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Category Archives: Trees in the Landscape

Landscape Plants – Sun vs. Shade

Landscape plants
Landscape Plants
Front of House Landscaping

Sun versus Shade – Landscape Guide for proper plant choices

What amount of sun is full sun, part sun or partial shade? And how can knowing these specifications guide plant choices?

Each landscape plant has a preferred range of sun exposure. All shrubs, trees and perennials need sunlight. And it is often more than one would think. But each plant has specific sunlight preferences relating to the quantity of light, the quality of light, and the time of day it receives that sunlight exposure. These specific light exposure preferences are easily found with sources such as http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org with their PlantFinder application. This source provides a detailed range of landscape specifications for virtually all ornamental landscape shrubs, trees and perennials.

The majority of landscape trees, shrubs and perennials prefer over six hours of full sunlight. This is considered a full sun preference. Within the full sun plant category, there are many nuances that are less easily understood. For example, many Hydrangea varieties are listed as a full sun plant. However, Hydrangea does not like hot, late day sun. Therefore, Hydrangea should be located where they get good morning sunlight into early afternoon. That would be on the east side of buildings or larger shrub and tree groupings.

Few landscape plants are truly adapted to blazing full sun throughout the entire day. Mediterranean plants like roses, Hypericum, lavender and succulents all tolerant full, hot, all day full sun. They are also a group of plants that tend to be drought tolerant. They in fact prefer the dry soil over too much water. Thought the standard is at least six hours of sunlight, this group may be best classified as a full, full sun grouping and prefers at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight to be healthiest. This landscape category also tends to tolerate the sandy or clay soils with little organic components.

The full sun, part shade landscape plants is a category that includes plants that prefer at least 3 hours of full sunlight. They will tolerate more if available. But this category of tree, shrub and perennial often prefers relief from late day sun or full summer hot sun. These plants will tolerate mildly filtered sunlight if direct, unimpeded sunlight is not available. But don’t expect as optimal plant health if placed in filtered light.

Part shade plants are a group thrives best in filtered sunlight. For example, a loose tree canopy above the landscape gardens will allow dappled sunlight through to give a sequence of sun and shade to each plant. These plants are the types that tend to wilt and burn easily if exposed to direct sunlight any time after morning. They are also a group of plants that tend to prefer rich, organic soils because they have evolved in the hummus of a forest floor.

The full shade plant category is by far the most limited with regard to options and choices. Not many plant families or species truly prefer full shade. At least not many that are commonly used in the ornamental horticulture and landscape trades. We struggle to find plant options when a garden is especially shady. And often those garden tend to be dry in the urban and sub-urban landscape posing yet another level to the plant choice challenge. Plants like Rhododendron are often thought of as full shade plants, but that is a misconception. The plant will tolerate full shade, but it will not be as healthy and grow as well as it would in a part shade setting.

Landscape plants and plantings have preferences, but will often tolerate a little less or a little more sunlight than generally specified. They may not grow as well, but sometimes we just have to put a certain plant in a certain location because we love it there. This means we may need to water the plant and fertilize it more, take a little extra care. But don’t be afraid to try and to learn. That process is the joy of landscaping, the journey not the desitnation.

Fall landscape planting

landscaping
landscape planting

Fall landscape planting projects are ideal. The reasons are both ecological and economic. Cooler fall temperatures leave plants less stressed as they adapt to their new environment. But more importantly, fall soil temperatures are ideal for root growth. Plants can get six to eight weeks of root growth before winter. This gives them a big advantage when next summer’s heat arrives. The exception is that some trees, such as many Oak varieties, are ‘fall dig hazards’ and are best not planted in autumn. (Ask your nurseryman for more information). Don’t forget to water your new plantings, as fall can sometimes be very dry.

Deals can often be had on plants in autumn for fall  landscape plating. Nurseries may drop prices if they are anxious to get rid of planting stock to avoid winterizing it or if they need to make room for holiday decor. Nursery plants will be larger at the end of the season, so you may get more plant for less money. Perennials can often be bought for half price or less since they are starting to die back. But put them in the ground anyway, and next spring they will shoot out strong. Landscape contractors may even lower installation prices if they want to get a little extra revenue before the seasonal shut downs.

Fall is perfect for pruning. It is much easier to see the branches and structures once the leaves have fallen from shrubs and trees. You will be able to determine which branches have die back and where certain diseases may need to be cut out. Thinning out trees and shrubs properly can also reduce potential winter damage from heavy wet snows or freezing rain. Pruning back perennials is a personal choice. Some professionals are adamant that perennials should be cut back in the spring so that the die back provides a winter blanket of protection. But if that is a messy look that drives you wild, go ahead and cut your perennials back in the fall.

Cooler weather does not mean the end to gardening. Autumn is a great time for fall landscape planting and pruning.

 

 

Trees/Mulch Mounds

Tree problems, Mulching trees, Too much mulch, Allentown, PA, landscaping with trees, Bethelehem, PA, Lehigh Valley, PA
A mulch mound with way too much mulch for this tree to survive long term.

Do you have a tree with a mound of mulch around the trunk?  Don’t get me wrong, putting mulch around your tree trunks so the lawn mower does not hurt their bark is a good thing but only when it is 2″ or less of mulch.   Many people loose trees and they don’t know why.  Over time, having mulch piled up around the trunk causes the bark to rot because of the continued moisture around the bark after the rain.  The tree gets its life and nutrients from the bark, so if the bark rots and falls off, the tree cannot sustain itself anymore so it has to die  Many good trees have died unnecessarily so make sure they are not your trees!

Tree mound problem