Garden aspects are a key consideration when designing and planting a garden.  It is often rather confusing when trying to understand what this means. Your aspect is the position you face looking out at your garden. Here is a short article to help you understand the UK's aspects and how the shade will generally lie in your garden.

A gardens aspect is one of the first things I do when I’m working on a new garden design. If you ignore it you will struggle to find the correct plants, choose the best seating areas, plan paths that aren’t for example shady, damp and slippy. When designing and planting, you can accommodate virtually any aspect if you understand it.  Most people are aware of the ‘South facing’ garden and how this is the holy grail for horticulturists.  It’s not the be all and end all though.

Working out the aspect of your garden is essential

NB:  Please note that the shade will move throughout the day as the sun arcs over your property.  These guides are to give you an idea of where the shade will predominantly lie.  This means that the shaded areas will be colder and receive less light than the non-shaded areas. It is also affected by neighbouring properties, trees, fences and other obstructions.

The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  This is because the Earth spins with a rotation towards the east.  The diagrams below are for Gardens in the Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere aspects need to be switched.

Garden Aspects Explained

South facing gardens

  • Receive more sunlight and are usually brighter.
  • Tend to be hotter and warm up earlier in the season.
  • May require more watering as they tend to have drier soils.
  • Can require more planning for shady seating areas they can get super warm!

Aspect Plan South

North facing gardens

  • Receive less sunlight or dappled shade.
  • Tend to be cooler and only warm up later in the season.
  • Has fewer high and low extremes of temperature.
  • Longer gardens may be less affected as they could get light pockets at the far end

Aspect Plan North

East facing gardens

  • Will receive more sunlight in the morning, perfect for breakfast on the patio!
  • Will be darker in the afternoon and evening.
  • Include garden lighting in your design, maybe a fire pit if you’re a night owl that wants to entertain in the evening

Aspect Plan East

West facing gardens

  • Will receive more sunlight in the afternoon and evening. Perfect for the party house!
  • Will be darker in the morning, with shade nearest the house.

Aspect Plan West

Another helpful tip is to see what plants and trees are flourishing in your next door neighbours gardens to each side.  This can be a good trick to work out what kind of plants work well in your aspect. Take your time when planning your garden, really work out where the sun moves to and from. Think about your garden design and where you would like to sit, eat, relax and sunbathe. The same goes for your plant choices, a few carefully considered planting groups will work much better than a ‘pick and mix’ have a go planting scheme.

Plants for a South Facing Garden

Chose plants that enjoy full sun and warm temperatures.  A few examples to get you started would be

  • Echinacea
  • Asteraceae family (Daisies)
  • Lillies
  • Iris
  • Erysimum cheiri (Wallflowers)
  • Eryngium
  • Salvia
  • Verbascum

Echinacea and Heleniums love hot south facing gardens

Plants for a North Facing Garden

Any plant that thrives in shade or cooler conditions will love a North Facing Garden. A selection of popular examples are

  • Hostas
  • Ferns
  • Dicentra
  • Vinca major
  • Viburnum
  • Erythronium (Dog tooth violet)
  • Begonia
  • Primula vulgaris
  • Aquilegia vulgaris

Shady Hostas in their glory!

East and West Facing Garden Plants

Now for East and West, it’s not quite as critical as you are going to get a mix of light and shade. So the advice here would be to choose plants carefully for parts of the garden that feature more heavily in shade or full sun. You really have the best of both worlds! Don’t forget also that any structures will create shade even in a South facing garden.

Shady woodland border

Choosing the right plant for the right place is the most sensible approach to garden design planting. As hard as you try you are not going to get a shade loving plant to thrive in full sun or vice versa. The RHS website is an excellent resource for locating pants for aspects and soil types.

Need more help with your garden?  Why not use Garden Ninjas garden design service?

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