"Climate of the Gardens"
courtesy of Billings WeatherCast
Climate is simply weather statistics averaged over a 30-year span which gives us a good idea of what weather to expect at particular times of the year. Here in the Billings area we are used to the climatic conditions that affect our gardens with precipitation, heat and cold, humidity and resulting soil conditions. See our Billings climate information below. The gardens at Zoo Montana experience what's known as "microclimate". Each garden is exposed to weather and terrain in a different way. For example, the Sensory garden is a berm garden 6 feet deep, surrounded by mature trees and because of the grassy areas and water features it traps moisture and retains heat in a compact environment.
In contrast about 100 feet away and at a higher elevation is Dottie's Garden. This garden is much more exposed both to warm sunshine and wind resulting in a completely different microclimate from the Sensory garden. As a result, it is best suited to "water-wise" plants and xeriscaping. As part of the educational process the Botanical Society at the zoo experiments with different plants, trees and flowers in each garden microclimate to determine what works best for Billings gardeners.
courtesy of Wikipedia
A microclimate is a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those in the surrounding areas. Because climate is a statistic, which implies spatial and temporal variation of the mean values of the describing parameters, it is clear that within a region could occur and persist in time, sets of statiscally distinct conditions, i.e., microclimates. The term may refer to areas as small as a few square meters or square feet (for example a garden bed) or as large as many square kilometers or square miles.
Microclimates exist, for example, near bodies of water which may cool the local atmosphere, or in heavy urban areas where brick, concrete, and asphalt absorb the sun's energy, heat up, and re-radiate that heat to the ambient air: the resulting urban heat island is a kind of microclimate. Microclimates can be found in most places. Another place this can occur is when the ground is made of tar or concrete; because these are man-made objects, they do not take in much heat, but mainly reradiate it.
"Hardiness and Grow Zones"
courtesy of USDA
The vast majority of the state of Montana falls into Montana USDA growing zones 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a and 5b. There is a small section in the northwest region of the state that falls into a 6a-growing zone. This growing map is used to determine which plants, trees and shrubs will overwinter without damage in particular areas.