Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Quality of Light

When choosing plants at the nursery it would seem that as far as light requirements go, their only choices are:
Full sun
Part sun/part shade
I know there is not enough space on those little plastic tags to be more detailed, but it's very misleading to put Full Sun on a plant when you live in the Central Valley of CA. Not that many plants can handle the Full Sun we have here.
Having spent some time as an amateur photographer in days past has heightened my awareness of the qualities and subleties of light. Noticing how the light changes during the day on different areas around my yard and garden is high on my Cheap Thrills List.
Light is a constantly changing element and there are endless subtleties to its nature. The angle of the sun changes every day by 1 0r 2 degrees also as the earth tilts a little more towards the sun until the summer equinox.
My all time favorite light is in the late afternoon when light takes on a golden glow and shadows lengthen. For a short time before sunset the light comes from underneath the plants so they take on a translucent glow.
This photo is of late afternoon light filtering through trees onto moss covered boulders in the foothills on property belonging to some friends.
Other favorites: sunlight filtering through a mulberry tree onto a bed of strawberries with a few onions interspered. It's shady in the morning but not like the shade that cools and protects the small bed of violas and lamium just outsie my front door.
There's harsh light and soft light; flickering, filtered light. Dappled light and diaphanous light coming through the white gauzy curtains.
There's bright, shadowless light, glaring and blazing in intensity which pretty much describes our entire western edge of the property.
Next to the quality of the soil, I think the quality of light is the most important one for plants. I've been known (mostly by my plants) to move them around like other people move their furniture. If a plant isn't thriving somewhere I figure it just needs a different spot (i.e. light). I've done this with rosemary, thyme, lilies, sweet williams, ferns, etc.
Things I've done to try and make my plants happier:
  • planting a sun-loving herb on one side needed to block or filter the sun.
  • added some garden art objects to shade a section.
  • moved a big potted plant around to shade and cool off an more delicate plant.
  • large rocks
  • a trellis.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for stopping by my gardening blog! Your comments were very helpful.

    I love the picture of the moss. Moss gardens are so peaceful and tranquil. I wish I had a location where moss would grow.