Posted by & filed under Butterfly Gardens, Deer Resistant Plants, Drought tolerant plants, Native Plants, Naturalizing, Sandy Soil, Star Tickseed, Uncategorized .

 

 

Expect mounds of bright yellow blooms on slender stems from June to September with this easy to grow native perennial. Star Tickseed prefers full sun and dry, well-drained soil although they also tolerate high humidity, drought and thin, rocky or sandy soil. Star Tickseed can be short-lived, but they do self-seed easily. Deadhead to extend the bloom season and hard prune if they become rambling or unkept looking. Butterflies love this Tickseed but deer avoid them.

Posted by & filed under Balled in Burlap Trees, Bare Root Trees, Container Trees, Fall planting, Root systems of trees, Shrubs & Trees, Trees, Uncategorized .

As I hit publish last week, it occurred to me that I had missed an entire topic related to trees — an explanation of bare root trees, container grown trees and  balled in burlap or b&b trees. Since fall is a popular tree planting season, this seems like a good time to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

 

Transplanting trees into the home landscape is not a modern custom. According to an article by Todd Watson in the publication, HortTechnology, records show that the Egyptians, as far back as 2,000 B.C., moved trees from other lands into Egypt by ship. The Chinese grew containerized trees for planting as early as 500 B.C. and here in the United States, early colonists erected greenhouses in which to grow tree seedlings for planting and specimen trees in containers for enjoyment.

 

 

Prior to WWll the majority of trees for landscaping were available as field dug trees or as bare root stock. Although both methods were successful, — at least some of the times — both had limitations, primarily centered on handling and planting time. With the advent of suburbia and the expectation of an immersion in nature at home, American consumers began to ask for access to trees and shrubs throughout the planting season.

 

 

Leaders in the industry such as Harry E. Rosedale, founder of Monrovia Nursery, realized that consumer demand could not only be fulfilled, but fulfilled successfully by growing and selling plants in containers. His innovative idea took hold and the nursery industry responded with an onslaught of container grown trees and shrubs that could be purchased and planted on demand.

 

 

Today’s consumers still have the same planting options of bare root, container grown or B & B trees. Before making a purchasing decision, it is wise to understand the choices.

 

 

BARE ROOT

 

 

 

 

  Bare root trees are exactly what the name implies. They are trees whose roots are not in any type of soil, soil mixture or container. Instead, the roots are usually covered by a moisture retaining material such as sphagnum peat moss, sawdust or wet paper.  Bare root trees are dug and planted when they are completely dormant. In spring that is before the tree’s leaves appear and in the fall that is after the leaves fall but before the ground freezes. Roots must be kept moist at all times because dry roots translates to a dead tree. Bare roots trees are typically less costly to purchase than other types, but are also the most time restricted. Size also tends to be smaller for ease in handling and fewer varieties are usually available. Properly handled and installed, bare root trees will establish and grow well.

 

 

 

 

CONTAINER GROWN

 

 

 

 

On sale everywhere from the corner grocery store to the big box store to the garden center, container grown trees are a common sight today. They are convenient for the consumer to handle, can be planted throughout the majority of the year whether in leaf or dormant, and are available in a variety of sizes and species. Because they are not field dug, trees grown in containers may experience less transplant shock since their root systems are not disturbed. Container trees are available in larger sizes than bare root trees, but are not as large as those that are B & B.

 

 

 

Like bare root trees, trees grown in containers must have adequate moisture. Rather than true soil, most container trees are grown in a lighter weight, soilless mixture that does not retain water. To stay viable and healthy, container trees need to have consistent watering, typically at least once a day. If in full leaf, if the weather is hot, dry and windy or if the container is a dark, heat absorbing color,  container trees may need to be watered twice a day.

 

 

Although the term “container tree” usually brings to mind a tree grown in a round, black plastic pot, trees have been and are grown in a variety of types of containers. Historical documents show that George Washington grew trees in wooden boxes. Early growers turned to metal, glass and fiber containers. Looking to improve the quality of the product, today’s innovations center on two aspects — the use of bags for growing and planting and a variety of shapes to improve root development.

