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Shade v. shadow


By kowhai


Yesterday I ran into Pamela, our next door neighbour with the paved garden, and in the course of conversation, we talked about the pink chestnut in her neighbour’s garden. As this tree is south of both of us, it tends to cast shade on both our gardens, constraining what can be grown. Pamela is keen to have the tree trimmed, but her neighour seems to be less keen on doing this. (In my first blog, I mentioned that the tree was one of the reasons he and his wife bought the house, so it’s an important part of their landscape.) I said that I valued the presence of the tree (despite its shade) and preferred on the whole to have some mature trees around as they provide a kind of ‘anchor’ for what is, in the scale of things, a modern estate.

Today, as the weather improved, I couldn’t help but ponder on the different views on the value of trees to the gardener. They certainly can be a pest, casting shade and leaves and sucking up moisture and nutrients. But, smaller trees, such as our prunus and the himalayan birch, being not only more in scale with the small gardens in which they grow, provide not so much shade as shadows. On a (rare) sunny day, such as today turned out to be, the play of shadow is a visual delight, and something I would be reluctant to be without.

Trees, of all sizes, also provide movement and sound. The sound of wind passing through the copper beach and the chestnut is always a pleasing background, while the movement of the birch, flexing in the wind, helps to animate the garden, as does the bamboo.

So, in the kinds of trade off that is part of real life gardening, I’m prepared to tolerate the minuses that come with trees, enjoy the pluses, and do my best to garden around the constraints that trees bring with them. I wonder what other gardeners do?

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I couldn`t agree with you more kowhai, I love trees and think the pluses exceed the negatives. We have a playing field at the bottom of our garden and opposite our house on the other side of the field there was a beautiful old beech tree . The people who bought the house who`s garden backed onto the field had it cut down because they thought it might blow over and damage their fence. Although this is against the law nothing has been done about it because they don`t understand our laws. There is now a great gap and all we can see is their house.

16 Jun, 2010


Your dappled shade looks beautiful,there are many plants to be found for shade.
Our neighbours at the bottom of our garden had three silver birch trees cut down,it took the birds weeks to get used to them not being there.They'd sit on roofs and fences looking around totally disorientated.
There is also the fact that some trees have preservation orders on them,I should think there would be a fine for removing them.A bit like taxes-you can't just plead ignorance :))

16 Jun, 2010


I like trees but not when they cast too much shade over the garden. I once lived in such a place and found it very unpleasant. It was one of the reasons why I moved from there. The leaves did come in handy for making leaf mould though, but I'd rather have a sunny garden.

16 Jun, 2010


Yes too much can be oppressive.Some of both is nice if you are very lucky :))

16 Jun, 2010


Yes, a bit of both is best! I love my trees and wouldn't be without them, but also appreciate the sunnier bits too.

16 Jun, 2010


I like trees because they help keep my house cool during the summer & they provide shelter and habitat for birds and other wildlife, but I will admit I wish I had more sun. I do have to work around them when planning plant purchases (think lots of ferns, lots of foliage, few spectacularly-blooming flowers). Gardening certainly becomes more of a challenge as more effort is needed to keep things interesting. At the same time, my big oaks and butternuts add a lot of character; people always comment on my largest oak, especially.

17 Jun, 2010


It looks as if trees are popular, but not if they shade the garden to the extent that successful gardening is pretty well impossible, as Hwyel found. This is certainly the case for my neighbours, Patrick and Patricia, who are custodians of the copper beech. Both it and the pink chestnut, as well as other mature trees in the close, have TPOs on them, although as both Aster and Stroller report, it looks as if some people flout these and seem to get away with it. The other benefit of trees is the bird life, although that also places an obligation on us gardeners to act as avian restaurateurs! And that means keeping the squirrels at bay. But that is another story....!

17 Jun, 2010

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