Monday, July 25, 2011

The Sun and Shade~


Shade, and lots of it, is the way of the future~

As we continue to experience the heat and drought, gardens and gardeners alike are becoming more stressed each day. Many gardeners are just trying to keep beloved plants and shrubs alive, which is proving to be a challenge. On Saturday afternoon, the temperature on the hill was 117 degrees and the Canadian River is dry, dusty sand. Optimistically, this heat will inevitably come to an end with seasonal change; this will possibly be the first time gardeners are eagerly awaiting Fall.

The nature of the Sun seems to have changed; it appears to be burning brighter and Swiss and German experts have agreed that it is the strongest it has been since weather records were first collected in 1860. According to Sami Solanki, director of the famed Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, "The sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently — in the last 100 to 150 years," Globally 1997, 1998 and 2002 were the hottest years, with this year breaking all global records.

So this year has left gardeners with the challenge of providing a future environment that is comfortable and shade is the keyword. When wandering through a park or woods, it may be noted it is cooler than the surrounding countryside... the canopy of the trees absorb the heat, never allowing it to reach the ground. Add the element of water and one has an Oasis. Oases exist on all continents and are simply a place in the desert with a water source; from this source plant life grows and flourishes and thus provides a refuge from the blinding heat at its borders. A shaded pond will cool the garden while giving the birds a place to bathe and drink.

If you do not have trees, plan to plant them in the Fall. There is a quite a nice selection of hardwood trees that will flourish here. The term hardwood comes from an old logging camp ‘rule of thumb’ where woods were often named by their resistance to sawing. Hardwood trees are usually those with dense wood, a long life span, and slow growth. They include our lovely Caddo Maple, Burr Oak, Cottonwood, Ash and Black Walnut. Elm is also among them, however with their numerous health issues, it would be unwise to plant one. Some of the ancient Burr Oak in my woods are of such age they possibly saw nomadic Native Americans camping beneath them. Not only will hardwood trees provide comfort and cool in the Summer, but they will also give a lovely foliage show in the fall. Softwoods are usually conifers and the ever-popular Bald Cyprus is among them. Not recommended by many gardeners, they leave an untidy mess as the needles fall and accumulate each Fall... and they also attract bag worms as no other tree!

Purchase an inexpensive mister, plan to dart from shade to shade, go inside for the mid-day heat, and simply endure... the heat dome will move!