 

 

 

 

One of the consistent problems with container grown trees is circling roots, which can eventually lead to roots that girdle, or wrap around, the base of the tree near or just below the soil surface. Because they cut off access to water and nutrients, girdling roots can eventually kill a tree. If a tree has grown too long in a solid container, its roots will eventually begin to grow in a circular form because they have nowhere else to go. Accepted practice has been to cut the root ball at the sides and bottom the time of planting to encourage an outward spread of the root system. Recent research though, indicates that even if the roots are cut at planting, a tree whose roots are severely girdled will be slow to establish and may not survive in the long term. Experts advise that you check the roots of a container tree before purchasing.

 

 

In order to counteract the problem of root girdling and to improve the production of container trees,some growers have begun to use bags instead of pots. The bags accommodate various sizes of trees, are stable and have holes for drainage. Both plastic and fabric bags are designed to encourage the growth of the nutrient and water collecting fine roots while restricting the overall spread of the system. Unfortunately, trees left in plastic bags too long are also susceptible to becoming root bound while species of trees with fast growing, aggressive roots may begin to circle in fabric bags. Unintentional damage to the root ball can also happen more easily with bags.

 

 

The shape of containers in which trees are being sold is also changing. Depending on the grower and the species, the consumer may see a variety of shapes and sizes. Each has a specific purpose. Tall, narrow containers encourage roots to move down into the soil rather than around. For dry areas, this might allow root systems to access moisture. Short, wide containers may allow roots to form further from the trunk, but closer to the surface. Ribbed containers tend to push roots downward as opposed to around the container.

 

 

B & B

 

 

 

A B&B tree is one that has been dug and has a firm ball of soil surrounding its roots. The ball, which should be solid, is wrapped with burlap (preferably natural rather than synthetic) and secured with twine, nails or wire. Often, a wire basket also surrounds the soil ball to provide extra protection while the tree is moved, stored or planted. If wiggled, the tree trunk should not move within the root ball.

 

 

 

 

 

Most B&B trees are larger caliper  (diameter of trunk)  trees with substantial root balls that are very heavy. Care must be taken not to stress or damage the root ball in transportation, storage or planting. If the tree is not to be planted immediately, it should be covered by mulch and kept moist but not drenched. If it has been dug correctly and at the right time, then a B & B tree can be planted throughout the growing season.

 

 

 

 

B & B trees are often selected, or tagged, during the growing season but are dug during their dormant period. If you tag your own tree, pay attention to the depth of the structural or anchor roots. If the roots are too deep, more than 2 or 3 inches below the surface, then the tree may not have enough of a root system available in the ball once it’s dug to support itself. Dealing with reputable growers usually eliminates this problem.

 

 

Adding trees to your yard, whether bare root, container grown or B & B, adds beauty and value to your property, improves the environment and establishes a connection with nature for you and your family. The design staff at Embassy Landscape Group would love to help you find the perfect choice for your home. Give them a call today.

 

 

Posted by & filed under American bittersweet, Bird Friendly Vines, Deer Resistant Plants, Drought tolerant plants, Fall Blooming Plants, Fall gardens, Native Plants, Naturalizing, Uncategorized, Winter Decorations .

 

 

American bittersweet can be counted on to give spring, summer, fall and winter beauty. This native vine, which grows well in poor to average soil, prefers full sun for maximum flower and fruit production, but it will also tolerate part shade. The greenish-white to yellow blooms appear in May and June. In late summer, the blooms are replaced by orange fruit which then split open to reveal the deep red seeds (berries) which cover the branches. The fall branches can be cut and used as decoration or can be left for the birds to enjoy throughout the winter. (Please note that the fruits and berries are poisonous to humans if ingested.) American bittersweet can be grown along a fence line or the vine can be left to naturalize on the ground, but it is not advised to grow bittersweet near small trees or shrubs since the hardy vine could easily girdle or damage the anchor plant. Bittersweet can readily self-seed, but in order to produce the seeds (berries), you must have both a male and female plant. One male can fertilize up to six female plants. American bittersweet is both deer and drought tolerant.

 

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Evergreens, Fall planting, fall planting hazards, Landscaping, Root systems of trees, Shrubs & Trees, Uncategorized .

