Dirt – Shade or Sun?

Sun or ShadeUnless I wanted to cut down some huge water oaks and hickory trees, the back yard was a shade garden. Heavy shade. This would dictate the type of plants we could grow.

No flowering gardens to provide fresh cut flowers on the table every night. No large brush strokes of Giverney color. This garden was dark and wet – a jungle.

I can see Ponce hacking his way through the jungle looking for the fountain of youth. The forefather of the 1950’s developer, he envisioned a clearing with a bubbling fountain – the sounds of water wafting across manicured lawn with the cool sun shining serenely on lawn chairs and table umbrellas. Instead he found a jungle of oaks and scrub palms and vines and heat and humidity and insects and muck.

Exactly what we wanted.

I could have cut down a few resplendent evergreen oaks to let in more sun. Florida oaks have been hewn for less rationale. Ever seen a tree growing out of the middle of a swimming pool? Left there for effect? Or someone who enclosed their lanai around a favorite shade tree? I don’t think so. Saving trees is not on any construction managers to-do list in Florida. And if the owners have any environmental scruples the contractor dispels them. “Sure we can build around the tree. But you’ll be callin’ me back after the first hurricane takes out both the tree and the lanai.”

[A word about the lanai. In Hawaii, where the word originated, the lanai is a small porch or deck area. Outdoors and protected by part of the house or a wall it is sometimes enclosed with a screen. But in Florida the lanai is always a screened-in pool with a patio or a patio alone, usually attached to the side of the house. The screened-in area is more than a porch and larger than one story to give a more spacious appearance. Since we have not killed all the mosquitoes yet, if we did not have a lanai we would only be able to sit outside in the winter (one or two days in January). Lanais provide recurring incomes to contractors because they are easily damaged or destroyed by hurricanes and tropical storms. Of course, we don’t actually sit outside in the lanai because of the heat. The extensive screening makes them difficult to air condition. But at least we can envision yourself sitting outside.]

So we would leave the water oaks and the one or two hickories and concentrate on planting dark green vegetation with leaves to capture and maintain all sorts of moisture. The perfect breeding place for insects, frogs, snakes and other beings we normally attempt to prohibit.

Most living creatures in Florida make an effort to escape the sun: raccoons, possum, armadillos, frogs, neighbors and tourists. They all love the sun but try daily to escape it. Who needs the sun?

Anyway, we had enough sun in other parts of the yard which we would decorate with cactus, century plants, angel trumpets, sago palms and other sun-loving plants. Let the others bake in the Florida sun.

So a shade garden it is. But first we needed to get rid of the swing set.

(About Dirt)(Chapter 4 – The Swing Set / Pergola Project)

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