Monday, January 30, 2012


As gardeners I think we all know the importance of sunshine for plants and gardens! Light means photosynthesis and results in growth or as we were taught.

Enough of the science - I am thinking today about  light and shadows in garden design.

The intense light that we get here in Palm Springs gives the benefit of dramatic shadow patterns. But even when the sun shines in the UK, shadows are created. To really appreciate shadows in the garden, we need a clear uncluttered surface, whether vertical or horizontal to display them.  Try planting trees with bold leaf shapes as specimens in a lawn or against a south wall.  Even when the sun is low in the sky as these winter pictures demonstrate, shadows can be effective.

Although some plants may need shade for optimum growth, occasional sunshine brings simple foliage such as these ferns and crocosmia, alive with patterns of light and shade.


 In particular dark colours, that look so wonderful in plant catalogues, need bright sunshine to display to their best potential. In the shade, dark colours, whether flowers or foliage just look drab. Now whilst we can't make the sun shine, we can position plants so that they make the best use of the light. The following few pictures demonstrate the effect of back lighting dark foliage.

Canna 'Intrigue'

Begonia grandis evansiana
Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'

And finally night-time lighting can bring a garden alive in a totally different way with combinations of bold light and shade, plus dramatic shadows.

Agave geminiflora

I hadn't intended to make this piece all about foliage but there again I do like dramatic leaves so no apologies. Flowers will have their day!


  1. Interesting post Ian, the aspect of shadows and light are rarely discussed on gardening blogs but is an important aspect of garden design. I think night time lighting is still very much underused in most gardens when it adds an extra dimension to the plants and extends the use of the garden in the evenings

  2. Hi Ian, nice blog. I don't suppose that shadows often feature in the minds of most garden designers. And yet, your shots of the palm shadows look stunning.

    We could do with some of that sunshine here at the moment - the sky is a uniform winter grey and rather depressing!