Thursday, May 1, 2008

Its about the light. Its always about the light.

Except it isn't really; sometimes its about the smell and sometimes its even about the touch but thats not common. Once in a blue moon its about the sound, like wind in bamboo, or the rattling of Baptisia seed pods. Of course with fruits and vegetables and herbs (and lots of other stuff with George) its about taste, but I still keep coming back to the light. My favorite light is early morning sun. I like to face the sun but not have it in my eyes; then it lights up the plant you are looking at. If there's dew, like in this picture, the drops refract the rays like prisms. Early light is soft and forgiving and the plants themselves often look better in the morning. Usually they are hydrated, turgid, recovered from whatever sun stress impacted them the day before.

Still, it isn't just the time of day and the quality of the light. The direction makes a huge difference. Look at a clump of dewy grass with the sun obliquely behind it, it glows. Then walk to the other side, that is, past the plant towards the sun, and look back at the same plant. No magic. Well maybe its still a beautiful plant but its halo is gone. No glow from transmitted light. Just the plant itself and I don't mean to belittle any plant, but we all like to be seen in our best light.

Which brings me to my next point, "don't smoke crack." Oh wait, thats an obscure reference to an Adam Sandler movie (Waterboy) that I ought to be ashamed to have watched, except for that one quote....Really my next point is that we have the luxury in our own gardens of taking maximum advantage of our light. As a designer, I make every attempt to position plants to maximize their appearance in relation to the sun, but if you are there 365 days a year you will understand the subtle nuances of your particular lighting better than I can and make those significant minor adjustments. There are so many variables; the path of the sun changes throughout the year and so the angle of the sun changes. In the winter when the sun is low in the sky, the shadows it creates emphasize textures. Sharp shadows forcibly delineate bark furrows, masonry surfaces, moss, even fallen leaves. The ambient color of light changes; in summer green foliage makes green light. The cloud types that the sun shines through change all the time but the thin cirrus haze is sort of particular to winter. Deciduous shade comes and goes with the seasons. And on and on. I imagine it is possible to spend a lifetime in a small garden and not exhaust all the possibilities.

If you are really interested in making your garden its best, spend time in it. You have to see it morning, mid-morning, noon.... and on to dark every day of the year. And in sun and rain and mist and snow and ice storms. You can introduce elements into your garden to maximize its beauty in an ice storm! I don't know if I have ever been in a garden that had reached the level of completeness where that was a reasonable goal to strive for but you know, there is that belt of states running E/W: North Carolina/Tennessee/Arkansas where they always seem to have ice storms...That's silly maybe, but the point is that while it may be a luxury to be able to spend time in your garden, its also a responsibility.

( on the picture)

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