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Confessions of an Egg
Butterflies at Boyce
A Landscape Made for
Papaya: A Tantalizing
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in the Sonoran
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Worming Your Way to
B E T T E R L A N D S C A P E D E S I G N
A Landscape Made for the Shade
by Sandy Turico, Master Gardener
Every landscape should feature a shady retreat. What better way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon than swaying in a hammock under the shade of the backyard palo verde, frosty glass of lemonade in hand? Shade is a much-appreciated commodity here in the desert, especially during our grueling summer months. A shady spot has a special charm, providing a relaxing refuge protected from the sun's glare. You can make your yard more livable by enhancing or modifying the shady areas in your garden or by creating new shade.
When designing for shade it is important to become familiar with the shade pattern in your landscape. This pattern is influenced by the sun's path and by plantings and structures in your yard as well as that of your neighbors. It affects the capacity of sunlight to reach your garden and changes throughout the day as the sun crosses the sky.
Shade patterns also vary seasonally. The angle of the sun in relationship to the earth changes as the earth rotates on its axis, affecting the amount, intensity, and orientation of sunlight your garden receives. The position of the sun is at its highest point in the sky during the summer, resulting in higher temperatures, more direct light and longer daylight hours. During the winter the angle of the sun is lower; the temperature is cooler, sunlight becomes less intense, and days are shorter.
Analyze the shade pattern and the types of shade in your landscape. In a gardener's world not all shade is alike.
DEEP OR FULL SHADE indicates that there is no direct sunlight. Spaces under the canopy of a dense tree, a roof, or an overhang are the most difficult areas to find suitable plants for. A specimen planted in these conditions must be able to thrive without any direct sun, yet withstand high temperatures.
OPEN SHADE denotes areas that are open to the sky but do not receive any direct sun. An example of this type of shade would be a location shaded by a tall building or wall.
PARTIAL SHADE describes a location that receives five hours or less of direct sunshine during the day. Plants located along an east-facing wall or on the east side of taller plants receive morning sun only, and experience cooler temperatures earlier in the day. Vegetation along a west-facing structure will get the more intense sunlight of the afternoon hours.
FILTERED OR DAPPLED SHADE is found under open-branched trees or lathes. Such areas may be relatively bright, without receiving any direct sun.
As you monitor the fluctuations in your yard's shade pattern, you might notice that a spot adjacent to the north-facing wall is in open shade during the winter months, yet receives direct sunlight in the late afternoon hours during the summer if the area to the west of it is unobstructed. The area under a shade tree may not receive direct sun during the summer, but may get more light in the winter when the sun's rays are lower in the sky and reach under the branches. Shade gardening can be complex; it is an ever-changing phenomenon.
Now that you have some idea of how shadows in various areas of your landscape vary, think about how these areas function. Are parts of your landscape used for dining, entertaining or recreation? Is there too much shade, or not enough? While there is little you can do about the shade cast by your house or your neighbors, other structures in your yard can be eliminated to lessen shady corners, or built to add instant shade. Plants can be added, removed, or pruned to achieve the same results.
CREATING SHADE WITH PLANTS AND HARDSCAPE
If lack of shade is a problem, use plants and structure to create it. Strategically placed trees and shrubs can do wonders to block the sun's glare from your favorite sitting area. An overhead arbor, a vine-covered trellis, and decorative walls or fences of varying heights can make a patio or dining space more livable.
As a bonus, the plants and hardscape you incorporate into your landscape to generate shade can be save energy costs by shading the interior of your home. Study the orientation of the sun in relationship to your house, and place the plant where the shade will be most effective indoors and out.
MODIFYING OR ELIMINATING SHADE
As wonderful as shade is, it could become too much of a good thing. If the shade in your garden is not in an appropriate spot, or that shady corner is a little too gloomy, don't hesitate to make some adjustments. Move the trellis; pull out the offending shrub; tear down that wall that serves no purpose; or thin out or remove the lower branches of the tree to allow in more light. (Consider calling in an arborist if a pruning job is too much to handle.)
AVOIDING PROBLEMS IN SHADY SITUATIONS
Keep in mind the problems that can occur in shady conditions. Plants growing under or in the vicinity of trees compete for water and nutrients. Keep an eye on moisture and signs of nutrient deficiencies and adjust irrigation and fertilization accordingly.
The ground in shady areas may stay wetter longer because of the lack of sunlight. Air circulation is often obstructed by the structures and plant material that created the shade. Plants diseases may take hold more readily under these conditions. Make certain the ground dries out between irrigations, and do not group plants together too closely. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are ideal for these situations because you avoid wetting the plant foliage. Make sure to promptly remove plant debris to minimize problems.
USING COLOR IN THE SHADE
Light and bright colors transform a shady corner. Use plants with white flowers for a sparkling effect. Pastel yellow, pink and other light colors shimmer, while bright yellows, oranges and reds glow in the dim light. Avoid deeper blues and purples, which tend to visually recede. Foliage with lighter green tones, variegated leaves, or silvery foliage is also a good choice.
Painting walls, fences, and other hardscape elements with light colors can help reflect sunlight and can add brightness if needed.
Finding plants to fit your particular shady situation can be tricky. The plants you choose must tolerate low or fluctuating light conditions yet survive the summer heat. The following list is only a starting point. All of these plants will tolerate some degree of shade. Study the light and moisture requirements of these plants, and match them to your individual shade conditions. Be prepared to experiment--it may take some trial and error to find the perfect specimen for that special location.
Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree)
Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig)
Ficus nitida (Indian Laurel Fig)
Laurus nobilis (Sweet Bay)
Prunus caroliniana (Carolina Cherry)
Butia capitata (Pindo Palm)
Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm)
Phoenix roebelenii (Pygmy Date Palm)
Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm)
Acanthus mollis (Bears Breech)
Aucuba japonica (Japanese Aucuba)
Euphorbia pulcherrima (Poinsettia)
Gardenia jasminoides (Cape Jasmine)
Justicia ovata (Red Firecracker)
Leucophyllum l a e v i g a t u m