Plants to Give You Shade.
Ivy is one of our most useful plantsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Creating Shade With Plants
Even in high summer, our sunshine in Britain is rarely unbearable, in fact we like to get as much of it as we can, especially as doctors are now saying lack of the sun’s rays are as bad for us as too much. However, there are times when even Brits might need to get into the shade and many plants add an ambience and character to gardens and parks as well as protect us from the sun‘s ferocity.
In the south of the United States, Australia and the Mediterranean, among other tropical destinations, shade trees go beyond having merely aesthetic appeal and become life-savers as the sun climbs immediately overhead into the heavens and the temperature approaches the 100F mark. Not only are these plants needed to keep the killer rays and heat from fragile man, but many other plants could not exist away from the shade of the larger plants’ shadow.
To check which part of your garden would benefit from more shade, first check the shadow from your house and other proximate buildings to see where the shadow falls, especially during the hotter hours. If you have existing trees, do the same for them. Your planning will also be affected by which way your garden faces: if east, you will get the morning sun; west, afternoon and evening, the times perhaps you are usually enjoying your garden. South and North facing gardens will get more regular share of the sun, but it is unlikely to be as strong in the morning or afternoon at any given time. A small, hand-held compass may be a help in orienting yourself with regard to the sun’s passage over your property.
When contemplating providing shade, you have to consider the time element as well. You might be so far-seeing and generous to plant trees if there are none that will benefit your kids, your grand-kids and their progeny. But by the time you get any benefit from them you will be…well, at least on benefits yourself. And the truth is that nearly any tree can provide shade, some better than others, of course: the spreading chestnut and the stately willows come to mind.
But you can plant fairly quick growing plants that will shoot up to as much as 15 feet in a few years and will provide shade for you and your garden plants promptly enough for you to soon have the benefit.
Acer (Japanese Maple). The Japanese are masters at garden planning and arranging shady, water features. These are several species of Acer and some will grow in time to become large trees; they are deciduous and take on glorious colors in the Autumn; evocatively named “The Fall,” in the US. Make sure your garden center, or gardener identifies the right plants for you - some have open crowns, others, closed - if doing the planting yourself gets the old back or knees. Best planted in late summer, as frost can damage very immature plants which will require covering in colder months. “A palmatum f atropurpureum” is one of the tallest Acers and also has the widest spreading shade - up to as much as 16 feet!
Crinodendron (Lantern Tree). You may be familiar with the Crinodendron hookerianum with its red, fleshy, egg shaped blooms; its upright growth and dark green leaves. These Chilean plants are not the easiest to cultivate but well worth the effort of extra mulching, watering and their preferring a moist, well drained site. Do not prune, this can shock the whole plant into saying. “Aye, caramba ya me voy,” or some similar Spanish phrase of resignation and farewell. These make good container plants until they get too big.
Elaeagnus. This is the choice for fast growth and will need cutting back eventually as their vigorous growth can produce large shrubs indeed. Most popular are evergreens which grown in sun and shade and is popular with landscape gardeners in commercial applications. Try to find a garden center or catalogue which features several from the species with photos.
Hedera (Good old Ivy). Much defamed, yet one of the most utilitarian plants in the world for providing shade from any supported frame: trellis, walls, other trees. Also the greatest friend to birds and other wildlife which spend their whole lives in it (insects), or bring up their families in it and eat the berries( birds). Ivy flowers are a good source of nectar for bees.
Ivy probably covers more eyesores than any other plant: lightning blasted trees, ugly walls and archeological ruins. It will also cover the ground in almost any conditions. It is little known that ivy can also be grown as a shrub if grown from “arborescent” shoots. Ivy can stand full sun, long periods of drought and fairly giggles at air pollution. It will, of course, eventually strangle host trees but is easy to prune and restrain. There are several kinds of ivy which you will need to discuss with the supplier or see in a good book on the subject. Loves the temperate conditions in Britain, but has established itself in many countries with a variety of conditions.
Lonicera (honeysuckle). The plant of poets and songwriters and the glorious province of the honey and bumble bees. A large genus of plants, many of which have found their way into our parks and gardens for hundreds of years. Honeysuckles are mostly seen as climbers, but shrubbery species are also available. Another attractive facet of some of the genus is their wonderful scent, often stronger at night. The plant L japonica is a quick climber with a wonderful scent.
The information in this article was researched from “Plants for Shade,” by Philip Clayton and published by Collins. I recommend this excellent book for further study and in-depth information on many varieties of shade plants.