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Shade Made

Posted by Cynthia Brian on
Shade Made

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“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.”  Rudyard Kipling

Gardens may not be cultivated while we are sitting in the shade, but on a hot summer day, there is nothing better than sipping an ice-cold lemonade while resting in one of my shadowy gardens.

This year the world has been experiencing the hottest weather on record. In the United Kingdom, July temperatures were as high as 25 degrees Fahrenheit more than normal. According to data from the U.S. Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the United States sweltered through 92 of the highest recorded heatwaves while worldwide, records were broken 188 times during this same period. Scorching fires are raging throughout Europe as well as the United States as firefighters battle the blazes and populations evacuate minutes ahead of blistering disasters. The influence of global warming is dire as this rapid climate change portends a hotter future.

As much as I adore the sunshine, it is critical to make room for shade in our landscapes to shield our bodies and our plants from the scorching weather. Although most colorful plants prefer sunshine, we still can create a retreat from the rays that will be beautiful and restorative. 

All plants need sunshine to photosynthesize. Most gardens enjoy the sun at certain times and shade at other times. It’s important to watch when that time is for your garden. Any area that does not get direct sunlight may be considered shade. When you read a label and it says, “Plant in full shade”, this means you must plant in an area that gets less than three hours of direct sunlight with only filtered sun the rest of the day. If the label reads “Plant in partial shade”, find a spot where there is more shade than sun. If you plant a specimen that requires full sun, it will not thrive in the shade.  “Partial sun” means four to six hours of sunlight. 

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Most shade-loving plants are understory plants that grow under the forest or jungle canopy. In areas where redwoods provide acidic leaf litter, ferns succeed. Shade-loving plants appreciate rich organic matter. Plants grow more slowly in the shade because the lower amount of light they receive causes photosynthesis to be slower. The good news is that shade plants usually require less water.

Trees are the anchors of any shade garden. They can be evergreen or deciduous adding beauty and privacy to the landscape with interesting bark, flowers, fruit, and potential vibrant fall foliage while blocking the hot sun and keeping our homes cooler. Oak, magnolia, maple, redwood, weeping willow, birch, horse chestnut, pistache, walnut, and many other species are possibilities depending on the size of your site, long-term expectations, soil conditions, height considerations, and watering needs. A tree is an investment in the future that may outlive several generations. Before planting any tree, do your homework while getting input from your family on what the desires and needs for a tree are. For example, do kids want to climb or build a treehouse, do you want to hang a hammock, are you looking for seasonal flowers and fruit, is autumn color essential, are you seeking a privacy screen, is year-round interest important, or are you seeking a tree that accents your home’s theme? 

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Once you have an established shade area, it’s time to fill it with plants that will not only survive, but thrive in dappled, partial, or full shade. 

Here’s a list of groundcovers, shrubs, perennials, herbs, and annuals that fit the requirements. As always, read labels before purchasing to determine necessary growing conditions and size at maturity.


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Golden Creeping Jenny


Tiarella Foam Flower

Vinca Minor


Bleeding Heart


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Bee Balm




Aquilegia (columbine)

Arum Italicum

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Heavenly Bamboo

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Chinese Yew



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Japanese Pittosporum (mock orange)


Tree Peony





Lemon Balm


Lawns: Growing a lawn in the shade is tricky. Fine fescue grasses will sprout in the shade. When installing a lawn make sure the seed mixture states, “for shade”.

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Finally, once you have designed your shade shelter, install a bench, swing, hammock, or chair where you can take a breather to cool off during a sweltering afternoon or recuperate from digging deeply. Drink plenty of water, hydrate your plants, and admire your horticultural accomplishments.

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Sometimes gardens are made in the shade.

Happy Gardening and Happy Growing!


Photos and more: https://www.lamorindaweekly.com/archive/issue1612/Digging-Deep-with-Goddess-Gardener-Cynthia-Brian-Made-in-the-shade.html

Cynthia Brian.jpeg

Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, is available for hire to help you prepare for your spring garden. Raised in the vineyards of Napa County, Cynthia is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3. Tune into Cynthia’s StarStyle® Radio Broadcast at www.StarStyleRadio.com.

