Ever since I started gardening, I've found myself falling into the "sun or shade" trap. It works like this: I buy a plant, such as the beautiful manzanitas I purchased last weekend, and in my mind, I have the perfect spot for them. In the front garden, where the plants will have sun for most of the day. Or at least half of the day. Or will they?
Most extreme are the examples of plants at the edge. The Meyer Lemon in the pot above is in a sunny spot on the porch in winter, I move it to bright shade (with 4-6 hours of morning sun) in summer. This year, I've waited too long to return the pot to the sunny porch. You can guess which side of the plant is in the shade. Correct! The little lemon wants to be in the sun and has large beautiful leaves on the right, and sickly looking small leaves on the left. I'm adding the move to the list of weekend chores.
And here's the rub: Out during a hike, it would not trouble me that the two Monardella villosa plants in the picture above have completely different sizes. But here, in my garden, I'd prefer if they could present the pleasing matching little mounds of purple (or, right now, green) that I had in mind. Instead, we have the little guy on the shady side.
And the big guy on the sunny side.
Sometimes I don't follow the rules and things work out. My Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage) was languishing in the nice shady spot I had chosen for it, full of a white spotty fungus and no blooms all year. I decided to choose a mostly sunny location instead, and even with fairly little water, I've had beautiful blooms and very few fungus problems (the photo below is from this spring, but even now, the plant is mostly green and even trying for a few blossoms).
Sometimes, the plant survives but does not produce the desired abundance of blossoms, or languishes for months or even years. Here are two Salvias my garden designer put into the original design of the Mediterranean mounds. The first is in bright shade, except for a few months in summer.
And here is its big sister, getting some sun for most of the year. The two are right next to each other, and look just a little bit odd together.
And here's the bad part: No matter how much research I do, I'm never sure what books or websites mean by "part sun" or "part shade". Sometimes they even specify: Sun means 6 hours or more of sunshine. Well, what time of year? Sometimes, they specify "Sun inland, part-shade in coastal locations". Well, is my garden in a coastal location? I'm about 40 miles from the coast, is that coastal?
And so I live and learn, and remain grateful for the plants that tolerate just about everything, such as California poppies, and the plants that look good (though different) in many conditions. Here, Festuca Californica, beautifully bluish green in the shade.
And here Festuca Californica, golden and glorious in the summer front garden.
As for the manzanitas I bought, we'll just have to see how that works out. Will they languish for lack of sunlight? Or will sun after 1 p.m. be enough? Only time will tell.