Consider Light In Garden Design

Light has a powerful impact on garden design. Horticulturally, it determines what we can successfully grow since it is the energy source that drives photosynthesis the wondrous process within plant cells that transforms radiant energy into a chemical form, primarily sugars. Light also has a dramatic psychological impact on garden design with Solar panels Sydney. For instance, bright, sunny gardens often are described as festive and lively; whereas, dark shadowy gardens often are described as quiet and somber.

Recently, I visited a light-starved garden so dark and dreary it made my skin crawl. The owner had recently bought the property and was equally put off by the garden’s somber atmosphere.

She wondered, as we moved through the melancholy shadows, if the garden needed to be re-designed in order to “fix” its personality. I didn’t think so.
As we studied the situation, it became clear the basic design was structurally sound. The walks, patios and bed dimensions were logically laid out and proportionally pleasing.

Clearly, extra light was the antidote for this garden’s depression and for its anemic, light-starved plants.
The remedy was simple.

A competent tree pruner was hired to carefully open the dense limb canopy of overhanging trees. This allowed life-giving light to enter the garden, completely changing the atmosphere horticulturally and aesthetically.

The garden still needed an additional dose of design medicine. The uniform sea of dark-green foliage within the garden also needed to be lightened. That was accomplished by including a significant number of plants with light-colored and variegated foliage to the design.

In dense shade and shadows, light-green, yellow and variegated foliage appears to reflect light, giving a dark garden a much more open, airy appearance; whereas, relying solely on dark-green foliage tends to make a dark garden appear even more somber.

There are many nursery plants with dramatic light-colored and variegated foliage to use in shady gardens. For instance, hostas, coleus and caladiums commonly are planted for their bright, variegated foliage patterns. Be sure to select varieties with white, yellow, gold or lime green in their leaf patterns for maximum impact in shady areas.

Also, when selecting annuals and perennials for shady areas, look for varieties that produce lots of white, yellow or pink flowers. Deep-blue, red and purple flowers are gorgeous in bright sunlight. But, their impact is greatly lessened in the shade.

Golden Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra `Aureola’) is a great new variegated plant perfect for shady gardens. It’s also referred to as Hakone Grass.
I first grew this delightful plant three years ago, and each year I grow more impressed with it as I find new and exciting ways of utilizing its impressive foliage.
It has beautiful ribbon-shaped leaves striped in warm golden-yellow. In late fall this herbaceous perennial slowly changes to a uniform golden brown and remains attractive throughout winter.

Its graceful, arching form also is highly attractive. Reaching only 15 to 18 inches tall, weeping mounds of Hakone Grass look great next to patios, walks or large boulders. I also enjoy using it in urns and planters where its soft, cascading foliage can be easily seen and appreciated.

Hakone Grass thrives in moist, well-drained soil and its shallow roots appear to prefer a cool soil environment, therefore keep plenty of mulch around them throughout our long, hot summer. Also, be sure to plant it in locations that receive dappled shade throughout the day or in eastern exposures that receive morning sun only. Direct afternoon sun scorches its foliage.

Like most ornamental grasses, Hakone Grass may be easily propagated by division. Each spring I split off several pieces (divisions) from mature clumps to pot or plant in other areas of the garden.

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