Planting in Full Sun

There is no bigger challenge for Valley gardeners than planting in areas that get all-day sun. Such a garden faces south and has no overhead trees to provide any kind of shady relief from hot temperatures that seem to persist with increasing intensity from April through October.
You could take the bull by the horns, take full advantage of your sunny exposure and plant an orchard, a vegetable garden or both. Fruit trees require all-day sun, and summer-ripening vegetables such as tomatoes, eggplants, squashes, bell and chile peppers will certainly appreciate as much sun as they can get.
A simple approach is to divide your plot into quadrants, centering a fruit tree in the middle of each quadrant and planting an assortment of vegetables around each tree. Separate the quadrants with paths of decomposed granite by which you will also access your edibles.
Should you choose to plant an ornamental garden, there are several possibilities. You could plant a Japanese garden, which would utilize small stones or gravel to represent water, large boulders to represent islands or mountains of repose, and a few evergreen trees or shrubs kept pruned into discrete shapes to mimic the forms seen when gazing at a distant landscape. Even today, a few such gardens are still visible in West Los Angeles at the front of houses just northwest of Sawtelle and Olympic boulevards. Early in the morning, you can still see the keepers of these gardens, well-advanced in years, raking the gravel in steady, rhythmic strokes.
Another possibility to consider is a rose garden. You could plant grandiflora and David Austin roses in the background. In the Valley, these types will grow up to 8 feet tall – or even taller. As an alternative background, or for making a border down the side, consider climbing roses. Here, you will have to build some sort of framework to encourage and train your vining roses.
Should you choose to make a giant weeping tree rose the center of your rose garden – and this would be a decision you would not regret – you will also need to build a strong supporting framework prior to planting. The giant weeping tree rose is the most spectacular flowering plant that can be grown in the Valley. I saw two of these in a Northridge front yard many years ago, yet somewhat surprisingly have not sighted any other giant weeping roses since then.
Weeks Roses, the rose grower in Bakersfield, produces white, pink, red and gold giant weeping roses. The rootstock for these roses is 5 feet in height, and the foliage will grow up another 3 to 5 feet. Several hundred roses or more will be in flower when a giant weeping rose is at the peak of its bloom. However, you absolutely must build a supporting framework for this rose, since it cannot handle the combined weight of foliage and flowers.
For eye-level rose subjects, plant floribunda roses, and for low hedges along driveways or walkways, plant shrub roses or miniatures.
If you want to place a tree in your sun garden in order to eventually create shade, which will give you a wider variety of planting choices, think carefully about which tree to plant. A tree that will grow more than 30 feet tall should be planted a minimum of 30 feet away from a house or other building. Tall trees not only threaten nearby structures and thus require constant pruning but also send their roots into water and sewage lines.
It might be an obvious choice to consider cactuses and succulents for a sun garden. But not all cactuses and succulents do well in full sun. I have seen many burned cactuses and chlorotic succulents (such as red apple) where the sun was intense. Only plant cactuses that have themselves been grown in full sun that is as hot or hotter than the Valley’s. Chlorotic – that is, yellow-leafed – succulents should be fertilized with iron sulfate in order for their foliage to turn green. Just make sure you do not accidentally apply iron sulfate to concrete or marble surfaces; if you do, indelible orange stains will result.
A full-sun garden that gains in popularity each day features prostrate rosemary as a ground cover surrounding New Zealand flax, cypress trees and other drought-tolerant specimens. Sheared every now and then, the low-growing rosemary provides a lush, green, almost lawnlike look as it encircles species with strong architectural lines.
TIP OF THE WEEK: In hot weather, the best time to plant is late afternoon. That way, plants have a chance to acclimate for a good 16 hours or more before the heat returns.

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