Light Levels in the Perennial Garden

Light levels are set out in the graph below. You’ll find much more gardening success if you stick to plants that grow well in the light levels you have at your property. The good news is that by utilizing the four sides of your house, you’ll discover you likely have light levels for both sunny and shady plants. (That is of course unless you have a lot of shade from trees or other tall buildings; then you just have a shady garden.)

Full Sun

On the graph, full sun is represented by the distance between 10am and 2pm.
Add another section – any one and you have full sun.  So, if you have sun on your garden during that time either with sun before or after,(or both) you have full sun conditions.

Those mid-day sun levels are the most important.

Shade Garden

If you have sun in the morning but not the rest of the day, then you can consider yourself mostly shady.
With sun only in the later part of the day, you are definitely shady.
If your sun is before 10 and after 2 or even 4, then you definitely have a shady garden.

Part Shade

When you get sun in two of the time periods but NOT the noon period.

Having Said All That

There are regional differences. So what we consider “part shade” in Florida is considered full sun in Ontario, Canada.
These rules of thumb are guidelines rather than carved in stone.  Other factors such as variety choice will often make a difference when growing some plants in more or less sun than recommended.

The Single Best Way to Improve Your Perennial Garden

You can struggle all you like with designing perennial garden borders for timing and sizing and color but the single best way to make that border look better is to get the size right.

The rule of thumb I’ve always worked from is that a perennial bed has to have 1 foot of width for every 3 feet of length.

This means a 30-foot long border is 10-feet wide.

The maximum width imho –  is 10-12 feet.

After that, it becomes a visual problem in most gardens. This means a 60-foot long border still has beds that are only 10-12 feet in width.

Get the width right and you’ll be amazed at how much better your garden looks right away.

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