We may not be in the middle of the desert here in New Jersey, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get our share of hot, intense sunny days. If you’ve got lots of lawn, you know exactly how brutal they can be. But don’t resign yourself to a big swath of burnt ground, or battle water restriction (or water bills!)
If you landscape accordingly, there is a lot you can do with a full sun yard to make it beautiful and even more functional than you probably thought it could be. Here are a few ideas to spark your imagination.
Go Wild For Wildflowers
Some of the most gorgeous blooms are sun lovers. Anemones, with their bright petals in blue, red, purple, orange, yellow and pink will bloom in spring and fall, making them great additions to a seasonal garden.
Blanket Flower is a cheerful red and yellow bloom, but don’t let the name fool you – these are no low-lying flowers. They can grow up to three feet tall, and as an added bonus, they attract birds and are deer-resistant. They’re also drought-tolerant, which makes them ideal for the hottest, sunniest days that Mother Nature can can throw at them.
Chrysanthemum is another favorite, and these tend to bloom late in the season and during fall, which means you can add color just as you thought it was starting to fade.
Daylily comes in so many varieties with delicate, trumpet-shaped flowers of pink, red, orange and blue, that you have your choice when it comes to these beauties. They can grow anywhere from a foot up to eight feet tall! They’re also drought-tolerant and will easily stand up to that New Jersey heat.
Goldenrod, Hellebore, Hibiscus, Lavender… the list goes on. That means you can have a fabulous mixed wildflower garden with some of the most beautiful blooms you can find, all of it happily enjoying the sun and none of it bothered much by summer water restrictions.
Trade Lawn Grass For Ornamental Grass
Ornamental grasses have so much going for them that you may wonder why you ever tolerated that green, water-hungry trimmed stuff. They come in a variety of colors to complement your landscape, from greens and yellows, to blueish green, gold and pale beige. Some are tall and stately, others soft and wispy.
Maybe best of all, they’re great for four-season landscapes, changing with each season to bring a new dimension, a new color, a new texture.
Ornamental grasses are great for dry, sunny spots because they’re naturally adapted to full sun, wind, and even not-so-great soil. They make a prefect backdrop for other landscape elements, or stand on their own as the star of the show.
Where wildflowers bring color, grasses bring other sensory experiences. They’re charming in a breeze, swaying and rustling with the slightest movement, bringing not only a visual but an auditory dimension. This is especially enjoyable during winter, when things tend to get dull and silent.
They’re also a great way to attract wildlife. Birds can find sanctuary in their clusters and butterflies are attracted to them, too. When choosing grasses for New Jersey landscapes, think Little Blue Stem, Fountain Grass and Switchgrass among others.
Mulch It Up
Mulch is a lot more than just filler. Done right, it can help the soil retain moisture which is key on those hot summer days. It can suppress weeds, decrease erosion and prevent water runoff. In other words, mulch is the perfect companion to a sunny day!
For mulch to be most effective at its job, don’t place anything between it and the soil beneath. Many people’s instinct is to use a layer of landscape fabric or plastic thinking that it will keep weeds at bay. But that can cause more harm than good, resulting in increased runoff, and less water getting to the soil to feed your plants. It’s also not a guarantee that you won’t get weeds, as they can be pretty persistent and find a way around even your most determined efforts to keep them at bay.
That plastic and fabric can also be pretty ugly in spots where it starts to show! Mulch, on the other hand, can be quite attractive. From reddish brown to dark brown and black, mulch comes in various colors to best accent your flowers and foliage and to complement your home’s design.
You can even choose a style, including nuggets, wood chips or bark, depending on your landscaping needs. As an added benefit, as organic mulch breaks down, it releases nutrients into the soil, making it even healthier for your plants.
Create Your Own Shade
If you have an intensely sunny spot and you’re not one to lay out a lawn chair to work on your tan, then you can do the next most obvious thing: add shade. You don’t even need a 50-year-old tree to do it.
Shade can be added in myriad ways, whether it’s a pergola shading a patio or deck area, a broad umbrella shading a seating area, or a gazebo wound with Clematis or Wisteria in its own special garden spot.
Shaded areas can be designated to less-sun-loving plants, seating and lounging, even cooking and dining areas. And depending on the structure you choose, you can create your own special outdoor room by adding accessories like ceiling fans, overhead lighting, artwork, even a cooling mist system! No one will ever know that your perfect outdoor living room was once the sunniest spot in the yard.
Make It Edible
If you’re willing to try out your green thumb, there are quite a few herbs and vegetables that thrive in full sun. Not only do they look – and smell! – wonderful in your garden but they make a lovely addition to your dinner table, too.
Rosemary, thyme, sage, lemongrass, chive, oregano and mint are just a few of the culinary delights that will add a unique touch to any yard. And they’re versatile enough to grow in the ground or in containers.
Tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and peppers go nicely from a full sun garden to your lunchtime salad bowl.
If you’re feeling really creative, you can grow a themed garden. Tomatoes, basil and oregano, for example, collectively love the sun and they make the perfect accompaniments to an Italian meal. Add zucchini and you may never have to make dinner reservations again!
The best part is that all of these edibles are fairly low-maintenance. Give them sun and water, and you’ll be rewarded with a season of happy taste buds.
Add A Pond
If you know anything about ponds then you may wonder at the merits of including one in a hot, sunny yard. After all, water evaporates in hot sun, which means potential trouble for fish and water health. Algae thrives in the same conditions, and who wants to see a puddle of green on a summer day?
But if you know how to shade a pond properly, then a lack of a traditional “shady spot” doesn’t have to keep you from having one. The key is in the plants you choose. Tall grasses and wildflowers can do some of the work from the margins. And floaters like water lilies, water lettuce, water hyacinth and lotus will do the rest.
For optimal results, keep at least one-third to one-half of the pond surface shaded, and be sure to install an aerator to keep water oxygenated. If it’s an especially hot, dry summer, you may need to replace lost water at some point, but otherwise a well-designed pond is a self-sustaining ecosystem that can work in a sunny spot just as well as a shady one.
And don’t discount the idea of adding coverage with a structure like a pergola or gazebo. They can be equally effective at shading a pond as shading a patio or seating area.
A hot, sunny yard doesn’t have to be the death knell of fantastic landscaping. With the right design and some strategic planning, you can have everything you’ve ever imagined – gorgeous flowers, bright greenery, a spot to sit and sip your morning coffee away from the glare of daylight, a place to cook, dine, relax, entertain, even grow your very own meals!
If you’ve got a sunny space and you’d like to explore creative ways of turning it into something beautiful and functional, get in touch with us for a consultation. We’re here to make your dreams come true.