We’ve decided to add on to our deck this fall. At our house, that means countless trips to the big box hardware store to pick up a different tool, another bracket or more wood. Since I can only look at 2 x 12s so long, I usually find myself wandering off to the garden center to poke around instead. Most of the time I’m oblivious to the conversations around me, but this past weekend I happened to overhear one that really bothered me.

 

 

 

 

A young couple approached a salesperson to ask advice about purchasing and planting some bushes for their new home. They were young and you could tell that this was their very first home and their very first landscaping experience. They needed advice, they needed to save  money and they were sure that this would be the place to do both.

 

 

 

 

The back of this particular store houses their clearance stock —  mostly plants that are past their “prime” and holdovers from spring and summer sales. (I spend a lot of time in this section! If you know your plants, there are some great bargains to be had.)  Keeping budget in mind, the couple had started looking there first and had staked out several potential plants to purchase. Calling over the salesman, they asked his advice about the plants they had chosen  — and that’s the point at which the conversation really caught my attention.

 

 

Pointing to three rather overgrown and underloved yews, the young couple asked if they would work for the north side of their house. “Of course,” the salesman replied enthusiastically. “They do fine on the north side and this is really the best time of year to plant evergreens. You’ll be getting a real bargain.” Unfortunately, the clerk gave his customers some half truths which encouraged them to make a poor purchasing decision.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn is an excellent time to plant many, but not all, trees and shrubs. Knowing which species to plant, when to plant them and how to take care of them can help ensure fall landscaping success.

 

 

 

 

A plant’s growth pattern, especially how its roots develop, is a major piece of the planting puzzle. Root systems have several purposes:

 

  1. They anchor and support plants in the soil.
  2. They absorb water and nutrients from the soil to feed the plant.
  3. They store nutrients for later absorption.
  4. In some cases, they are essential to plant reproduction.

 

 

Iowa State University, a leader in the field of horticulture, divides the roots of deciduous and evergreen trees into the two basic categories of woody and non woody. Woody roots are the large, primarily horizontal roots that form near the tree’s root collar. Although their main purpose is to anchor the tree, they also supply it with some water and other nutrients. Originally, they are found between 8 and 12 inches below ground, but as the tree grows, these roots may become exposed. Woody roots extend well beyond the drip line of the tree, in some cases as far as 7 times the drip line.

 

 

Non woody roots are the roots found in the upper levels of the soil, usually the first 4 to 6 inches. The main function of these fibrous feeder roots is to supply water and essential nutrients to the tree and to store carbohydrates which are necessary for drought tolerance. They also extend beyond the drip line of the tree. 

 

 

Some varieties of trees, maple and ash, for example, tend to always have a fibrous root system, while others, oaks, walnuts and spruce, have tap roots when young. Favorable soil conditions in the first few years of growth may encourage tap roots to extend downward, but eventually a tap root becomes less recognizable as the root system expands outward. Contrary to the common misconception, a tree’s root system is much more horizontal than vertical. Healthy trees have over 50% of their root systems in the top six inches of soil (ISU Forestry Extension), which explains why massive trees can be felled by windstorms.

 

 

 

Another piece of the planting puzzle revolves around the environmental conditions into which the fall planted tree (or shrub) will be placed. Soil type, access to oxygen, soil and air temperatures and availability of moisture are all factors in success or failure. Clay soils will restrict root growth as well as access to oxygen. Sandy soils will encourage horizontal growth, but the roots will be less fibrous and thus less able to pull in moisture and nutrients. Too much mulch will draw roots too close to the surface putting the tree at risk during dry spells.

 

 

Fall soil and air temperatures can lend themselves to planting success. Newly planted trees and shrubs often dislike the protracted, intense day and night heat and dry winds of summer. They struggle to produce enough energy to develop roots and support foliage at the same time. Fall in the midwest tends to have temperate days, cool but not cold nights and moderate rainfall, all of which combine to produce an almost perfect climate for planting. Even though the tree top is going into dormancy, the root system continues to rapidly expand and develop until frigid weather arrives.. (Horticultural research shows that trees and shrubs are capable of root growth in soil temperatures as low as 45 degrees F.)

