The Q&A Archives: Incorporating Shrubs/Trees in Border

Question: The pictures of perennial gardens which I most admire most are borders with background plantings of bushes, trees and evergreens. However, I am wondering how to place a plant in "full sun" when it is inevitable that the background planting is going to shade the garden at least part of the day. I have even placed flowering trees such as ornamental cherries about 15 feet apart at the back of the border. I've also planted hydrangea, hibiscus, and crape myrtle. How do I develop the lush background and still get the sun that is required for most perennials?

Answer: Often the background planting is on the north side of a long border, where it won't cast shade on plants that need full sun, or ocasionally to the east side so that the border receives full afternoon sun. Borders which receive only full morning sun are best for a selection of plants requiring part-shade.

Much depends on microclimate: For example, some plants needing full sun in England actually require partial shade during the hot summers in the United States. Another problem those larger trees and shrubs may eventually cause is root competition for water and nutrients. Part of the skill accomplished perennial gardeners exhibit, especially those with mixed borders, is the ability to blend the plants attractively while still meeting their cultural requirements. Often it is a matter of trial and error over time combined with attentive and thoughtful observation. Also, talk to gardener's whose borders you admire, and keep reading. It all helps!

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