Blog :: 07-2018

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Thinking Ahead - Landscape Design and Climate Change

During the summer, Northampton area residents are often banned from watering their lawns between 9 am and 5 pm due to drought conditions. The recent/current rains were much needed. I'm happy not to be spending countless hours watering my lawn in the sweltering heat. But it is also noticeably still humid and hot, despite the rains we have been experiencing. One can't help but think of climate change with the strange weather patterns happening around us.

It pays to think ahead when it comes to climate change and your landscaping choices. This recent article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette discusses some choices an Amherst landscape design firm has made when designing an eco-friendly garden for the Amherst Historical Society. The points made in the following article could easily be applied to homeowners as well.

Amherst designer suggests cooling gardens to prepare for climate changes

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  • By ANDY CASTILLO
@AndyCCastillo
Thursday, July 19, 2018

It’s sweltering under the bright sun beating down on the lawn of the Amherst Historical Society’s Strong House on Amity Street, but take a walk down a narrow stone path into a shaded garden area in the back and the temperature noticeably drops by a few degrees.

Over the next 30 years, New England’s climate will become hotter, making the shaded areas in the Strong House’s 1800s garden an important design element, says Andrew Kilduff, ecological designer and co-founder of TK.designlab in Amherst. His firm was hired by the Historical Society to create a conceptual eco-friendly design for the garden that takes into account projected changes to New England’s climate.

"In many respects, shrubs that grow between five, 10, and 15-feet-tall create a different environment," he said, while looking over the shady area from the front lawn one recent afternoon.

The garden features plants like globe thistles, trilliums, peach-leaved bellflowers, dictamnus plants and garden phlox, according to Denise Gagnon, a member of the Amherst Garden Club, which takes care of the public garden. Another member, Meredith Michaels said the flowers were selected based on what would have grown natively in the region when the garden was created 150 years ago.

Keeping in mind what would have been available in the 18th century, and in addition to perennials already there, she said, “We add a few annuals in spaces that have become denuded of whatever was supposed to be there.”

The area is a cut-through for commuters passing from Amity Street into the center of town, and connects to the garden at the nearby Jones Library. And, so, because the garden is such a visible spot, Kilduff and his firm say many different plant species should be included with adequate irrigation to showcase practical ways home gardeners, too, can prepare for climate change.

"As landscape designers, we thought what might be an interesting way to re-conceptualize the garden, and to play around with some ideas as to best honor the history here, and create a space that's reflective of the changing conditions, not only in the town, but in the region and the world as a whole," Kilduff said.

Hot, dry, stormy

Kilduff, who has a master’s degree in ecological design and planning from the Conway School of Landscape Design, notes the difference in temperature between the sunny spots and the garden’s shady areas is as much as 10 to 15 degrees, which will be particularly significant when the climate heats up.

He points out a stone patio connected to the house where rain barrels and catch basins can be placed. The collected rainwater could be redirected to irrigate the flower beds to reduce the amount of water and physical labor needed during prolonged dry spells, he says.

When the climate is warmer, the growing season will be longer, Kilduff says, and there will be more intense storms. Because of those changes, plant species that thrive in the area now might not be able to survive anymore, and others will become more suited to the climate.

As an example of one species that’s being affected as temperatures warm, Kilduff noted research by Smith College Biologist Jesse Bellemare that shows a steady migration of umbrella magnolia trees into New England.

And, he said, "The vegetables here will be more proliferous. You'll be able to start seeds earlier. Farmers will be able to, hypothetically, instead of reaping one or two mows a year for hay, do three, four, or perhaps even more."

While the design is intended to show what a garden in the year 2050 might look like, he noted that some elements his firm proposed already appear in contemporary gardens, such as the rain barrels and long depressions, called swales. In the Strong House Garden design, he says, a swale could be dug at the back of the property to drain rainwater from the flower beds in the event of a heavy storm.