 

 

 

A final piece to the puzzle of fall planting tends to be the species itself. Some plants simply prefer spring over fall planting. Although no definite reason has been determined, horticulturists at Iowa State speculate that planting success may be tied to the plant’s type of root system. According to them, “plants with shallow, fibrous roots can usually be planted with greater ease than those with fewer, larger roots.” Magnolias and tulip trees have large roots and are difficult to plant in the fall. Another theory says that some species are unable to take up adequate water until new roots systems are formed. Fall planting does not allow enough time for that to happen. Bur oaks and willows fall into this category.

 

 

 

 

 

Regardless of the reason, birch, sweet gum, bald cypress, fir and some varieties of oaks are among those varieties that are slow to establish and are more successfully installed in the spring. Narrow-leaved evergreens like yews and hemlock are recommended for spring planting, as are the broad-leaved evergreens rhododendrons, azaleas and boxwood.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve thought about that young couple and the clerk several times this past week. It would be very easy to vilify him and assume he was just pushing a sale at the expense of the kids. Realistically though, I would guess that he was simply telling them what he thought was true. Like so many other professions, the field of horticulture is constantly evolving. Working with trained horticulturists and designers, like those at Embassy Landscape Group, can save you the frustration and expense of a failing landscape and give you the satisfaction of creating your own personal, signature landscape.

 

 

 

Posted by & filed under Bees, Design, Garden Design, Gardens, Native Plants, Nectar Plants, Uncategorized .

The more I read about bees and their relatives, wasps and flies, the more fascinated I become with these tiny powerhouses and the more I understand why people are so passionate about providing for them and protecting them.As we mentioned in last week’s blog, honeybees may be the most well-known bee, but it is certainly not the only bee species we have here in the North America. The United States and Canada are home to at least 4000 named species of bees, many of which look nothing like our perception of what a bee should look like. Rather than the familiar brown, many varieties display   dazzling, iridescent blues and greens. To further complicate matters, a number of fly and wasp species mimic the appearance of bees as a protection against predators.

 

 

 

 

A true bee, whether native or introduced, has several identifying physical characteristics.They have segmented bodies — a head, a thorax and an abdomen. They have simple eye structures that are widely spaced, highly visible antenna and a jaw that can move to chew. They have four wings rather than the two that both flies and wasps have and the females have special hairs designed for carrying pollen.

 

 

 

 

There are behavioral differences too. For example, bees collect nectar and eat pollen. Wasps are meat eaters (so are flies, by the way) using nectar for energy, but preferring a nice, juicy insect to eat and to feed their young.

 

 

A significant behavioral difference however, concerns living space . There is a common misconception that bees live together in gigantic colonies housed in fearsome hives hanging from trees and poles and as a group are ready to attack unsuspecting passers-by. The truth is that the vast majority of bees — 70% to be more precise — actually live in the ground and are solitary animals who do not store honey or nurture their young. Those that do not dig ground nests typically look for “pre-dug” holes in which to create their nests. Nests are usually located near a preferred food source and often in a location that will catch south or east facing sun.

 

 

 

Even though most bees seem to operate on a solo basis, they often nest in  a community type setting. Sometimes solitary bees will nest extremely close to one another in what are called aggregations.  Aggregations are often formed because all of the necessary resources necessary for survival are nearby. There is also a sense of “safety in numbers” to help fight off attacks by predators. Slightly more social bees will build a communal living arrangement in which all bees use a single entrance but once inside, maintain totally separate nests. Still another group of bees mimic some of the behaviors of honeybees. They share a nest, divide tasks and are organized around a “mother/ daughters” (queen/workers) hierarchy. Unlike honey bees however, the mother bee in this group can survive on her own while a honeybee queen cannot. 

 

 

 

 

The bee life cycle is similar to that of a butterfly — adults produce eggs which change to larva. Larva change into pupa and pupa into adult and the cycle begins again. The cycle for most bees lasts about a year, but only a few weeks of that year is spent as an adult gathering nectar and efficiently distributing pollen. Intentionally creating landscapes that supply the resources bees need to flourish not only helps them, but also helps protect our native plant species.

 

 

Bees can be divided into two categories, that of generalists and specialists. Generalists obtain nectar from a variety of plants while specialists have what is called “flower fidelity.” These bees search diligently for food from one type of plant type until that supply is entirely depleted. Only then will they move on to other plants. Some suggest that 20% of our bees are specialists.

