Health, good health

*Health, good health*

Everybody wants it; but can health, good health be seen?

I’m not talking about humans.

This is about plants. And it is not a discussion about the definition of beauty or the definition of good health.

It is rather about what our eyes can observe. See a beautiful plant. See a beautiful flower. We are accustomed to those.

But something happened to me the other day on a walk. Our local weather has been good: sunshine, warmth and deep gentle rains. Locally, one finds in many home gardens well maintained topsoil–mulched with animal manures and dug in every year.

What does that mean? Healthy plant growth. And even with very common plants, their health shines. It captured my attention recently. My photo shows that. I hope you can see it.

Unusual perceptions of plants and their flowers? That is what CJ experienced for the first time in my book, Tangier Gardens. If you like plants and their flowers you will like CJ’s story.

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Treeline in the mirror

Which photo has the treeline?

1. No treeline, the mountain is not high enough.

2. Treeline, the line above which trees no longer grow.

So, what is a treeline?

Well, Wikipedia can tell you; but the mountains I am looking at are in Switzerland so I’ll refer to the Department of Geography at the University of Zurich for the definition of a treeline.

A mountain treeline certainly is not a line in the common sense. The treeline is defined as the high elevation, climate driven limit of tree growth.

The treeline is the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing. It is found at high elevations. Beyond the treeline, trees cannot tolerate the environmental conditions (usually cold temperatures, extreme snowpack, or associated lack of available moisture).

It is easy to get into the weeds discussing the geographical, botanical and topographical details of a treeline. Just look at the images above for a general idea and the graphic below for a summary.

Mountain treeline explained

But where does the mirror fit in?

A treeline is natural. It tells about interactions between ecotypes. And that makes me think. Is the treeline a vector or raster? Is it a thin line, a narrow path one pixel wide or is it a broad and wide line with varying gradients, blurs and opacities?

I think the latter. And looking in the mirror at treelines, I wonder…are human cultures like environmental ecotypes? Are they definable on their edges by lines? Raster or vector? Is diversity our strength…or our weakness…or is the effort to define cultural differences a non-sequitur?

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In my book, Tangier Gardens, CJ faced incredible cultural challenges.

The Tangier gardens saved that young man from the relentless, brutal challenges issued by the northwest Africa landscape. It’s an intriguing story about culture, design and humans.

Give it a go.

They just make me happy!

Lime or linden?

I don’t go out looking for trees–but when I’m out sometimes they call me.

This year the Tilia trees’ blossoms came earlier than normal. It was my olfactory pleasure. I could not say no. The fragrance captured me. It made me smile.

An online search of Tilia spp., their floral fragrance and their teas can keep you busy a whole day. Bottom line? Tilia fragrance and perfumes, Tilia fragrance and teas…a deep and mystical appreciation by all involved. No one can describe with absolute certainty what is the amazing fragrance. So, I’ll tell a personal story.

There is a time after the glorious spring greens that a summer tedium green takes over all deciduous trees. Tedium green? That’s the summer green that makes all deciduous trees look the same. They all fade into a dark green, amorphic background. 

This morning it began. Mature foliage on all deciduous trees had grown full size and darkened. It was working–each leaf a mini-plant-factory taking in the glorious sunshine and the CO2 to assure their health and ours.

Here is what I found in town. Unannounced, the nearest Tilia tree–its fragrance descended upon me. The tree was already a physical landmark. I realized it was also a sociological landmark, a local center for relaxation–soothing away anxieties. Its fragrance does that.

In other parts of town, people were climbing into the lower Tilia branches where they collected flowers. They took them home for drying to produce homemade herb tea known for its calming pleasure.

Look for your closest Tilia or lime or linden.

Under the linden, the local landmark where everyone gathers to relax and enjoy the linden flower fragrance.

Summer sunrise on the landmark flowering linden.

Alone, the size of the linden identifies it as a local landmark in town.

When CJ went to study local landmarks in the Moroccan towns (medinas), he learned things about landscapes and gardens they didn’t teach at university. Check out Tangier Gardens for a good read.

Liver problems?

Hepatica nobilis–portals?

Hepatica pushing up through last year’s beech leaves at 600meters above sea level in the forests just above Interlaken, Switzerland.

Still not sure about portals? Neither was CJ.

My favorite graffiti

This is green in real life, IRL.

…no political correctness…

…no social justice…

…no politics whatsoever.

