Once upon a time, I considered myself a fairly knowledgeable gardener/landscape designer.
Having grown up on the mild BC coast, I know Rain Forests and the kinds of plants that grow there. I know the humussy earth, the moist climate, the sometimes wet and soggy, boglike conditions plants are exposed to, on the Coast.
After forty years of gardening in the jumbled jungle of a Coast forest, where, if one is not vigilant, entire beds can be taken over, in the blink of an eye, with Tree seedlings and lush, green weeds, I find myself on a property that offers dry Forest land, moist Forest land and Grasslands, with extremely varied weather patterns.
Our property slopes down from a Plateau. There are valleys and benches and draws, giving me a whole different perspective to the Zonal charts regarding plant hardiness. There are sheltered areas and open areas and fully shaded areas. During this year, I will watch to see where Snow drifts cover, where plant life is protected from Frost and where Wind hits the hardest.
The moist Forest land is hardly close to Coastal Forest land, either, with regards to the degree of moisture. But it does have an abundance of Moss and Ferns, for which I am very grateful, having a deep, abiding love for the lovely Spring green slashes of colour scattered here and there.
And the dryer Forest land? It has wild wood strawberries, patches and patches of them. I have no idea how they can grow so prolifically, since the soil feels like dust to me. This soil sticks to shoes like glue if it gets wet. Fir needles cushion most of the area...also sticking like glue to shoes when wet. Lichen is prolific, both in the dryer areas as well as the wet.
The Grasslands show signs of Lupin, Columbine, Raspberries and Saskatoon berries, and whole mounds of Kinnickinnic and of course, lots of different Grasses. This whole area is in Sun for most of the day and this soil seems very dry, as well. In a few weeks, all the Wildflowers will show their faces and the Berries will ripen, giving me a better indication of what else is growing here.
Wind also announces the weather with great gusto, making last year's dead Grasses and Shrubs bend their spent seed heads as if in prayer and whipping Trees about. The sticklike Aspen and Birch look as if they could snap at any moment, during one of those announcements. That kind of Wind could certainly harm any plant I might consider placing against the house.
Nature does a great job of gardening here, in the back yard. Much better than me.
Our house, on the other hand, has had no landscaping done around it. It sits as if it was suddenly placed here by a giant hand from above, onto a small, flat area. There is no curb appeal. There is no formal driveway or walkway to the front door. The house has huge windows and a deck out the back; in front, the windows are smaller, making it look stingy, with no character.
And there is the little lime green and white garden shed I want to incorporate into the scheme of things.
Landscaping and hardscaping will change all that. Since I find the climate, the soil, and the relative arid conditions here slightly daunting, I will find a landscaper, someone who knows the area, to give me advice.
There is much to take into consideration, besides the soil and climate. I want to build a driveway which can be cleared of Snow easily in Winter, without the plough running into Boulders or Logs. I want to build a fence; one which will give the dogs a sense of boundaries. As well, I will have to decide where I want this fence to go, since it is impractical to fence in the whole of the property.
Walkways...shall I choose gravel or slate or concrete? What will work best in Snow and Ice? Raised beds...would these be useful against the house, or will plants in these beds warm up too soon in Spring, leaving themselves open to Frost attacks?
So many decisions...I believe it is time to call in reinforcements. I can get slightly overwhelmed (to say the least) when my intuition has gone elsewhere. When I can't rely on strong gut feelings, when I feel myself swimming in deep, dark waters...I need advice.
It's not often I'm stumped, when it comes to gardening. I feel, here, as if I am beginning again, learning a new way. My gardener's gut tells me to find someone who knows...
I'm very grateful my intuition didn't desert me totally.