 

Here in the Midwest, we have between 400 and 500 species of native bees. Although there is considerable variation in their needs, there are also some basic design principles that apply when creating pollinator habitats.

 

DESIGN PRINCIPLES FOR POLLINATOR GARDENS

  • Use groupings of similar plants. Clusters of blooms provide more foraging in a shorter time. Pollinators have to expend less energy to get food.

 

 

  • Plan for a full season of bloom time so that there is always a reliable source of food.

 

 

  • Use a variety of plants. At any one time, at least three different species of plants should be in bloom.

 

 

  • Select plants with diverse bloom shapes to accommodate different feeding habits.

 

 

  • Select plants with a variety of strong colors to attract pollinators.

 

 

  • Use natives, especially local ones, as much as possible. Native plants and native bees have evolved together and support one another.

 

 

  • When including ornamentals, choose plants that are non-invasive.

 

 

  • Avoid pesticide use. Some pesticides are long-lasting and will continue to be toxic for a year after initial use.

 

  • Establish the garden in a sunny spot with some degree of protection from strong winds.

 

 

  • Intersperse some herbs and vegetables in the garden that can go to seed.

 

 

  • Provide nesting areas near plantings but away from heavily trafficked areas.

 

 

 

 

There are literally hundreds of garden plants that attract bees and other pollinators. The following presentation gives some suggestions of flowers and herbs that are both easy to grow in the Midwest and are favorites of our native pollinators.

 

 

PLANT SUGGESTIONS

 

 

 

 

The design staff at Embassy Landscape Group are leaders in bringing environmentally sound design to the community. Let them help you transform your current landscape into a haven for you and for environment. 

Posted by & filed under Celandine poppy, Groundcovers, Native Groundcover, Native Plants, Naturalizing, Rain Garden Plants, Spring blooming plants, Uncategorized .

 

The celandine poppy, or wood poppy,  is a lessor known native perennial perfect for humus-rich shady rain gardens.  This low growing spring bloomer features generous clusters of bright yellow blooms standing above its blue-green foliage. It naturalizes well by self-seeding, but will go dormant in overly dry weather.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Aromatic Aster, Bees, Butterfly Gardens, Fall Blooming Plants, Fall gardens, Gardens, Native Plants, Uncategorized .

 

 

 

 

An exceptional plant for the fall pollinator garden, the showy bluish-purple Aromatic aster blooms are beloved by birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators and they make excellent cut flowers.These asters, that typically grow in a mounded shape 24 inches tall,  thrive in full sun and tolerate dry, rocky or clay soils. The leaves give off a pleasant fragrance when crushed.

 

Posted by & filed under Bees, Beneficial insects, Benefits of Nature, Fall gardens, Uncategorized .

Two years ago, when we moved into this house, I planted the beginnings of a butterfly garden. Last summer it didn’t amount to much — the perennials were small and it just didn’t have many winged visitors. There was a little more interest this summer; I’ve had several types of swallowtails, lots of cabbage whites and clouded sulphurs and even a few monarchs. Lately though, in mid-September, I have had dozens and dozens of types of bees along with my butterflies.

 

 

My prior vision of bees had been limited to that of the busy brown honeybee and the big, fuzzy black and yellow bumblebee. Noticing so many that didn’t fit into those two categories, I did some quick research and found out how little I knew about bees. The reality is that in the United States alone there are over 4,000 species of native bees. (Worldwide there are over 25,000 known species of bees.)

 

 

Surprisingly, the familiar and active honeybee found all across the country is not native to North America.  Shipments of honeybee hives were intentionally brought from Western Europe to the east coast of the United States in the early 1600s. Although it took many years (historical records indicate over 200 years), intense struggles against unsuitable environmental conditions, native insect and animal competitors and human interventions, honey bees eventually crossed the continent and became an essential part of American agriculture and life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here in the United States over 90 different types of crops depend on bees for pollination. Illustrated another way, one in three bites of all of the food we consume depends on bees to pollinate the blooms. Several crops, such as almonds, pears and rape, from which canola oil is made, rely on honey bees as their primary pollinator, but native bees are also our unsung pollination heroes. A honey bee can’t pollinate a tomato plant, but bumblebees and mud bees can. To increase yields, blueberries need the assistance of at least three different species of bees, two of them native. Bees — all bees — are truly essential creatures.