Existing plants, such as the thistle globes and trilliums, would be bolstered by the other species that could survive in hotter conditions, with ferns like Ostrich or Cinnamon ferns planted near the house, flora that thrives in wet conditions such as Red Columbine, Blue Flag Iris and switchgrass in the swale, and hardy flowers that can withstand intense heat like umbrella magnolia in areas exposed to the sun. Kilduff said that because the designs are so preliminary, his firm hasn’t yet fully researched the exact kinds of flora that would be best adapted to future climate changes.

Another proposal included in the design is space for community gardens, and a suggestion to shade areas of the garden currently exposed to direct sunlight.

Think ahead

"Plant a tree, because it pulls up water out of the ground, it shades, and reduces the heat stress of you and your pets and the plants around you," Kilduff said, noting that, if a tree is planted now, it will become mature by the time changes have taken place.

In planning for the future, he recommends that gardeners study their plots and think about ways to efficiently maintain them in a hotter environment.

"If you're watering often, it's possible that you could have a small rain barrel, and that alone may offset those one or two trips," he said. Connecting a hose to the barrel to create a drip irrigation system would make the watering job easier.

In addition to shade trees and shrubs, add a few ground-covers in the garden, Kilduff says. “They're attractive, and have a functional purpose. They reduce the soil loss, allow other plants to be able to suck up water more easily, and you'll find yourself weeding less."

Change is coming, he said, and gardens will either suffer or thrive depending on how area gardeners prepare and adapt.

“Land is something that we interact with virtually at every waking movement of our lives,” he said. “Even when we're in our homes and offices, we're subject to the conditions present outside the envelope of the building. "

A summer heat wave in 2050 could last for weeks, he says, and shade trees outside of a house, go a long way in providing some comfort for those inside.

"If you find yourself boiling the moment you walk in the door, perhaps add shade trees or some shrubs along the side of the house," he said. The time to plan for coming changes is now, he says. “It's worth further investigation.”

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

 

 

 

Repost: What to Do in the Garden in July

Summer is in full swing! The lush beauty and color of peonies, and the intoxicating smell of lilacs are starting to feel like a distant memory. Asparagus season in ("Hadley Grass") is behind us, and we are deep into summer squash, onions, lettuce, garlic scapes, watermelon and berries! When I look around my garden, I notice the second round of colorful summer flowers making their presence known: coneflower, coreopsis, daisies, hydrangea, black eyed susan, day lillies, etc. Since our summer is so short compared to the colder months, here in the Northampton area, I thought this piece from Gardenista.com about gardening in July might come in handy.

What to Do in the Garden in July

by Michelle Slatalla

In the garden, July is a month with a split personality: We look back wistfully (at the successes of spring) and forward with trepidation (can this garden be saved, to withstand the August heat that’s ahead).

Here are a few quick garden fixes that will pay off next month (and in September).

Clean Up the Strawberry Patch

Choose the best weapon to renovate the strawberry patch: See Garden Tools: Which Trowel or Weeder is Best for You? Photograph by Mimi Giboin.
Above: Choose the best weapon to renovate the strawberry patch: See Garden Tools: Which Trowel or Weeder is Best for You? Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

After you’ve picked the last strawberry from your plants, it’s time to cut back brown or drooping leaves. Weed between plants and mulch with an inch or two of compost. Now it the time to thin or transplant strawberries; carefully dig up runners as well as roots to move a clump to a new spot.

For more growing tips, see Strawberries: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Deadhead

Interplanted with fuzzy-headed grass�Pennisetum villosum,�pink cosmos Dazzler will keep blooming all summer if you cut back spent flowers. See more at In the Garden with Philippa: Brit Style with a Black Backdrop. Photograph by Jim Powell.
Above: Interplanted with fuzzy-headed grass Pennisetum villosum, pink cosmos ‘Dazzler’ will keep blooming all summer if you cut back spent flowers. See more at In the Garden with Philippa: Brit Style with a Black Backdrop. Photograph by Jim Powell.

Hone your deadheading technique: See Landscaping 101: How to Deadhead Flowers.

