Fall Foliage at The Dorothy Harvie Gardens

People in our zone typically agree that fall is the most glorious time of year. Aspen, Pear and Larch come to mind when we think of the showy colours of fall.

I am partial to Birch. Birch has a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and, like all other plants, a variety of reasons why people plant them. Read on for a special segment about The Dorothy Harvie Gardens and why they have a special place in my heart.

I spent 17 years teaching horticulture at the Calgary Zoo and loved it. On many of our walks, I would stop by The Dorothy Harvie Gardens as they had a beautiful birch on the south/west side in the middle of one of the main plant beds.

In spring it was to take a backseat however to a small shrub with abundant pink flowers known as Double Flowering Plum. The simple plant combination juxtaposed in a subtle way where one balanced the other, the tension between the diminutive shrub and the larger weeping birch was not as noticeable, yet you knew something was different, but couldn’t put your finger on it.

After a few years teaching Horticulture at the Zoo, your eye pics up on subtleties and that’s when I noticed the birch in all its splendor. You see the birch was the weeping birch and it had many plants beneath it’s massive canopy in the bed. Now I noticed how well the balanced double-flowering plum shrub and the weeping birch were. The Birch hung down with its large canopy of shredded yellow leaves on a white flaky bark that looked as though it was unravelling.

The double-flowering plum was growing up and out as if it was trying to take shelter under the canopy. The tension created between the two plants, the off-season colours and the size differences jumped out at me.

Spring had the plum with abundant pink blossoms, which I’d liken to the cherry trees in Japan. During the same period, the birch laid back with its green canopy hanging around the plum, its white bark punctuating the vacant spaces in the landscape.

In autumn, the birch shines with its burning yellow/orange leaves on the branches glowing and weeping over the other plant life in the garden. Not to mention the white bark of the tree itself against the green leaves of the plum makes you stop and have a closer look at this combination.

You can walk anywhere and find landscape combinations of plant life that complement. When it doesn’t work it is usually man-made, however at a botanical garden like The Dorothy Harvie, we always try to push and inspire people, not just gardeners.

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