going to look as pretty and I sure didn’t get the effect I’m after which is exactly my point about the inability to buy time.
If you have more time, check out this sweet little video about hedge laying South of England style: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gzmdgq7Yfo.
So, as much as it’s all the rage to have well established gardens, the nature and ethos of our work is a much slower process. It takes time for plants to grow and it takes even more time in the place where we reside. Time, if we allow it, makes for a much more enjoyable, aesthetic and ecological landscape, cultivated of course by our design principles and installations but with the essence of respect for the process.