Undefined, blurred, softened – that’s how the gardens look under snow. We call it harsh winter, but, in fact, it’s a soft season in many ways. We cannot garden outdoors during snow, nor trample the beds afterward while the soil is all soft and damp and sheltering the turmoil of life under the surface. So we ourselves get a little soft, physically, in terms of outdoor labor.
American Botanical Paintings: Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic, a recently published book intended for both artists and gardeners, was created by a local nonprofit group, Botanical Artists for Education & the Environment. This group is composed of botanical artists who participated in painting classes offered by Anne-Marie Evans in Falls Church, VA. The BAEE undertook the publication project with the intention of stimulating an appreciation of native plants and encouraging their use in home landscaping. The introductory text includes a contribution from the renowned entomologist Dr. Douglas Tallamy on the vital role of native plants in local ecosystems.
This 95-acre property, operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), features a wide variety of planted beds, three lakes, four gazebos, and special plant collections, which are linked by multiple walking paths and surrounded by lovely forested hills. Numerous benches and seats are located throughout the garden, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy both garden details and panoramic views.
Gardening strikes me as the perfect metaphor for life. Everything goes swimmingly well for a while, then adversity strikes and we need to plod through it until we’ve solved the problem or survived the crisis or found a new pathway.
Members of the 2015 Master Gardener training class and proctors supporting the class recently had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Smithsonian horticulturist James Gagliardi on herbaceous plant selection and usage. Those who were not able to attend the lecture can still benefit from his knowledge in a book to which he was a major contributor. Smithsonian Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location, a 2014 Dorling Kindersley publication, features information on over 3,000 plants.
Not all gardeners have big plots. So sometimes we just exploit what’s nearby. It’s a bit iffy, but taking a little risk and adding a dollop of luck and patience, some digging and weeding and a mix of bought and donated plants can pay off. Witness the former parking lot island near my town house. It used to be a dog- and sun-seared plot of weedy grass that never looked good after the first green flush of spring.