Garden Shade Meditation

Oh no, here comes the sun!
This hot July prompted thoughts about shade.  The virtues of shade become apparent when the temperature hits 104F/40C. 

There is a relatively small amount shade in the garden, though lately I've begun to add more.  Large shade trees have drawbacks which include large root systems, fire danger, and the expense of professional trimming.  A largish shrub (10-30 feet) or patio-sized tree (15-30 feet) can provide good shade and be less problematic.
Lovely morning shade from the Acer palmatum 'Oshio Bene'.  It's about 12' (3.6 meters) tall.
 There are several different Pittosporum tenuifolium selections in the garden.  They've been somewhat, but not completely satisfactory:  they drop foliage in high heat, would look better with more water than they get, and scale insects have been an issue.  
Early morning shade from P. 'Wrinkled Blue'.  
Windows are essentially holes in a wall and our intense SoCal sunlight quickly heats up the interior of the house via the windows, which is why we have exterior solar shades on some of them.  
Are trees a better solution?  I'm not sure.  Trees take time to grow;  the window shades were instantly effective.  Trees, however, are prettier.   

One of the living room windows gets an hour or two of shading from the 9'/3 meter dwarf 'Cara Cara' orange tree.
 Another window is shaded by the Iochroma 'Purple Queen'  It does help.  
 Last year I planted a Lagerstromia 'Ebony Glow' to the east of the Iochroma, and someday it may shade that window in place of the Iochroma, as well as shading some hydrangeas on the other side of the wall.  Besides being beautiful. 

Such as that sun-toasted one in the lower left:

It's only shoulder-high, so it will be a few years yet before it casts significant shade

In this garden tall shrubs were intended more as screening rather than shading. 
A Metrosideros 'Springfire' obscuring the house to the east: 
 And a larger 'Springfire's nicely obscuring the house across the street. 

The two Aloidendron 'Hercules' have shading potential, but they were planted really just because we liked them.  Eventually the branches will spread out and maybe shade the front living room window somewhat.
The shape of their shade is ornamental, even if the size of it is not impressive.  This is the little one on the other side of the driveway, with its fun splat of early afternoon shade.
 Besides their beauty, two 'Dynamite' Lagerstroemias out front are both current screening and future shade.  Their mature height is around 20'/6m, currently they are about 10'.   
 The one tree with serious size and shade potential on the property is the native oak, Quercus agrifolia, grown from a sprouted acorn planted in 2011.  At this moment it has screened out the uphill house across the street
 But as it has gained size, it now casts early morning shade on the driveway.  A shaded driveway is a wonderful thing.  Standing on hot concrete, feeling the reflected heat, is not so wonderful.
 Birds love the oak tree.  There always seem to be birds in its canopy. 
 In back of the house is a deep gully which in winter is shaded by the house.  In summer the gully is sunny, and even sunnier this year now that many weed trees on the property behind our house are gone.   Our gully's farthest east corner, with a Pittosporum tenuifolium, two Metrosideros excelsa, a Key Lime (citrus fruit) tree, and a 'Reed' Avocado, is the shadiest place back there.  

The Pittosporum and Key Lime somewhat shade the Pergola in the afternoon.  The Metrosideros gives it a little shade early in the morning.
Pittosporum 'Ivory Sheen': 
Adjacent to the pergola I also planted three Calistemon 'Slim's, to provide both morning shade and hummingbird nectar.  Up until last year there was a row of Arbutus unedo on the other side of the wall.  They were tall enough to give effective morning shade for the pergola, but were cut down for the neighbor's pool remodeling (which they are still not done with, by the way.  It's been over eight months.)
Lovely shade at 8 am;  not yet at 10 am. 
 As the 'Reed' Avocado grows, it will shade the pergola in late morning and screen out the house next door.  I won't let it get much taller because fruit trees can and should be kept short enough to enable safe fruit picking.  
The 'Fuerte' Avocado and 'Valencia' orange trees on the west side of the house mostly shade their own roots, which is just fine when your fruit is delicious.  
'Fuerte' Avocado:
 Valencia Orange
The gardener wants shade at this time of year.  Lizards, not so much:
 Koi agree with the gardener
 Do you have a very shady garden?  In a hot climate?  What problems does it present?  What advantages? 


  1. That oak holds great promise and I'm impressed by how fast its grown already. As you know, my garden isn't nearly as shady as I'd like. My former garden was mostly shade, which at the time frustrated me because it limited what I could grow and the space was small to begin with. I'd love to add more trees to my current garden but the community's view conservation ordinance limits the size of most anything I plant. Adding a small tree or large shrub in the area near my lath house could improve my ability to protect the plants inside, although whatever I chose would have to have a relatively narrow profile. A small tree in the back border closest to the house could be helpful but my husband will yelp about impairing his view even if the neighbors don't. Replacing the failing mimosa when it comes to that is probably the biggest near-term issue.

