Pink House Chronicles, The Garden: Don’t Get Burned – Ask ‘When’

Read Part 4 of “Pink House Chronicles – The Garden” here.

This is an interesting question to ask while working through your landscape planning. It has to do with the time you will use your outdoor spaces.

First there are the DAILY whens, each with different attributes: cool mornings, hot afternoons. Design your space for the time of day that you’re available to enjoy it. Make sure that, whatever time that is, you have what you need regarding shade and sun regulation. If hot, late afternoon sun prevents you from using your outdoor dining area, you will need to develop a shade solution with awnings, umbrellas, pergolas, or fast growing shade trees. Or maybe plan on moving it to another side of the house.

In her remodeled floor plan, Doni has added new doors and windows that create the essential connections between the inside and outside. With an outdoor space now easily accessible on every side of the house, Doni has the opportunity to move around depending on the time of day. This is a good reason to have more than one outdoor living space in your garden.

Then we have the SEASONAL whens: spring, summer, fall, and winter.

One of the pieces of information you must gather (and comprehend 3-dimensioanlly over time!) is the orientation of your house relative to the seasonal movements of the sun. You don’t need a degree in geography, but it really helps for you to know when laying out your garden spaces that the sun doesn’t always rise in the east and set in the west. That only happens in March and September. Because of our latitude (40 degrees north of the equator), the sun in mid-summer rises in the northeast, and then sets in the northwest. Why is this important? Many people only consider the south and the west when positioning trees or structures for shading, say, a patio to be used in the summer next to the pool. But that late afternoon sun, low on the northwest horizon before setting, is brutal and must be dealt with.

There is a great web site called gaisma.com that provides sunrise, sunset, dusk and dawn times for thousands of locations all over the world. Here is the link for their Redding information and an image of our sun path showing how the sun rises and sets 60 and 300 degrees off north in the summer, and 120 and 240 degrees off north in winter : http://www.gaisma.com/en/location/redding-california.html

Along with the seasonal solar fluctuations, there are the temperature swings. As we all know, in Redding these are extreme, going through 100 degrees on the thermometer – from a low of 20 in the winter to 120 on our worst summer days. Yikes! You’ll need to select plants that can handle this. When the garden books say a plant “prefers full sun,” in many instances you must take that recommendation with a bit of salt – or an extra gallon of water! Those books don’t know OUR full sun can be like a blowtorch. Ask for advice from local experts at nursery centers, or check out The McConnell Arboretum’s wonderful online plant information sheets. These are the same ones hanging over the blocks of plants in their nursery, and they give you lots of regional-specific facts on plants that do well here.

When selecting plants, also consider the time of year you will use the garden the most. For instance, if you travel every summer – no sense in buying a bunch of summer-flowering plants when there’s no one there to admire them! Instead, emphasize spring and fall bloomers. Don’t forget that there are many lovely plants singing out in cold months. Camellias and Lenten Roses (Hellebore) bloom then. Firethorn (Pyracantha) offers beautiful orange berries that attract birds, which will enliven your winter landscape with their comings and goings. From evergreen California Hollies (Heteromeles), you can gather festive foliage with red berry clusters for holiday decorations.

If you come to the conclusion that you’d like to be outside ALL the time, ANY time, then figure out what it would take to entice you to stay in the garden even when the weather isn’t perfect. Sun shading is always a concern in Redding, but I’ve also had people ask me to make a place for them to enjoy the rain. That almost always means pretty cold weather here in Northern California with our wet season occurring in winter.

So we start our planning by asking what materials do we want to use for overhead protection? We think about the varied sounds different materials make when hit by raindrops – canvas, versus tin, versus a shingled roof. Then there’s the need for warmth – sounds like we need a fireplace, fire bowl, or fire pit. And what would be interesting for people to look at while they’re out there listening to the rain? Bodies of water, such as pools and ponds, create intriguing patterns as the wind and falling raindrops caress their surfaces. The “when” in this case turns out to be the inspiration for an entire garden area!

Look for our next question –  “How?” in an up-coming installment of PHC – The Garden.

Karen McGrath is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach Karen via email at kmcgrath@charter.net, or at (530) 222-4277. Check out her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

is a professional garden designer working out of Redding in the foothills of north central California. Her mission is to bring people outside, which she accomplishes by designing custom-fitted, outdoor spaces for their homes. She also volunteers her time and expertise at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens in Redding CA. Reach her at kmcgrath@charter.net or at (530) 222-4277. Visit her website at karenmcgrathdesign.com.
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3 Responses

  1. Carla Jackson says:

    Karen, I'm really enjoying your PH Garden Chronicles!

  2. Karen, I'maren, I'm really enjoying your PH Garden Chronicles! really enjoying your PH Garden Chronicles!

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