Tuesday, October 9, 2007

For sunny gardens under the hot sun

Sun-loving plants need exposure to direct sunlight to keep growth compact and to ensure good flowering. Insufficient light makes them grow weak and spindly, and may stop them from flowering. Check the label on the plant before you buy it for advice about the correct growing position, or consult reference books for further detail.

Some plants will grow in a wide variety of situations. Their label may say 'grows in sun or light shade'. When a label says 'for a sunny situation', for example, on conifers and fruit trees, the plant must be in sun for at least half the day. Plants which prefer to have sun all day long will have 'full sun' on the label: for example, herbs, rock plants, grasses and roses need to be in a north-facing position, away from shade-casting trees, walls or other features.

Some plants will scorch if the weather is very hot, so the label may indicate full sun is needed except at midday, when the sun is at its hottest. Shade only at midday is not easy to find - ideally place the plant where a rock, container or tree trunk provides temporary shade at this time of the day. Alternatively, take a chance and plant in a spot with all-day sun, but make sure that the soil stays moist, or position the plant where it gets afternoon shade.

It is easier to choose plants that suit a particular site, but you could, if necessary, alter the site to suit particular plants. To provide shade, you could plant trees or shrubs, or put up a structure such as a bamboo screen or a pergola with climbers trained over the top to filter the light. A few plants - lilies, clematis and flannel flowers, for example - grow best with their roots in cool shade, and their stems and flowers in sun. Create shade at the base of the plant either by growing shorter, ground-cover plants, or by putting large pebbles over the soil surface or clustering planted pots around the base.

The soil at the base of a sunny wall is often dry and impoverished, but some plants, such as Amaryllis belladonna, winter iris (Iris iinguicnlaris) and Nerine bowdenii, flourish in this situation. Also try other drought-tolerant plants, such as crassula, Helichrysum angustifolium, sempervivum, Senna artemisioides or many of the euphorbias, including Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii. For a wider range of plants you will need to improve the soil by adding well-rotted organic matter. You will then be able to use the bed to grow climbers or wall shrubs, and sun-loving tender perennials or bedding plants less tolerant of poor, dry conditions. For spring bloom, hippeastrum and Californian poppies will enjoy this situation.

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