Does North Matter?
In The Garden – By Stephen and Kristin Pategas
Whether you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, the pole you are closer to has an impact on many activities. In the northern hemisphere, an artist desires light from a north-facing window. A sailor counts on the North Star to navigate. A solar panel installer aims panels to the south. A gardener needs to know where the sun rises and sets throughout the year and the difference between the winter and summer solstices.
Knowing where to find north is critical for determining where the sun will strike the ground through the seasons. Designing for the warmth of the sun on a terrace during the winter or for shade on a dining area or window during the summer requires knowing which way is north.
Many plants need specific light conditions to thrive. While some plants will successfully grow in sun, shade, or somewhere in-between, many need more or less sunlight. Before purchasing any plants know their light requirements. Note that the sun in Florida is intense and some plants rated for full sun need partial shade in Florida. Scorched leaves are indicative of sunburn. Scorching can also occur when a plant is moved from a shady to sunny location. Plants that are “leggy-looking” are reaching toward the light and would benefit from more of it.
Areas of sun and shade change throughout the year due to the earth’s shift on its axis. In the Northern Hemisphere, at the summer solstice around June 21st, the sun rises and sets at its most northern points. The sun is so far north that even northern facing objects receive sunlight. If there are shade only plants in those locations, they may stress from the sun that is coupled with longer days and the summer heat. On the south side, sunny areas become shady.
Once the summer solstice passes, the sun’s position shifts to the south and the temporary northern sunny areas return to full shade. As the winter solstice approaches, the shade deepens on the north side and the south side regains the sun.
Walls and overhead objects like overhangs, vine covered pergolas, and trees also cast shadows and affect nearby plantings. If there aren’t any trees with moss on one side of the trunk – moss typically seeks shade – find north by checking a property survey, a map, or a compass. Pay attention to each plant’s light requirements and what portions of the yard are sunny or shady over the year – then plant accordingly. Plants will benefit as they receive the proper amount of sun or shade.
Hortus Oasis (FL26000315) in Winter Park is a boutique garden design company specializing in residential, commercial and specialty gardens. Stephen is a registered landscape architect and Kristin is a certified landscape designer. Contact them at 407-622-4886 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photography by Stephen G. Pategas/Hortus Oasisby