No Sun Required: The Best Plants for the Shade

Far too many people begin landscaping their yards with the best of intentions, yet end up disappointed due to a series of simple mistakes. For example, the sun moves throughout the day, and different portions of your yard receive sunlight as the daytime hours wear on. Some yards have overhang from trees or other obstructions that prevent the sun from shining onto plants, flowers, and shrubs.

If your yard is shaded and you plan your landscaping without considering the sun, your plants could wilt, refuse to bloom, or die completely. There are certain types of plants and flowers that do well in the shade, so stick to varieties that can grow without direct sunlight.

Vines that Do Well in the Shade

You may think all plants need direct sun exposure to grow, but that is not the case. In a “shade garden”, landscapers often plant vines that creep through a shaded area and create a dramatic, lush effect as they spread.

It’s not an easy feat to track down vines that are both tolerant of the shade and provide a visually stimulating display of flowering. However, climbing hydrangea vines are an option many landscapers choose to remedy this issue.

Another kind of shade-loving vine is the Sweet Autumn clematis. This vine is able to withstand shade more than is its typical clematis counterpart. The great thing about using the Sweet Autumn as a ground cover for your landscape is that it can grow upwards of twenty feet if it’s left alone. When August rolls into September, the vine begins to bloom into a breathtaking display of pungent white flowers.

Shrubs and Flowers for Shaded Yards

If vines grow too out of control for your taste, there are still options. Select shrubs that will thrive in shaded areas to give your yard an aesthetic pick-me-up. If you’re looking for shade-loving shrubs that bloom in the spring, opt for rhododendrons or azaleas. Hydrangeas are shrubs you can plant for summertime blooms.

As for flowers that do well in the shade, there are choices in that department as well. Some varieties of perennials are the safest bet since they will bloom every spring instead of lasting for only one season. Perennials will produce like clockwork year after year instead of the need to replant.

A few perennial flowers that do well in shaded landscapes are bee balm, bleeding hearts, and forget-me-nots. If you want a flower with a great aroma, try the Carolina allspice. It grows beautifully in shaded areas as well and blooms with a deliciously spicy smell.

Never let shade be a deterrent from planting a garden or landscaping your yard – there are quite certainly options when it comes to landscaping without access to direct sunlight. It’s true that the plants discussed do well without direct sunlight, but you should still take your region and climate into consideration before selecting any shade-friendly plants for your yard.

Landscaping Faux Pas That Destroy a Yard’s Beauty

Landscaping is a fun and exciting way to brighten up an otherwise dull-looking yard. However, there’s always that one house on the block with landscaping that’s, just, well… wrong. Don’t be that house. If you steer clear of a few simple missteps, you will have a great-looking yard of which you can be proud – not one that will have your neighbors rolling their eyes every time they pass your house.

1.      Picking the wrong spot to plant

Failing to plant in the correct spot is a real landscape killer. If you don’t consider how much sun a plant will need or how much shade or water it takes to thrive, you risk killing it within a few short weeks. Instead, sketch out your yard space ahead of time and select plants that will do well in different shady and sunny parts of your yard.

2.      Littering your yard with lawn ornaments

This should go without saying, but 25 yard gnomes are never a good idea. Everyone knows that person that fills his or her yard with pink flamingos and “cutsie” figurines may not be a member of the “in” crowd. A good rule of thumb: stick to one or two tasteful, reasonably-sized lawn ornaments in the front yard, and one or two in the back. Any more and you might end up overdoing it.

3.      Hoarding outside the house

This is a piggyback rule that couples with the lawn ornament suggestion. Nothing destroys great landscaping like a lawn full of junk. Resist the urge to use your outdoor space as your own personal storage facility – a car on cinderblocks or an old fridge propped precariously in the front yard does nothing for your landscaping and makes it look cluttered and unkempt. Store unused items in closets and sheds and keep your yard free of debris.

4.      Shrubs around the home are too tall

Tall plants block windows and make a home appear ghostly and overgrown instead of sprightly. Homeowners try to fight this problem by pruning the shrubs. However, when you prune shrubs too heavily to lessen their height, you risk damaging the plants and causing them to appear disfigured. To keep this from happening, choose plants that won’t grow high enough to block your home’s windows.

5.       Plants are planted too close to the house

When you plant shrubs, bushes, and flowers too close to your home, you risk cluttering the look of your landscape and possibly damaging your plants in the process. An additional problem is that cramped plants could potentially block vents, which could lead to major moisture issues down the road. Instead, stick to this guideline: calculate the width your shrubs will be when they mature, and then add a foot.

Avoiding these common gardening “no-nos” is not rocket science – simply follow some “best practices” that will guide you as you whip your yard into shape. If you steer clear of these faux pas, you’ll have a presentable yard that you (and your neighbors) can be proud of for years to come.


Landscaping and Cooling Your Home 101

As a new home owner there are many items on your “to do” list. You want your new purchase to feel more like a home and to feel settled in your abode. One of the first projects many new home owners consider is updating the landscaping.

Perhaps one of the reasons you purchased the house was because of its drive-up appeal; lots of trees, beautiful shrubs and colorful flowers, but the foliage may not be within your taste, nor the landscaping energy-efficient friendly.

What do we mean by energy-efficient landscaping?

For one, the way a yard is landscaped can not only improve the look of your home, but also make it energy-efficient with a few minor adjustments.

Trees make an excellent source of shade, keeping a house cool in the summertime and therefore cutting energy costs. But the placement of such trees and scrubs is essential to reap some kind of energy savings. Trees, hedges, vines and trellis-pergola can all be used throughout landscaping regardless of how large or small the property may be, and placed effectively to help keep energy costs down, while also beautifying your home’s drive-up appeal.

Deciduous Trees

There is a two-fold purpose when considering the placement of deciduous trees. One, the tree can shade the house to keep it cool, and two, it can also be a windbreaker during the winter, keeping heat from escaping. An Evergreen is an example of this and an excellent source to combat both issues. Placed near windows, they help to shade the sun during the summer months and block harsh winds in the winter months.

Do you have bay-type windows from ceiling to floor? You may love them and have no desire to replace them; however, they face the west side of your home. Lots of sunshine beams through the bay windows spreading light throughout, but unfortunately they are placed in the west, which creates a rather stifling room temperament during the summer months. A tree with full leafs; such as a Bradford Pear, a deciduous tree, can be a benefit for all seasons. This type of tree drops its leafs in the fall, so what served as a shade tree in the summer, now allows beams of sunlight to shine through the bay windows to warm the house during the winter. Bradford Pears are also fast-growing trees and normally mature in approximately three years.

A trellis filled with ivy scaling up the side of a brick chimney works similarly. Leafs are full during the summer, cooling the brick of the chimney, thus keeping the inside room to the fireplace cool. Bushes around the house, placed where the sunshine hits at the peak of each day, will also help to protect from foundation issues in the future. During the hot days of summer, a cement slab foundation needs to be watered to keep from cracking or buckling. Bushes and scrubs help to shade the foundation and with watering the plants it works two-fold by also keeping the foundation from becoming too dry and prone to cracking.

Certain plants can also work as a protection for the home. Perhaps you have a couple of windows that are set low and placed in a less traveled area of your home or may be more secluded, which can lead to easy access for predators. Prickly type plants such as Cactus or Acacia are a huge deterrent.

A new house is one of the biggest investments one can make. Keeping it safe and energy-efficient can be as easy as using a few key landscaping elements that will make your house feel more like “your” home.