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Cultivating a Partnership with Seasonal Light

The first step is understanding the existing lighting conditions in each season.


Build a Sun Map  

Sunlight, part of the lifeblood of our gardens, is a fickle force. It paints our landscapes with shifting patterns, dictating where vibrant blooms unfurl and leafy canopies expand. Navigating light is one of the elements of foundational gardening skills in successful gardening. It’s the dynamic craft of observation, adaptation, and creative collaboration with this gardening element. 

The first step is understanding the existing lighting conditions in each season. This is not a one-time snapshot, but a daily observation. Trace the sun's trajectory across your garden, noting how shadows stretch and shrink across the yard and how it carves out sun-drenched islands and cool, dappled retreats. This is your specific sun map, and it reveals the diverse microclimates that shape your green kingdom. It is a rich physical experience between you and the bit of nature that you intend to thoughtfully steward. 

In our busy lives, it is important to take time with your land as often as you can. Barefoot and in pajamas at first morning light with your toes in the soil is a beautiful rite of passage for gardeners. If this is not for you, have no fear. We don’t always have as much time as we hope for discovery. There are some great tools available that will save you time. Sun Seeker app is a tracker/surveyor used by professional designers. It is easy to use and available on iOS or Android. The app will show you in an instant all the light that appears in your garden - every hour of the day, every date of the year. A slider on the bottom of the app goes through the months. 

With your sun map, align yourself as a partner with the light. Bending plants to your will instead of using the known truths of the elements is a tough row to hoe and rarely unsuccessful. You have invested in building the sacred knowledge of soil, water, and light - use them.  

Part of your education now includes the undeniable fact that a green partnership is not static. We have learned that soil develops, water patterns evolve, and light changes. Trees grow, casting new shadows, while seasons steal hours of daylight. Adaptability and resilience should be a defining factor in your plant choices. Many shade-loving plants can be gradually shifted towards sunnier spots as trees mature, while sun-seekers may need to be strategically placed in front of taller plants. Even container gardening becomes a nimble dance, allowing us to move our leafy companions to follow the sun's seasonal movements. 

Successful gardeners embrace the transformative power of light. Ultimately, gardening in the play of light is a journey of discovery, a continuous dialogue with the sun. Learn to read the language of shadows, to work with the rhythm of the seasons, and to find beauty in every sunlit and shaded corner. In this dynamic collaboration, we cultivate not just plants, but a deeper connection with the ever-changing tapestry of nature around us. 

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