It’s Always Sunny – In My Backyard

By Amy Grant | June 4, 2021
Image by taniche
by Amy Grant
June 4, 2021

I spent 35 years in the Seattle area where gray skies are de rigueur and fall bleeds into spring with barely a temperature dip. Then I moved to the other side of the state into a home with a landscape that has full sun exposure and four distinct seasons, both of which have changed how I garden. 

A Sunnier Growing Zone

Because our entire yard is sun kissed most if not all of the day, one of the first orders of business was to provide some shade, so we immediately planted four trees in the back yard. Still, the trees are not towering specimens so we get plenty of light for our veggie garden; most of the day in fact. 

We have 4-6 weeks of summer temps that routinely hit the mid 90’s and even into the low 100’s, so the plants have to either be able to handle the heat or need to be protected. To that end, we choose plants for our USDA zone (6b) that are adapted to these conditions. We also always mulch around our plants to keep the roots cool and retaining moisture. 

Some plants however need some extra TLC from the sun’s rays. For instance, I grow basil every year but the heat sucks the life out of the plants. That’s where the immense leaves of the black zucchini I grow come in. They shelter the delicate basil from the searing rays. 

Other plants I recall fondly from my time in Seattle, such as ferns, anemone, and astilbe have found their place under and behind trees in the oh-so-limited shade we have. 

Still, there are many plants that just wouldn’t make it in this environment, so instead we grow sun worshippers like corn, squash, tomatoes and beans in the veggie garden, fruit trees and brambles, and sun loving, blooming perennials such as bee balm, foxglove, penstemon, coreopsis, coneflower, yarrow and so much more. 

Adapting For Old Favorites

To satisfy my yen for the broad leaved perennials of Western Washington we have three types of Ligularia growing in containers on our covered patio. They wouldn’t survive anywhere else in the yard, but do beautifully under cover with just a bit of dappled morning light and make the entire area look tropically exotic. 

The patio is additionally shaded on one side by the red table grape ‘Canadice’ and the white ‘Himrod’. 

After three years of living on the other side of the state, we are starting to get the hang of what we can and can’t grow and how to protect what we have. And, it turns out that there are far more sun loving plants than shade which means I get to buy more plants! 

My newest penchant is succulents for the garden. We have several different sedum, delosperma, and of course sempervivum or hens and chicks roosting amongst the rocks decorating the landscape and if I have my say, plenty of room for more.

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