 

 

 

In the past, I associated bees just with summertime, assuming that’s when they were the busiest doing their work of pollinating plants, making honey and viciously stinging unsuspecting people. This influx of fall bees on my asters sparked my curiosity about what these fascinating and vital insects were up to this time of year. Why so many now, when the cycle of gardening is winding down?

 

 

 

It turns out that fall work is critical to the survival of the non-native honeybee Late blooming flowers like asters, chrysanthemums, goldenrod and dittany are last minute sources of nectar and pollen, both of which are stored for winter food supplies. The nectar, which provides carbohydrates, and the pollen, which is the protein source, are stored in cells in the hive. If sufficient food is stored for winter consumption, then the colony of bees has a better chance of surviving harsh winter conditions and emerging strong in the spring.

 

 

Since a typical colony has over 60,000 worker bees, a queen and a few hundred drones (male bees), quite a bit of food needs to be gathered and stored. Interestingly, as winter food supplies are being accumulated, the workers drag the drones out of the hive and prevent them from returning. Although the drones starve to death, the rest of the hive population has a better chance of surviving.

 

 

 

And bee survival is at risk. Since 2006, records show that each year about one-third of all of our domesticated honey bees and their colonies disappear. Some experienced colony collapse disorder, CCD, which is a situation in which the majority of the workers abandon the queen, eggs and larvae for unknown reasons. Other colonies seem to have contracted diseases or parasitic infestations that proved fatal.

 

 

Unfortunately, the trend toward hive loss continues today. Although CCD and health issues remain, entomologists believe that other factors also contribute to the decline and loss of honey bee colonies. Experts report that “poor nutrition and pesticides” are also factors affecting both honey bees and native bees. They warn that decline in pollinators will contribute to a drop in food production and a rise in food prices.

 

 

 

 

Because bee health is both an environmental and an economic issue, it is important that each of us who are gardeners do what we can to help. Creating pollinator gardens with both native and ornamental plants, adding water sources and reducing pesticide use are three easy and effective first steps in rebuilding bee habitats and saving bee colonies.

 

 

 

 

Join us next week as we explore more about bees and about some of the best plants and garden design tips for bringing a variety of native and non-native bees to your yard. See you then.

Posted by & filed under Deer Resistant Plants, Groundcovers, Native Groundcover, Native Plants, Naturalizing, Rain Garden Plants, Uncategorized, Wild ginger .

 

 

Looking for a ground cover for that consistently moist, totally shady spot where nothing else seems to grow? Wild ginger may be what you are looking for! This moisture loving native perennial is grown primarily for its stemless,heart-shaped, dark green leaves, but also features attractive ground hugging purplish -brown flowers in the spring. Wild ginger typically reaches 6 to 9 inches in height and spreads fairly slowly by rhizomes. The roots give off a light scent of ginger, but it is not used as a culinary plant. Try to purchase regionally grown plants since some strains have thicker leaves that are more adaptable to heat. It is deer resistant.

 

 

Posted by & filed under Design, Designing with Color, Designing with Light, Garden Design, Health & Wellness, Landscaping, Lighting, Night lighting, Nightscaping, Uncategorized .

Every now and then it just so happens that you are in the right place at the right time and something extraordinary happens.

 

 

Bear with me while I explain.

The presenter at the last design workshop I attended spent a large portion of the time talking about the importance of light in the design process. I immediately assumed she was talking about the relationship of plants to sun hours for growth, blooms etc. and since it seemed a rather basic concept, I tuned that discussion out and concentrated on my own thoughts.

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As with many college towns, the place I currently live has a vibrant, progressive atmosphere that celebrates outdoor living. There are countless parks, bike paths and walking trails throughout the entire city. In fact, even though we are in the heart of the city, we live within half a block of a trail entrance that eventually leads to a nature preserve and a wetland.

 

 

After a particularly frustrating day with two-year-olds, I decided I needed to get out of the house and exercise in order to relax, to lower my sky high blood pressure and to get rid of the day’s toddler-related tensions. After quite a bit of frenzied walking, I finally had to stop and catch my breath.

