We've been traveling a lot recently. Gardens in the Outer Banks of North Carolina were inspiring on my first trip. Kim and Henry Wood of Charleston have a beautiful home in Corolla and they have landscaped it with wonderful crape myrtles, grasses and so much more. It made my week there feel like home.
Then it was off to church camp in Webster County, at Camp Caesar. The folks who run this 4-H facility have worked hard to incorporate some beautiful native gardens into the camp, and the mountain laurel was in full bloom during my week in the mountains. I was reminded of the nature lady who taught me, at that very same camp, about native West Virginia trees. I was so happy to find a sassafras tree in my yard recently - that was one I remember identifying when I was a little camper.
Then it was a jaunt to Alabama for my son's freshman orientation, and I found myself quizzing my son about the native Southern plants (again, lots of crape myrtle and so many varieties of pines). When I finally settled in at home, I needed to answer some of my mail.
Crystal from Princeton writes: "Could you remind me about how much sun exposure is on the east, west, north and south side. I just moved to a new house and I am planting a new garden. The north side is the shadiest. What about the rest?"
Sometimes when you've gardened for a long time, you forget that everyone was once a beginning gardener. I found this advice for Crystal from the Extension Service of Texas A&M: "Southern exposures have the most intense light. Eastern and western exposures receive about 60 percent of the intensity of southern exposures, while northern exposures receive 20 percent of the intensity of a southern exposure. A southern exposure is the warmest, eastern and western are less warm, and a northern exposure is the cooler."
A good friend who's been gardening as long as I have (or maybe a bit longer) wrote this humorous anecdote about sun exposure:
"A few weeks ago you noted that among recommended tools for gardeners is a compass. You felt that most of us could figure out what direction various portions of our properties were facing. However, our son moved into a new home this spring and asked me for recommendations about what plants to install. The front of the house 'felt' like it faced north, given my limited time visiting at that point. So I suggested shade plants for the front, and continued using that as my frame of reference moving around the house.
"Imagine my surprise when I stopped by in early- to mid-afternoon to see how the plants were faring, and discovered the very hot summer sun beating down on the shade plants along the front of the home. And worse, the sun was going to keep beating down on them until it set. The orientation of the front of the house is northwest at best, probably west northwest. (I still haven't used the recommended compass.) So we had to move plants a quarter turn pretty much around the house. Thought you would appreciate hearing from a direction-challenged reader!"