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Landscape Design to Maximize Sun and Shade Areas in Your Yard

A visually appealing, well-maintained yard can drastically improve the aesthetic appeal of your home. To create a relaxing outdoor sanctuary in your backyard, plant beautiful plants and flowers. Before ordering plants for your yard, learn to distinguish between shade-loving and sun-loving plants. To ensure the survival of your plants, you need to come up with a landscape design that maximizes sun and shade areas in your yard.

What is Considered Shade?

Depending on the number of hours for which they get sunlight, shade can be classified into four categories.

Filtered Shade/Sun

Tall trees with loose open canopies often provide dappled shade or sunlight for plants growing below. A good rule of thumb is – the higher percentage of shade the more plant selections should be geared for less than 5 hours of direct sunlight. You can push the envelope a bit in a filtered shade situation.

Partial Shade/Partial Sun

Partial shade areas are those that receive less than five hours of sunlight every day. In partial shade, a lawn area will become thinner as it will not receive enough hours of full sunlight to remain healthy. Plants needing full sunlight (a minimum of 6 hours including afternoon sun) will also be stressed in a part shade environment. We typically think of an eastern to northern exposure as a partial shade setting.

Full Shade

Plants and other vegetation in a full shade environment typically receive less than an hour of sunlight every day; however, some light may filter through the trees. Lawn, if any, in full shade is usually thin and patchy and not recommended.

Deep Shade

In deep shade, no sunlight reaches the ground. Look to plants adapted to this type of setting only for this situation. Cast Iron plant, many ferns, Pachysandra are some to consider.

Understand What Your Plants Need to Survive and Thrive

When buying plants from a nursery or garden center group, it is important that you understand the amount of sunlight, water, and nutrients that they need to survive and thrive. Most nurseries use tags with important information on plants. You can get answers to some of your questions from plant tags, but there is no substitute for speaking directly with a horticulturist/plant expert.

Before visiting your preferred nursery or garden center group, contact your landscape designer in Sonoma County, a garden center employee, Master Gardener or a county extension agent to learn everything there is to know about the plants you plan to use in your yard. Your local expert will advise you on the best plants for local weather conditions and help you with the selection of proper materials.

Creating a Unified Landscape

If one part of your yard is shady and the other part sunny, you must come up with a plan to create a unified landscape (unless you want it to look like two entirely different landscapes). There are two ways to achieve this objective:

Unifying Elements

Unifying elements such as trees and shrubs can be utilized to tie disparate areas of a landscape together. A well-done hardscape can also unify disparate elements in a yard. Hardscaping may involve creating a stepping stone path or cobblestone border or repeating trellis panels.

Transition Plantings

If you are using a mix of shade plants and plants that tolerate a range of conditions, come up with a plan to echo their shapes and groupings from one type to another.

Need more landscaping ideas? Gardenworks Inc., an award-winning landscape design company in Sonoma County, would be happy to help. We are a team of passionate landscapers. As one of the award-winning landscape designers in Sonoma County, we have taken upon ourselves to help our community members create the landscapes of their dreams. To talk to a landscaping expert, call us at (707) 857-2050.


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