somerville

Bloom of the Week, April 5th-11th, 2015

Aside from the tiny crocuses and snowdrops dotting the ground, the landscape in Eastern Massachusetts is more or less devoid of color again this week. One exception to the lack of color are the late Winter/Spring-blooming witch hazel varieties, which we have selected as our "bloom of the week."

Hybrid witch hazel ( Hamamelis x intermedia ) in full bloom in Somerville, MA this week.

Hybrid witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) in full bloom in Somerville, MA this week.

The predominant variety we see planted in our area is Hamamelis x intermedia, known as "hybrid witch hazel." This deciduous shrub can grow up to 15 feet in size and comes in several different cultivars. During the growing season it has simple egg-shaped leaves, turning a soft golden yellow during late Fall. The shrub is a cross between Asian Hamamelis species, so unfortunately it is not a native. That being said, it adds great visual interest this time of year and makes a beautiful, robust addition to a large foundation planting or woodland edge.

Close-up of hybrid witch hazel in bloom.

Close-up of hybrid witch hazel in bloom.

There is also a late Winter/Spring-blooming witch hazel variety available, Hamamelis vernalis, that is native to the Ozark region of North America, which can serve as an American (though not exactly native to our area) substitute. Our truly "native" witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, is a late Fall bloomer and is a spectacular plant that will likely be a candidate for "bloom of the week" later this season.

Hybrid witch hazel provides striking late-Winter/early-Spring color to an otherwise drab landscape.

Hybrid witch hazel provides striking late-Winter/early-Spring color to an otherwise drab landscape.

If you look carefully you will notice the crowns of many perennials starting to emerge from the soil, as well as buds forming on some of the deciduous trees and shrubs. The snow is pretty much all gone now and the lawns are starting to turn green. Now is an ideal time to get out and take care of winter damaged plants and do some maintenance on the lawn and garden. Please contact us you have any questions about how to get your yard back into shape after this winter. 

What is "stormwater"?

The great winter of 2015... Glad we don't have to see this again for a while.

The great winter of 2015... Glad we don't have to see this again for a while.

This post is part one of a series exploring the issue of stormwater and how landscape design can be used to reduce and treat runoff.

As I was walking around Somerville the other day I couldn’t help but rejoice at how little snow was left on the ground and how free and clear the sidewalks and roads had become. A few weeks prior you could barely go anywhere. Scuttling along tiny ice-covered paths, haphazardly shoveled through immense snow piles was the only way to get around. Driving was terrible. Parking—you're better off staying put.  The MBTA, let’s not even go there. We were all stuck, housebound with cabin fever. Thank goodness that is over.

Although now we all take delight in the melting snow and our restored freedom to get out and about, we are left with the unsightly remnants of the past couple months. Trash, salt, sand, oil and gas sheens, and pet waste are everywhere. As the snow continues to melt and the spring rains move in, all of that pollution is going to go somewhere. Street sweepers and sewer systems will capture some of the contaminants, but a large percentage will flow into our streams, ponds, and coastal waters. The water from rain and snow that runs off of the land surface is known as “stormwater” and it is a major contributor to urban flooding and water pollution.

Stormwater in Somerville entering a storm drain. Notice the visible oil sheen on the surface.

Stormwater in Somerville entering a storm drain. Notice the visible oil sheen on the surface.

In natural landscapes water is absorbed into the ground through a process known as infiltration. The problem is that in urban environments the land surface is dominated by impervious surfaces, like roofs, roadways, parking lots, and sidewalks. These surfaces create a landscape that does not allow water to be absorbed, thereby creating high volumes of runoff. As the stormwater rolls along it picks up contaminants from road surfaces and other hardscapes. Oils and grease, brake dust, pet waste, gasoline, sediment, and all other sorts of nasty things go along for the ride, ultimately ending up in surface waters causing pollution and environmental degradation. Stormwater can also cause flooding during periods of heavy precipitation when water flows to low lying areas faster than it is able to drain away. Stormwater is one of the biggest contributors to water pollution in urban areas and is a major issue for all highly developed/urbanized landscapes. As we say "good riddance" to all the snow, remember that the water and the contaminants it carries eventually has to go somewhere.

In future posts I'll share some thoughts on how landscape design can be used to reduce stormwater volume and lessen the impact that urban runoff has on the environment.

Flooding in Somerville after a summer downpour.

Flooding in Somerville after a summer downpour.