June 04 2021
It’s winter again, I tend my houseplants and wait for longer days. I order seeds and plants, making plans that are perhaps bigger than my time and energy will allow for next summer. But such are dreams and I’ve lots of time. Winter is long in Montana.
To keep myself busy and my mind in a better place than it might go otherwise, I create, build and paint garden oriented stuff I guess you’d call it. I use old windows, doors, boards, pieces of fence, whatever I find to make garden decor. My latest project is a series of small gates made from an old weathered fence panel. I envision these gates opening into a small garden where everything is child sized and magical. A small flowering tree, a sitting place, a secluded corner, water to play in and lots of scented and edible flowers and herbs for magic potions. My children are grown and even my grandchildren are outgrowing such things, but you never know who might come visit, and children are always welcome at a garden party.
So, open that little red apple blossom gate and walk into the shade of a Klehm’s Bechtel Flowering Crab-you might have to stoop if you are not already conveniently short (child sized!). It’s not a big tree, 15-20’ tall and wide, but it has fragrant double pink blossoms that look like rose buds before they open. And should it offer a few tiny apples, well those are the stuff of myths and magic, right?
Bechtel crabs have been around since the 1850’s-I don’t know why one so seldom sees them now that I know how lovely they are, though one reason they might not be widespread is that apparently they are susceptible to fireblight, a bacterial disease that affects the Rosaceae family. I just planted my first one a couple of years ago and I eagerly wait each spring for it to bloom-somewhat later than other crabs.
There is a rule of thumb when designing called the divine proportion-things with a 1-1.6 ratio are pleasing to look at. Consider a 3x5 picture frame-roughly six tenths longer than wide. Obviously, like other such rules, feel free to break them when they just don’t work, but it’s a good place to start. This gate is in the neighborhood-close counts! If you lay out a narrow (3-4’) garden bed next to a two story house, it looks out of proportion; especially if it contains only short plants. I have noticed that people do notice if things are proportionate, even if they can’t tell you why.
I am frequently guilty of planting things that will overgrow their space (too close together) but I am impatient and summer is short-as is life. My goal is to surround myself with beauty and not let winter get the best of me. An occasional trip away from the cold is good, but I’m basically a homebody, so it’s off to the studio to paint flowers until the real deal is here. They’ll be back, I know!
Klehm’s Bechtel Crab, Malus ioensis, zone 4, h & w-15-20’