Friday, April 06, 2007

Textures, Shapes and Colors

Friday, April 6, 2007

An even 25 degrees here on the hill as snowflakes float around and the recent wetness begins to firm hard and crunchy under foot. Winter has pushed Spring back out of the way...actually more of a hard shove. The weather report looks more like late February than early April. Our road is a mess as even the snow plow driver put off coming down as long as he could because the ruts were deep and uneven. Now he has left and the ruts are blazed off on the top but as deep as ever. He was mad enough to have to put the plows back on the trucks but madder still to know how much abuse he and the trucks would take to keep impatient drivers happy. The road travelers are his customers but he clearly didn't read that book on customer relationships. Spring will come again but not before as much as another foot of snow arrives over the next week.

Today was one of those days that shouldn't have been. Things went from poor to just plain terrible and I was asked twice why my face was so red. If you know me, you understand. Today was the day everyone wanted to be right and I held in a lot of comments that should only have been thought. Turning off Route 232 onto our road was a relief as I knew I was home for the weekend and there would be little to bother me. As I unloaded groceries, I noticed the trees over the bank looked especially nice and I wanted a picture.

Sometimes gardeners find it difficult to understand how to mix colors, shapes and textures to their advantage as they create a standout garden. Years ago a Canadian photographer who only shot black and white film taught me how to deal at a very basic level where these attributes exist in nature. Color is easy but our eye does not necessarily pick up texture and plant form.

Take the picture of the snow covered trees for example. If you click to enlarge, you'll be able to see the variety of trees involved and the way the different textures combine nicely. The tall tamarack on the left is skirted by some fir balsams and then there's an apple mid-picture and a maple. Each lends a different look. Although these are trees, not flowers, the concept is the same.

Often if you take a flower you don't understand and use about any of the photo manipulation software products (I use IrfanView) you can use the feature that changes a picture to appear as a negative. In that format you are viewing blacks and whites and greys and the textures become apparent. Use one plant's stronger points to enhance another plants hidden virtues. Lilium for example, don't have the greatest looking stems but if they are planted among astilbes or even monarda you maintain the stand-straight feature with more accent on the blooms which then stand out and grab more attention.

Spring is not going to be quick this year so there's still time to do some planning. Every year people come by and explain they just can't design and they want to know who they can hire. I always try to convince people that they don't need a designer to step into the world of good gardening. They need to remember that any color can work its way into a garden .....and if it's not pleasing, it can be moved.

With that said, I'm retreating to the cellar to work on some wooden tool handles. Still enough time to sand off rough spots, apply a new coat of polyurethane, and sharpen up the points. You need sharp tools to move your mistakes. And yes, I have made some. Ask Gail!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature continues to drop and the gardens I think of and mention are covered under one to three feet of snow.

Almost spring wishes,

George Africa

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