Gardening in High Climate
The climate and weather of a location will have a major influence on its character. They will have molded the vernacular style of building, and where the wood stove is available locally, they will have been used traditionally for constructing walls, paths, and fences. Indigenous herbage will have been used for hedging and infills, giving gardens a particular local quality. It has only been the development of the modern garden center that has changed this by offering universally available modern materials. It is sad that gardens north and south are now paved with similar materials, and are stocked with a similar range of alien plant material. Only more extreme climatic conditions prevent this universal approach and encourage a garden molded by its environment.
When considering what any gardening in high climate will support horticulturally you can do no better than to look and see what is supported naturally and in agriculture, in rural and suburban situations, and, of course, what is growing in other gardens. The main climatic factors which influence plant growth in an area are its altitude and the intensity and length of its winters. An area’s horticultural possibilities can also be greatly affected by wind. The wind off the sea, for example, will be salt-laden in diminishing amounts up to five miles from the coast. The range of plants which can stand its full blast is quite small.
Climatic conditions can also vary enormously from garden to garden. The presence of surrounding buildings, or trees, or a combination of the two, might inhibit the number of sunlight hours that the garden receives. In summer, when the sun rides high over obstacles, there will probably be more than enough light even if bright sunshine is limited to only part of the day. But in the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, direct sunlight might not reach the garden for months on end.
Homes and garden which are comparatively close to one another, but one on a hilltop and one in a valley bottom, will experience considerable differences in temperature in both winters (due to frost) and summer (due to wind). Frost is an important factor to consider on a local basis. You must remember that cold air flows downhill like water. If your garden happens to be in the way, any solid barrier will trap the cold. It is possible to deflect the flow of cold air with well-thought planting, though.