Creating vivacious landscape designs can be challenging, given New England’s intense four seasons. Massachusetts weather ranges from bitterly cold nights in the middle of winter to hot and humid summer days. This extreme variety of temperatures can put stress on plants. The four tips below will help you create a beautiful landscape in New England’s fickle climate.
The USDA classifies each area of the United States by zone numbers ranging from zone 1, being the coldest, to zone 18, being the hottest. These zones can help you determine what plants will thrive where you live. Boston and eastern Massachusetts are in Zone 5 and 6. Areas south of Boston near the Islands can even get into Zone 7. The average temperature range for the area is used to calculate its zone number.
Plant finder websites such as this one from the Missouri Botanical Garden will allow you to search by zone number for perennials and annuals that will grow well where you are. You can also pick trees and shrubs from cooler zones. Some plants have struggled to adapt as average summer temperatures have risen over the past few years. An example of this is the Canadian hemlock which has typically grown well in the Boston area but has been difficult to maintain recently.
Wind and soil conditions play into the microclimate of your property. These factors are very important to understand. New England often has sandy, or clay filled soil which can present some challenges for new gardeners. You can procure a soil test through UMass-Amherst or other schools with agricultural programs to learn more about your soil.
Once you know what kind of soil you have, don’t try to do plantings that will be fighting against your natural climate. Instead, look for plants that will thrive in your soil.
Additionally, know what the wind and sun conditions are like around your property. If it is always windy, pick hardy plants that will handle the wind well. If you have low sun conditions, choose plants that don’t require a lot of sunlight.
The best way to landscape is to use plants that are native to New England. Your local nursery has plants that are indigenous to your climate. The employees can also help you figure out what plants will work best in your yard. While native plants are preferable, plants that are native to areas with a similar climate - like certain parts of the Pacific Northwest - will also flourish in New England.
Moodscapes LLC is an organic landscape design and service company with a focus on helping you extend your life outdoors to enjoy activities on your own, as a family and with friends. We create opportunities for you to commune with and find joy and peace in nature and to live in an ecologically friendly and healthy environment. Please explore our landscape services and the portfolio that demonstrates many examples of our work.