TLC for Tomatoes

Its not too late to corral tomatoes into cages, for their own good. Which is the best support for your tomato varieties? See 10 Easy Pieces: Tomato Cages.
Above: It’s not too late to corral tomatoes into cages, for their own good. Which is the best support for your tomato varieties? See 10 Easy Pieces: Tomato Cages.

I never met a tomato plant that didn’t perform better with a little coddling. Pinch back suckers to help them focus their fruiting efforts. Make sure tomatoes get enough water (from a drip irrigation system or a hose, every day).  See more tips at Tomatoes: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design.

Cut Back Spent Flowers

See more tips at Foxgloves: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: See more tips at Foxgloves: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

Many flowering spikes—from penstemons to foxgloves to gladiolas—have finished flowering by now. Or have they? When you cut back spent blossoms, check to see if any lateral spikes are growing from the spikes. If so, leave them in place to encourage more blooms.

Add Annuals

See more at Cleome: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: See more at Cleome: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

Many of our favorite flowers are annuals that cheerfully take on the job of adding color to the garden just as summer perennials start to flag in August’s heat. With bright blooms and attention-grabbing flowers, these fast growers can make you love your garden in late summer. (And many annuals will live on by resowing themselves, with seeds carried on a breeze to pop up in a new spot next year.

For more ideas, see Everything You Need to Know About Cottage Gardens and browse our curated design guides Annuals 101 for tips to grow SunflowersNasturtiums, and Zinnias.

Help Your Hydrangeas

See more of this garden in�Rhode Island Roses: A Seaside Summer Garden in New England.�Photograph by Nathan Fried Lipski of�Nate Photography.
Above: See more of this garden in Rhode Island Roses: A Seaside Summer Garden in New England. Photograph by Nathan Fried Lipski of Nate Photography.

Do you wish your pink hydrangeas were blue, or vice versa? You can take control of their color destiny by amending the soil. For tips see Hydrangeas: How to Change Color from Pink to Blue.

Keep Weeding

Photograph by Sara Barrett.
Above: Photograph by Sara Barrett.

Don’t let the weeds win. If you need a new weapon to inspire you during the doldrums of summer, see a few of our favorites in 10 Easy Pieces: Weeding Forks.

Prune Fruit Trees

A water sprout is a shoot (or cluster of shoots) that appear, unbidden, on a tree trunk as shown on this cherry tree in Jindai Botanical Gardens in Tokyo. Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.
Above: A water sprout is a shoot (or cluster of shoots) that appear, unbidden, on a tree trunk as shown on this cherry tree in Jindai Botanical Gardens in Tokyo. Photograph by Takashi .M via Flickr.

Prune spring-flowering fruit trees in summer when spores of silver leaf disease are dormant.

For more tips, see Everything You Need to Know About Flowering Trees.

Fill Bird Baths

Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: Photograph by Marie Viljoen.

Water evaporates faster in hotter temperatures. Replenish bird baths as needed. For more ideas about designing water features, see Everything You Need to Know About Fountains.

Cut Back Wisteria

Photograph by Mimi Giboin.
Above: Photograph by Mimi Giboin.

Wisteria, if unchecked, will behave like a thug, says our friend Tim Callis, a garden designer on Cape Cod. He recommends shearing several times a year. In summer, cut back long shoots and stems to no more than six leaves.

Water if Needed

Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

Gardens like an inch of rain a week. Is yours getting enough? Use a Rainwater Calculator to figure it out, and if your plants need more irrigate accordingly.

Automate your irrigation system with Hardware 101: Smart Irrigation Controllers. And if you need to upgrade or repair your irrigation, see Drip Irrigation: Emergency Repair Kit Essentials.

Don’t Mow Low

An English boxwood hedge edges a mown path in which daisies thrive. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: An English boxwood hedge edges a mown path in which daisies thrive. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.

In hot, dry months keep your lawn looking green by allowing blades of grass to grow longer; a crew cut will create brown spots. Use the right tool for the job; see 10 Easy Pieces: Reel Lawn Mowers and 10 Easy Pieces: Riding Lawn Mowers.