Winter light and winter shadows naturally fill my thoughts this time of year.
This marrubium is lucky to be in full sun all year. Some of the silvers are trapped during winter in a band of shade that descends on the back, south-facing garden.
The sun’s low position, surrounding houses, and an 8-foot tall southern garden wall are all contributors to the winter shadow that bisects the garden running its length east to west.
Sideritis, Convolvulus cneorum, ozothamnus and other sun lovers spend the short winter days in complete shade courtesy of that low-slung sun, while I anxiously await confirmation of their survival in spring. Taller plants will be grazed by the sun for short periods during the day, but plants under a foot tall are effectively in dormancy, whether they want it or not.
Not at all optimal conditions for sun-loving, dry garden plants.
I can help potted silvers like this Puya laxa by moving them to the sunniest spots in the garden.
But those in the ground are on their own. This silver straddles the sun/shade band.
When this kalanchoe blooms I’ll know whether it’s bracteata (chartreuse blooms) or hildebrandtii (red blooms)
An old photo of bloom trusses on Kalanchoe ‘Oak Leaf’ (Kalanchoe beharensis x K. millotii) shows what these shrubby, winter-blooming succulents can do in January.
I have this plant crammed into a mixed pot and need to get it into the garden or I’ll never see that kind of performance — but there’s not a bit of sunny real estate available.
That band of winter shade effectively halves available space for sun lovers.
Year-round full sun ensures Aloe cameronii gets that ruddy winter coat and throws those blooms that are now forming.
The slanted light makes a sun pit under the pergola, so here is where some of the smaller pots are congregating.
Last year we kept a table and chairs here. That yucca was removed this summer, along with the scratchy Eryngium padanifolium.
Agave ‘Stained Glass,’ in that heavy tank, is immovable in any case, but gets good sun year-round here.
Now that the yucca is gone, there’s lots more light and air circulation for the plantings around the pergola.
Even bromeliads are basking in winter’s brand of full sun, much weaker than summer’s.
This Neoregelia carolinae can be seen on the table in the photo above from 2014.
I’m counting the days to the winter solstice on December 22, when this band of shade will start to thin and then disappear until next winter.
Even after 20 years I still get a little too happy with spring planting and plonk full-sun plants into this winter shade zone.
When I used to experiment with more herbaceous stuff that died back in winter, I theorized that full winter shade enforced the dormancy they craved.
When I grew roses, many of them had to put up with this winter shade.
I’m still not sure about that theory of enforced dormancy, but there’s very little in the garden that dies back completely anymore.
Somewhat reassuring is knowing that in colder climates, lots of sun-loving, tender plants are hustled indoors into low light levels for winter and make it to spring.
Still, in a mediterranean climate like Los Angeles, winter is the time for active plant growth, not snoozing in the shade.