    1. Your Arbutus are so beautiful, I was thinking yesterday and this morning about where I can put one--that red bark is entrancing. Also dying of envy for your Leucadendron 'Pisa'.

      You have the shrub to choose for the hot tub privacy, and a really special small tree could replace the Albizzia and be a feature of your garden. I'll be interested in seeing what you choose.

      I'm surprised about the oak also. It went from 1 inch to three feet in six years, but from three feet to fifteen seemed to have happened in about eighteen months.

  2. I have quite a bit of shade and yes these big trees suck up a lot of moisture. That is the main problem. I wouldn't want to be without them though. I love shade. I can't get out in the sun much any more. It does limit your plant palette.

    1. I avoid sun also--following it around the yard to garden.

      We don't have any moisture here in the first place, so I wouldn't notice the difference, ha ha!

  3. On a sunny day I save puttering around by the shade pavilion and in the fern corner until the hot afternoon hours, it's so much cooler there. How do you feel about shade sails? I know they don't really go with the style of your home, but I've seen some really nice ones.

    1. Shade pavillion, fern corner, those sound good right now. Another hot day here. Shade sails, an interesting idea! Never thought of that.

  4. My garden used to have a lot of sunny areas but because someone kept planting trees and shrubs (and bamboo) everywhere, it's now a shade fest out there. Poor plants are all leaning out from beneath the jungle canopy to try and capture what few precious rays of sun there might be. I like how wisely and thoughtfully you've placed trees/shrubs in your garden and am a little jealous of your avocado and orange trees.

    1. Someone kept planting trees, shrubs, and bamboo on your property? Hmmm. Wonder who that could have been.

      I've been careful with trees/shrubs because if they don't work out, I'm the one who has to cut them down and dig them out!

  5. I have far less shade than I would like, and far less heat tolerance than is needed even for the comparatively cool heatwaves of the PNW between the Cascades and the coast. Someday, when the various evergreen oaks, eucalyptus, and other trees grow and spread their limbs wide, I hope my current garden will be covered mostly in filtered shade. Thankfully, there's room here for trees. They do suck up a lot of water, but they also shade and cool the ground, slow air movement and raise humidity, and provide various other benefits. However, I hope to be firmly ensconced in a garden closer to the ocean well before those trees cast significant shade. We'll see if I'm still so shade-obsessed when I'm gardening on the cool Oregon coast.

    1. You are a cool-weather lover, so filtered sun makes good sense. And a whole lot more water up where you are than here, so trees that suck water maybe are not such a bad thing.

      I hope your dream of a coastal garden comes true very soon.

  6. Haha, shade? Not much right now! A tiny 6'x6' square under the back deck stairs further aided by a tiny shade sail. Maybe the side yard which is basically unusable (for humans...)
    Questions, what is the bluish palm in photo #2? We wanted to put Aloidendron in the parkway but were turned off by it's rumored 'invasive root system', have you had issues in that regard? Such a beautiful plant, I would love to reconsider. However, I like water and sewer coming right up to my house more than invasive roots. ;)

    1. Oy, must be hot out there. That palm is Bismarkia noblis. Some extremely beautiful examples of it at the LA Arboretum (photos on this blog), and one beauty that I remember at the Huntington. At a certain height would be too wide for a parkway--when short or tall enough would be fine. Tricky, palms.

      There are indeed roots from the 'Hercules' in the soil, but at this point they are not a problem. It can get 40', apparently, BIG! so roots would be an issue in the parkway--aren't roots always an issue in a parkway? I am going to be careful with them--if they become a problem then they will have to go.

      You could go with a smaller Aloedendron like A. ferox and still get some height (though not a huge amount of shade). As I remember there were Aloes and small succulents growing around the grand old Aloe barberaes at the Huntington. Those old Aloes were recently cut down--they reached the end of their lives.

    2. Look at Holly Oak, Q. ilex, they are said to have well behaved roots, unlike our native Oaks. Mediterranean, so can take the heat.

  7. We have a small garden. Lots of shrubs and trees. And somehow when I wasn't looking it has become quite shady. Needs pruning and planning. The lemon is reaching up and that needs cutting down to size, slowly.

    But 3 of the windows that face into the afternoon sun are in need of sun blinds, since I can't contrive planting there.

    1. I have some big windows that get a lot of sun, and the sun blinds really help.


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