UNITED STATES—There is no way around it. Just about every garden has some degree of shade. Even low profile single story houses without eaves or fences are shaded on the north side. Eastern exposures get the cooler morning sun. Western exposures get only the warmer afternoon sun. There are vacant and treeless parcels out in the desert that lack shade, but not many of us are gardening out there.
Shade is very often an asset, which is why shade trees are so popular for shading both gardens and homes. Eaves and awnings are architectural features that shade windows and doorways. Arbors, lath roofs and patio umbrellas provide shade for patios where trees are lacking or insufficient. Without shade, garden spaces can get too uncomfortably warm to be useful during summer.
The problem with too much shade is that, although it makes the garden more comfortable and useful for some things, it also makes the garden less useful for gardening. Roses, vegetable plants and most flowering annuals need good exposure. Lawn, the carpeting for some of the more useful of garden spaces, can be sparse where it is too shaded. Sunlight is as important as shade is.
This is one of the many reasons it is so important to select the proper trees for each application. Big trees are nice, but might shade too much area. Evergreen trees that are good for obscuring unwanted views at a distance, will prevent warming sunlight from reaching parts of the home through winter if they are too close. Neighboring gardens and homes need to be considered as well.
Planning functional gardens is of course not always simple. Most of us contend with trees, shrubbery and vines that are too big and shady, either in our own gardens or in neighboring gardens. Climbing vines like wisteria, honeysuckle and trumpet vine, are notorious for growing far beyond their intended applications. It sometimes becomes necessary to remove overgrown or crowded plants, or prune them for confinement. Big plants that can not be contained will limit the choices for other plants that share their space.
The popular wisterias that bloom so profusely before their new foliage appears in spring are Chinese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis. Others specie are rare. The impressively longer floral trusses of Japanese wisteria are not as abundant, and bloom late amongst developing foliage. American and Kentucky wisteria are more docile small vines, but their floral trusses are both short and late.
Chinese wisteria is also the most fragrant and the most colorful of the wisterias. Lavender is still the most popular and traditional color. White, pink, sky blue and darker almost purplish lavender are also available. The floral trusses, known as racemes, get from half a foot to two feet long. Double flowered cultivars never became too popular because the fluffier blooms are not as elegant. The aggressive vines can reach the tops of tall trees. They rarely strangle limbs or young tree trunks, but have the potential to do so. They are more likely to crush fences and lattice. Wisteria really needs sturdy trellises and specialized pruning for confinement. Vines that grow from seed may take many years to bloom. The pinnately compound leaves turn pale yellow before falling in autumn.