Buy copies of her books, including, Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul, Growing with the Goddess Gardener, and Be the Star You Are! www.cynthiabrian.com/online-store. Receive a FREE inspirational music DVD and special savings.

Hire Cynthia for writing projects, garden consults, and inspirational lectures.



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Your Garden is Your Canvas by Cynthia Brian

Posted by Editor on
Your Garden is Your Canvas by Cynthia Brian

jacobs coat rose

By Cynthia Brian

“The world is but a canvas to the imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

With summer approaching quickly, June is possibly one of the busiest months. Graduations, Father’s Day, weddings, birthdays, vacations, swim meets, pool parties…it seems that these thirty days offer the most opportunities for celebrations. It is time to fire up the barbeque, sweep the patio, freshen the flowerbeds, and get ready for some serious fun.  By growing your own food, you and your family will be healthier, happier, and enjoy more exercise. Get your children involved in the seed sowing, planting, and caring process to help them understand how food travels from the ground to the table.  Allow your garden to become your artistic canvas to showcase your imagination and creativity throughout the summer.
sweet peas climbing
This is a fun project to do with children providing pride in growing. Start with radishes, lettuces, kale, zinnias, marigolds, or beans as they germinate quickly.  An edible garden is especially popular with young kids.
⎫ RECYCLE plastic six-packs, flats, and pots to use to grow your own seedlings. Wash well before beginning the process and make sure the drainage holes are not plugged.
⎫ HANG a shoe organizer on a sunny wall with the pockets filled to ¾ full with soil for a fun vertical garden that is especially excellent for herbs, lettuces, and other compact plants.
⎫ BUY sterile seed-starting mix, which doesn’t have any soil in it when you want to plant seeds in a container.
⎫ READ seed packets carefully. It’s critical to know how to plant each variety of seed, what amount of water, sunshine, and care it will need. You also want to know how big the plant will become.
⎫ PLANT extra seeds as many will not germinate.
⎫ KEEP seedlings moist or they will shrivel and die as summer approaches. Don’t over water or seeds will drown.
⎫ THIN as necessary. Discards the remnants to the compost bin.
⎫ FERTILIZE with organic micronutrients once a plant has several leaves.
⎫ TRANSPLANT when each plant is big enough to outgrow its planter.
⎫ REWARD yourself and your children with the harvest of vegetables or flowers.
Nasturium wraps
National Sun Safety Week is June 5-11th.
⎫ APPLY sunscreen daily and especially before going out into the garden.  Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer.
⎫ WEAR a hat to protect your head and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
⎫ CHECK your skin for any abnormalities and see a physician if you suspect problems.
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It’s probably not possible to completely fire-proof any area, but follow guidelines issued by the fire protection districts to create defensible spaces no later than June 15th.
⎫ PREVENT embers from igniting your home in the event of a fire by clearing leaves, needles, and debris from gutters, eaves, porches, and decks.
⎫ REMOVE dead vegetation from under your deck and within ten feet of your home.
⎫ TRIM weeds and grasses to three inches.
⎫ PRUNE tree branches so that the lowest branches are between six-ten feet from the ground.
⎫ REDUCE “fire fuel laddering” by pruning to separate trees from bushes.
⎫ MAINTAIN your property and weed wack or pull any re-growth.

