One of the things I adore about my new career as a landscaper designer is sharing ideas with other landscape professionals. My friend and fellow designer Eric Sternfels recently wrote an article on backlit plants which helped me view my garden and think about client gardens in a whole new way.
Eric encourages us take notice of the special effects that happen when plants are located between our eyes and the sun. I agree with Eric that these moments caused by Mother Nature and helped by the thoughtful placement of plants can create magic and drama.
Seed heads, leaves and blooms all benefit from the sun’s illumination. And keep in mind we are not just talking about plants transformed by sunsets but also by sunrises. On my own property I have noticed how beautiful the seed heads of Molinia ‘Skyracer’ are during the morning sunrise as viewed from my kitchen window. My Acer Griseum (Paperbark Maple) and Hydrangea paniculata are also totally transformed by the morning light.
Eric suggests studying the path of sun to determine the places best suited for backlit ‘botanical theatre.’ He believes the east and west horizons offer the best sun angles and that open areas unobstructed by walls or dense plantings help to ensure the most spectacular show. During late summer I’ve been witnessing backlit beauty daily as I watch the sun illuminate the plants in my landscaped beds.
Thinking about Eric’s perspective made me pause and observe my garden at different times of day and think about plant placement with intention. The next time you plant something, consider its location carefully. Color, texture and form are important, but so is the placement of the plant in relation to the sun. Plan for extraordinary moments and I’m confident you will be rewarded by them.