It was only during a few days of particularly cold weather that the garden revealed a significant difference in seasonal micro-climates created by the low winter sun and the thick beech hedge that runs the length of one edge. The long shadow cast by the hedge reaches a third-way up the width of the garden and neatly divides it in two. The warmer “half” – where there will be the “exotics” border and the large herbaceous border – is bathed in yellow winter sunlight for a fair amount of the day while the colder “half” – containing Fruit Avenue, Judas Rise and some of Magnolia Hill – remains shaded and misses out on the suns weak but warming rays.
The line between the two is clear and distinct and any particular plant in this garden has it’s feet surrounded by frost or warming soil. In future, I will refer back to this image that vividly shows the two extremes and the position of the dividing line when I’m thinking of placing plants that may be border-line hardy for our conditions. Hardier plants will have to go on the right, more tender ones to the left. Terracotta pots should also end up on the left, plants that prefer cooler conditions to the right. When it comes to Fruit Avenue, being placed in the cold helps with dormancy for the fruit trees and bushes but may be a risk with lingering or late frost on early blossom.
Though these are two distinct parts of the garden, I don’t see one as better or worse than the other. They both have their advantages (and disadvantages) and choosing the side that’s suited best for a particular plant is the important bit. Along with this micro-climate created by the hedge will be numerous others created by other factors such as soil height, drainage, water table, slope, wind exposure and so on. As the borders mature, the trees, larger shrubs and indeed plant collections will all create their own micro-climate zones too and there will be micro climates within microclimates to the point where you can start to imagine a fascinating and intricate web of micro-climate inter-dependencies where the flutter of a passing butterfly’s wings might just stop the clematis from dying (again).