Pondering the view in Eagle County
EAGLE COUNTY, COLORADO You want landscaping. Check out the skyline about 5 oclock tonight. Ive got people asking me for plants to block their view, and I understand most of it is a call to blot out their neighbors very existence, but I gotta tell you, sometimes we overdo blockage.So Im standing on the deck watching the peach sunset towards Palisade be slowly consumed by the purple peaks, which has led me to write about, of all things, texture and mass, and about shadows and light.Ive never been a formal student of mass and light, texture and shadows. But Ive been around long enough to know that they all play together like stars in a night sky. The mass of those mountains plays every day with the fading light, while the textures drop slowly out. It is so simple and good. I cant beat it with a full crew and an unlimited budget. I dont believe theres any amount of landscaping that is going to improve upon a western sunset.I had a customer this past summer insightful enough to ask me for something that grew about 3 feet high, because she liked looking at Beaver Creeks green runs down the mountain across the highway. She was one smart customer. The view was better than the noise off the interstate. She went for some shrubs and the red Monarda.We could have laid in a block of spruce next to the block of spruce wed just laid in and blotted out the skyline 14,000 feet high. But, we didnt. She preferred to live with noise with a view. I liked her for it.At another location, a customer asked that we install some spruce atop a berm that was already better than 10 feet high and crowned with spruce along its length, except for where we were asked to install more spruce. After hoisting the last tree in place, I stood on the western-facing patio of the home and looked at the newly improved view. It was all Colorado spruce and sod, no more setting sun.It gets stark at nightfall this time of year. The edges of the ridges against the setting sun create an enormous cobalt inkblot against the slowly ripening sky, and then its dark. As it moves across the sky, the sun can focus intense light onto a patio making it an uncomfortable place to sit, but I think an umbrella would have been a better fix for remedying a temporary patch of bright sun than the installation of a spruce fortress.Conversely, weve topped whole groves of aspen to open the view for second-story condominium owners. It would have been more expensive, but I think a better scene for all the condominium owners living along that stretch of the Eagle River to have dropped the grove and replanted a new grove further down toward the river. Instead, we left off finishing the job by leaving half dead, 15-foot stumps soon to be topped by a mass of branches sprouting out at odd angles. It looked like landscaping done by a utility company. Sooner or later those aspen are going to be cut down. Some foresight would have given life to an aspen grove sooner rather than later.Making the big elements work in a backyard is a gift. By big I mean mountainous, dark, and light. If you have the opportunity to avoid creating the suburban fortress, take it. The surround of a backyard is probably comforting by being familiar, but here, I think thats why we are here, for the view. Creative solutions are neither easy or cheap, nor difficult and expensive; they just require pondering the view from every perspective.Tom Glass writes a weekly gardening column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments or questions about this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.