 

 

 

And that finally brings me to being in the right place at the right time…….

 

Breathing heavily, holding my side and still feeling grouchy, I turned my back toward the field behind me so that I wouldn’t have to speak to anyone passing by.  As I stood and recuperated, I became mesmerized by the changes unfolding in front of me. Slowly, the landscape began to shimmer in a soft golden glow. Tall field grasses, brown before, became luminescent while Black-eyed Susans sparkled in the waning light as dusk approached. I stood in awe at the absolute perfection and beauty of the scene before me. My mood lifted; I felt revived and at peace.

 

 

And that’s when I had my epiphany.  This was the light the presenter had talked about — not whether a plant lives in the sun or shade. She wanted us to consider the emotional responses that the intentional use of light can evoke;  she was reminding us to plan for and use the Golden Hour in landscape design as a way to care for our clients. … She knew that in the midst of busy and often stressful lives, having a peaceful retreat within reach can be life changing.

 

 

 

Photographers have long understood the unique power that the hour before sundown, the Golden or Magic Hour, holds as it adds an almost magical element to their photographs. During that hour, the sun is closer to the horizon so its rays are lower. (Mathematically speaking, during the Golden  Hour, the angle of the sun ranges from about 5 degrees to about 20 degrees above the horizon.) Because the rays are traveling through more of earth’s atmosphere, the light they carry is diffused by the dust and water particles suspended in the air. The diffused light produces a softer, gentler appearance with fewer harsh corners and contrasts.

 

 

 

The colors of light rays also change as they travel through the atmosphere. The blue wavelengths, which are cooler,  are scattered, resulting in the warm, inviting tones of reds, yellows and oranges becoming prominent. As those warm hues blanket the landscape, they unveil a display of nature’s beauty than cannot be replicated — even by.the most talented lighting company.

 

 

 

When a photographer snaps a photo of the landscape in that Golden Hour, he (or she, of course) can capture a breathtaking image that can be looked at time and time again. Ultimately though, the image itself remains the same each time it is viewed. On the other hand, a landscape designer can, through a few careful considerations, use that Magic Hour to create a breathtaking scene that will subtly change over time, giving the viewer the opportunity for a new and different viewing experience each day.

 

 

The first consideration is determining the sun’s Golden Hour location in conjunction with the landscape. Where will the rays fall so that they will serve as the backlighting to the design? (See our August 22nd blog for a further discussion of backlighting.) From what location will the spot be best viewed? Since the sun’s positioning will change according to the season, the focal point may also need to shift.

 

 

 

The types of plants chosen for the design can help to create or to intensify the emotion of the Magic Hour experience. Some, like ornamental grasses, with their narrow, gently undulating leaves and unique seed heads seem to softly glow, as they reflect the last remnants of daylight.

 

 

 

Plants that have a more defined, structural shape give strong definition to the space while they add luminescence. Globe Thistle and Joe Pye Weed are excellent examples.

 

 

The texture of the plants used in the design can add drama to the atmosphere as the light bounces off their surfaces. Plants with spines, like Prickly Pear Cactus, or those with a “hairy” texture, like Lamb’s Ears or Dusty Miller can sparkle in the light of the Magic Hour.

 

 

 

Small trees and shrubs with open forms and translucent leaves can add to the design by pulling the eye upward into the soft light and golden color of the setting sun. Mimosa trees and fringe trees are two examples that let the light filter through the lacy foliage and reflect off of the blooms.

 

 

 

To add an element of glowing color to the design, use flowering bulbs. The delicate petals on plants like daffodils, gladiolus, freesia and iris let light flow through, giving a burst of color to the Magic Hour scene.

 

 

Finally, consider incorporating plants with white blooms or silver foliage into the design. Since paler colors reflect light waves more than dark colors do, blooms of whites, creams and yellows will appear to glow in the waning light.

 

 

Having had the good fortune to experience it firsthand, I now realize how important her message about designing with light in mind truly is. Finding that spot in the landscape to create a Golden Hour Garden is going to be my next landscaping goal. The talented designers at Embassy Landscape Group can help you create magical spot of your own. Call them today.