This green graffiti is stone disrupted by plants.

My favorite. Tell me it isn’t beautiful.

Find yourself some.

Making your own path

…and when the path disappears?

Becoming a landscape architect is like walking an unknown path in a strange forest.

You know someone has walked it before, so you have some confidence. Then the path disappears. You have to make your own path and you don’t really know where you are going.

You must decide—forge ahead or go back.

Universities try to prepare you with programs, such as term abroad plus help through internships and mentoring… but in the end you must confront the unknown and make your own path.

That is what Christopher Janus, CJ, does in Tangier Gardens. He finds himself in unknown circumstances surrounded by botanists, horticulturists all in a fog of foreign culture. He has to define landscape, landscape architecture, gardens and his own career path. It is a path into the unknown.

If you would like to learn more about Tangier Gardens, click here.

Favorite Fog

Fog or cloud? This morning, this is what I saw. You might say–fog what’s the big deal.

You might say that if you have never lived among steep mountains in a climate blessed with humidity and precipitation.

Let me get on with it.

On the ground it may as well be fog. Can’t see blue sky or sun. Can only see 50 meters in front of me. Definitely fog. 

Or is it?

I live at 600meters above sea level in that fog.

But from a camera 1300meters above sea level, I am seeing that my ground level fog looks distinctly like cloud cover. A sea of clouds like all of us have seen while flying at 30,000 to 40,000 feet.

For me the question of fog or clouds is one of the pleasant riddles of life. Hope you have found it the same.

In the afternoon the clouds began drifting away or put another way, down river, downstream on the Aare River.

A 31Dec2021 Surprise

Don’t we all need a pleasant surprise? I was given one that I’d like to share with anyone who derives pleasure from the landscape.

Watching the sky in mountainous landscapes in my neighborhood, I am always struggling with clouds or fog. At what point does fog become a cloud? And do clouds ever become fog?

How can I even ask these questions? 

Because in steep mountainous terrain along a river valley whose source, not far away, is in the above tree line, high mountain pass glaciers, I regularly see the life cycle of clouds–the speed of cloud formation and dissolution. 

And that for me is excitement. 

Why? Because the speed of cloud is slower than human patience of vision. 

How often can we look at a cloud long enough to see its swirling edges grow or decline–and then until the cloud disappears or generates from nothing to a huge presence.

Today, 31Dec2021, I had an unexpected present handed to me by the local mountain landscape. 

I saw for the very first time–what I could for certainty define–ground fog. It began last night at sunset. Then in the middle of the night it grew while I slept. By morning, we were enveloped in it. It wasn’t deep but it was thick. 

In the clear sky sunshine, I took a walk to explore how the ground fog moved (more of a slow-motion slither, an exhale, a flow) around the valley floor. 

There is something special about seeing in real life, real time, the life cycle of clouds and in this case ground fog. 

I go through the whole gaia thing and the science of temp/moisture/wind. But in the end, I am convinced there is some thing alive in this life cycle. Are the mountains breathing in and out? I don’t know. My weak speculation is ignorant at best. But I feel what I feel. All I can do is write about what goes on in the landscape. It is all around each and every one of us. And it is mysterious…arcane.

Real snow

I wrote previously about winter colors, snow line and black and white.

The most attractive black and white in our landscape is the magpie, the Eurasian magpie, Pica pica. They have an large, active nest nearby in the top of a huge linden tree, Tilia cordata. When the first winter snowfall arrived the nest got so snowed in…it was no longer visible, neither were the magpies.

Where are the magpies?

Winter colors

…mountain, sky, forest and lake…

Gray sky? Yes.

White snow? Yes.

But the color of the lake? Look carefully and compare with the summer photo taken at the same time of day of the same mountain.

How cold is the ‘winter blue’ of the lake?
How warm and rich the mountain, sky and forest colors? And the lake, how to describe the color? Refreshing.

The above landscapes provide me daily inspirations to write about the landscape architecture past times of Christopher Janus, known to his friends as CJ, and his landscape encounters in Tangier Gardens. Please visit my Tangier Gardens landing page to sign up for launch discounts and more info on CJ’s north west Africa landscape searches for portals.

***As of NOV2021***PLEASE NOTE***FLAHERTYLANDSCAPE HAS MOVED ITS URL TO A NEW DOMAIN–https://flahertylandscape.com CONTENT THE SAME ONLY A NEW URL. PLEASE CLICK THAT LINK.