| Apr 17, 2008

Master Gardeners - April 17, 2008

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Master Gardeners - April 17, 2008 Sun or shade? by Helen Halpenny, Lanark County Master Gardeners

Sunlight, or the lack of it (shade) is of primary importance when planting a garden. Plants require light to thrive. Each species has light requirements. Meet those needs, provide moisture and an appropriate soil and they will prosper. Plants denied will dwindle and perhaps die.

Shade is the amount of light that penetrates an area. It changes throughout the season as the trees leaf out and the path of the sun changes throughout the year. Study the play of light and shadow across your property and look for sites with more light for those plants that require brighter light, such as vegetables and sun-loving flowers. Situate the more shade tolerant in the shadier areas.

There are several types of shade. Light or dappled shade is produced by high branching trees with small leaves. It gives plants sufficient light to grow well but prevents scorching or burning of some tender leaves. Half shade means that an area is getting sun for half a day. Which half of the day is all important. Morning shade followed by the hot afternoon sun is very hard on shade lovers. On the other hand, morning sun followed by afternoon shade is appreciated by many plants. Full, or dense, shade can be very difficult to work with especially if it is created by buildings, or by mature conifers because in addition to being light-deprived, these areas are usually very dry.

In the past we have regarded shade as being an obstacle to gardening but as our sun becomes more intense and droughty times happen, we are beginning to think of shade as an opportunity to grow different and unusual plants.

Everyone knows that most vegetables need at least six hours of full sun to grow well. Many herbs, and garden flowers are happy in these conditions as well. In recent years I have found many plants recommended for full sun are very happy to have a bit of afternoon shade, especially when rainfall is scarce. If your property is too shady consider pruning trees to let in more light.

Plants that thrive in the shade often have fewer flowers but make up for this by having beautiful foliage. Epimediums are an excellent choice for dry shade under trees. Heucheras have wonderful varieties with different coloured leaves. Hostas are the backbone of shade gardens. Hardy and reliable, there are varieties for all conditions ranging from dense shade to nearly full sun. Pulmonarias are easy perennials, their spotted or streaked foliage remains attractive all summer long and the flowers turn totally different colours as they age. These are only a few of many shade lovers.

Grass is a sun loving plant. The deeper the shade, the more difficult it is to grow a good lawn. In the dense shade under low-branched trees, a groundcover or mulched area will work well. Some ground covers that will succeed are lamium, ajuga, and lily-of-the-valley.

For more gardening information, phone Helen Halpenny at 613-256-3219.

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