Sunday, March 23, 2008

Defining Space in the Garden

This tree, a Fullmoon maple, Acer japonicum, outgrew its barrel last year so I planted it in the ground. Sitting just north of our kitchen window the buds catch the rays of the rising sun coming from the right. Looking at, or more accurately, through the buds, forces us to orient ourselves. The buds themselves are spatially disposed in a pattern determined by the genetics of the plant and its interaction with its environment. As we move and our viewpoint shifts, the buds move in relation to each other making us acutely conscious of our location and our proximal relation to the plant. Hey, try it! Its easier to see than to explain. At least for me!

We don't normally choose plant material for its buds, but if winter interest is important, as it is in highly visible locations, having interesting buds can be a factor in our selection. The buds of the more common Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, and its innumerable cultivars are attractive but lack the size and the white hairs of these buds, and for that reason the Full moon maple is sometimes a better choice.Other plants that display this wonderful three dimensional array of buds include flowering dogwoods and many deciduous azaleas.

This is one of many many things to consider if you are designing or redesigning your garden. An analogous definition of space can be done with plants that have horizontal saucer shaped inflorescence (flat heads, like lace-cap hydrangeas for example). Planted alongside a path that changes elevations, our changing view of the flat flower-heads emphasizes our vertical movement.

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