Southern Exposure Backyard - plant ideas??

citymomof3April 9, 2007

I live in the Chicago area and my backyard is in need of MAJOR help. It faces the south and gets full, hot sun all day long. We'll be landscaping in the beds up underneath the windows this year and I need some drought tolerant plant/perennial suggestions.

We're also building a pergola over our existing patio and I am needing some suggestions for a clematis that does well in full sun. Any ideas??

Thanks in advance!!

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Well, I'm also in the Chicago area, and have a few ideas (tho of course remembering that all new plants need more water until they are established). My first thoughts are achillea/yarrow (but some varieties tend to spread a lot)Russian sage, coreopsis, liatris. Good luck!

Oh, and my parents' south-facing backyard had a clump of columbine/aquilegia (sp?) that did very, very well. (It was directly next to a concrete patio, with beige siding, so that area was always about 10 degrees hotter than anywhere else on sunny days!)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 3:26PM
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saypoint(6b CT)

You'll get lots of suggestions on the Perennials forum for specific plants.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2007 at 9:23PM
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Let's think about this backwards for a moment.

Flowering perennials, even vines, like clematis, are the finishing touches of a garden experience, not the starting point.

So, take a step back for now. Maybe you should think about trees, shrubs, evergreens. These could help to addressNope, nope, if they're needed to address something, then you once again need to take a step backwards. In other words, it's not the right point in the design process to think about plant material.

You've stepped back, realizing that shade from the blazing hot sun will enhance human comfort on the patio. Sun and the southern exposure will influence activities in this backyard. You've thought about that and are considering a pergola. It might be possible to help the humans, if you could just get something to grow over it to provide the shade. Then you'd only have to swelter when you run out to water the nearly parched perennials lined up against the foundation. But wait a minuteÂMaybe there's another step back that needs to be considered here before assuming that a pergola is the answerÂMaybe it's not only not yet time to pick plants, but also not yet time to build structuresÂ

SoÂanother step back. Maybe you feel like you've dealt with this one adequately. This step has to do with site analysis. It's sun and zone, but it's also soil condition. It's the house and its windows and doors. It's grade issues and possible views that you might like to screen or preserve. It's existing structures and whether they work or need renovation, definition, or replacement. This is the stuff that will help you decide whether a glorious tree or two will eventually shade activities or nurse maiding that pergola. HmmmmÂbut it might be useful to take another step back before developing this information.

Our journey backwards is almost at an end. Or, should I say at its beginning. Here you'll be asking yourself what you hope to do in this outside living space. Quiet time with a book? Entertaining friends in an outdoor setting? A secret arbor garden? Preserving some of that sunny space to grow vegetables? Play area for children or grandchildren? Storage shed? What level of maintenance are you anticipating? Are you a gardener? Hoping to become one? Or, would you really rather look out at a landscape that requires minimal upkeep? What is your timeframe? Will you be moving forward in stages toward your imagined goal?

Last step. What is your vision for this garden? What is in your mind's eye? It may be this central idea that caused you to leap forward to pergolas as an answer to your shade needs. But why? Why not some other answer to your shade issue? Maybe your central idea is Romance and Repose. When you get to considering your desired activities in this space you realize, however, that you want low maintenance. If you still want to hang on to that particular central idea, you may have to adjust your choices all the way back along the journey. A different "central idea" will lead to different resolutions to problems, development of the site, and ultimately choices of plant material.

Choosing plants is the last step in the landscape design process, not the first.


    Bookmark   April 10, 2007 at 8:46AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

Well said, Wellspring!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2007 at 6:20AM
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CityMom, I hope you visit Home Decorating again. You've got some more responses.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:12PM
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Great post, WellSpring!

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:18PM
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