pink peony
Cynthia Brian’s Fresh Tips for Your June Garden

⎫ AVOID using pesticides and insecticides as they kill the beneficial insects along with the invasive. Bees, bats, and bugs that help our crops reproduce and flowers flourish can be destroyed.
⎫ DINE on nasturtium! For a stunning and delicious appetizer, roll curried egg salad into the peppery leaves of nasturtium. Add edible flowers to the platter. Delicious!
⎫ PACK your salads with nutritional vitamins A, C, K, iron, calcium, potassium, and folate by growing leafy greens such as frisee, mache, romaine, bok choy, arugula, and kale. Don’t forget to toss in radish and turnip tops, too, for an added crunch.
⎫ BUILD a raised bed for a low maintenance edible feast. Make sure to put mesh wire on the bottom to keep out the gophers, moles, and rats. Fill with clean soil for best results.
⎫ ADD a gently meandering dry creek with gravel and rocks to help with drainage, runoff, and provide a natural look to your landscaping.  For a shaded area, plant with hosta, ferns, and lamium.
⎫ INVITE butterflies into your garden by providing a sunny spot for them to land, shrubs for shelter, masses of flowers for nectar, and a saucer of water for a sweet drink. Make sure to change the water daily so as not to attract mosquito larvae.
⎫ DEADHEAD roses as soon as flowers are spent to encourage continual re-blooming. This is one of the best years ever for the prolific showcase of these prize winners.
⎫ RECYCLE brown and green waste, fruit, vegetable scraps, coffee, and tea into a natural fertilizer. Make your own compost all year round to feed your plants.
⎫ PICK bouquets of vibrant sweet peas and clematis for long lasting fragrant arrangements to brighten your interiors as well as your outdoor dining areas.
⎫ GROW cymbidium orchids in containers located in a north or northwest location to enjoy annual blooms. Cymbidiums bloom for months, and can be brought indoors for further pleasure. When the spires fade, return the pots to the coolness of outdoors.
⎫ FERTILIZE rhododendrons, azaleas, roses, and camellias.
⎫ ENJOY your special celebrations in your charmingly re-freshed garden.
⎫ REFLECT your unique personality with your plantings and artistry. Be creative in the outdoors.  It’s more fun!
columbine in riverbed
Congratulations to everyone who is graduating and commemorating a special occasion.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dedicated dads, especially those who share the respect for Mother Nature with their children.

Happy gardening. Happy growing!

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Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
Starstyle® Productions, llc
Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show at www.StarStyleRadio.com
Garden and plant consultations by appointment.

Ask Cynthia Brian-Let There Be Light!

Posted by Editor on
Ask Cynthia Brian-Let There Be Light!


Reader’s Request

Dear Cynthia
As I sit here planning my spring edible garden, I’m wondering if all vegetables need lots of sunshine to bear fruit. I have sun and shade but probably not enough sunshine for everything I want to grow. Any suggestions?

Dana, Orinda

Dear Dana:
This is a great question and one that every gardener grapples with during the planning stages. Here’s my unscientific rule of thumb that seems to work well. When determining where to position a plant, ask yourself what part of the plant you will eventually eat.

If you are eating the fruit such as tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, zucchinis, beans, apples, corn, etc., you will want to plant these specimens in an area that receives a minimum of eight hours of bright sunlight. Root vegetables like carrots, beets, potatoes, and radishes can be planted in shadier areas or as understory plants because they don’t need as much light as the plants that bear fruit on the branch. If what you eat is the leaf or stem such as Swiss Chard, lettuce, kale, sorrel, arugula, spinach, you can plant in semi-shade with dappled sunlight. Any fruiting vegetable planted in shade can survive but usually bears smaller fruit because these plants need sunlight to create the energy to thrive.

Keep in mind, anything planted in shade will be less colorful, but you may enjoy a longer growing season and slower bolting. Experiment with your site and the answers will be obvious.

Happy Gardening to you!
Cynthia Brian
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basket of greens, beets.,carrots - 2
Cynthia Brian
The Goddess Gardener
I am available as a speaker, designer, and consultant.
Cynthia will answer one or more questions every other issue as space allows. Email your comments or questions to Cynthia@GoddessGardener.com

Cynthia Brian is a New York Times best selling author, speaker, coach, and host of the radio show, StarStyle®-Be the Star You Are!® broadcasting live every Wednesday from 4-5pm PT on the Voice America Network.. She also is the creator and producer of Express Yourself!™ Teen Radio and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are!® 501c3 charity.

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