Most Southern Utah yards have multiple personalities. Shady, Hot, Dry, Wet – most gardeners find that every yard has microclimates — little patches whose growing conditions differ from the area in the neighboring flower bed.
While all Southern Utah yards share an arid climate with a relative average humidity of around 33 percent, cultivating a beautiful yard can be complicated. Although, a hearty sun loving plant like echinacea is planted in a sunny spot it may not flourish if that hot spot is too moist. And one variety of flower may flourish in the backyard while it struggles to live in the front yard flower bed. Therefore, it is important to understand the varying growing conditions throughout your yard. Microclimate gardening does not necessarily mean settling for the plants you don’t like. A plant that brings a burst of color or a cooling sweep of green can be found for most areas of your yard.
Keep in mind that gardening requires a little experimentation. Don’t be afraid to relocate a bush, or flower that may just need a new home. Transplanting and planning are the keys to a flourishing yard. So what do you plant in a spot that never sees the sun or in that spot that never seems to get enough water? We rounded up a few beautiful ideas for those trouble spots, ahem, microclimates in your Southern Utah yard. See the slideshow for plants that work in the following aresas.
Full Sun, Dry
Full Sun, Wet Soil
Full Shade, Moist
Discovering your Garden’s Climates
Use an outdoor thermometer to check the temperature in different planting zones throughout your yard. You would be surprised that some gardeners grow lettuce year round in Cedar City, just by planting a lettuce patch on the shady side of the house where cooler temperatures create an ideal setting.
Check the soil. Along with temperature and sun, soil can differ from one area to the next. Get a soil testing kit. A soil testing kit can also help you know how to amend your soil if you have a more alkaline or acidic soil. If you have an area where the soil is hard to amend consider growing native plants. Check out this link for some great Native Plant ideas.
Changing a Microclimate
You can change a climate in your yard or garden. If you really want to create a better growing area for a plant you can change your garden spot’s personality. Consider these tips.
Mulch. Mulch insulates and protects plants from dying in colder winter areas. It retains moisture (ideal in our arid environment) and it keeps the ground cooler in the summer.
Add Humidity. Some plants love a little more humidity. Add a water fountain to a flower bed to raise the moisture to surrounding plants.
Sunscreen: It is no secret; the sun can be brutal in Southern Utah. Depending on the size, a tree can provide full shade to filtered sunlight for part of the day. If your favorite plants are getting burned consider planting a tree to provide a shady spot. Just don’t plant that tree over your veggie patch. Those tomatoes love the sun.
Hot & Dry
Lavender loves a dry little patch of sunny earth. Once established, lavender actually does not like to be over watered and hidcote lavender has the added bonus of being one of the most cold hardy lavender plants — perfect for those areas of Southern Utah that experience cold winters. Check your local nursery for a lavender that will grow well in your area. There are so many varieties of lavender.
Photo courtesy of highcountrygardens.com
Color Popping Echinacea
Full Sun and Dry
Echinacea love Southern Utah. Their bright daisy like appearance come in a variety of bright colors that add color to your summer garden. They like full sun and can tolerate low water conditions. In fact they don’t grow as well in overly wet soil.
Make it Unique: Look for one of the less common colors like Tomato soup or Tiki Torch. Most nurseries in Southern Utah carry more than one variety of echinacea. Tomato Soup is available at highcountrygardens.com
Bonus: These beauties are deer resistant.
Red Twig Dogwood Bush
Full Sun, Moist or Boggy Soil
Do you have one of those spots in your yard where all the water accumulates and yet it gets full sun? The red twig dogwood bush soaks up the sun but loves moist or wet soil. Easy to care for the bush flowers in the spring has beautiful foliage in the summer and bright red twigs for winter garden interest.
Check your local nursery for this hardy shrub.
Full Sun to Partial Shade.
A spot with partial shade means it gets shade during the hottest part of the day. Plants that tolerate partial shade can also tolerate morning or late afternoon sun.
Allium are actually organic garlic and while they are getting ready to bloom right now in the spring. They are a good bulb to plan ahead for fall planting. They are a crossover flower which can go in both your full sun or partial shade areas.
Forget Me Not Flowers
Partial to Full Shade
These blue flowers that symbolize good memories are a delicate addition to a partial or full shade flower bed. They can be directly planted from seed after the first danger of frost.
Find them where seeds are sold or at americanmeadows.com
Their tall dramatic showy bulbs are a great architectural piece that also deter deer.
photo courtesy of http://henryfields.com
Do you have a spot that is cool and shady all day. Some plants and flowers thrive on this woodland type of microclimate.
While there are some hostas that can tolerate sun they love the shade and bring a splash of green and texture to those dark areas in your yard – a lush tropical setting in the desert and high desert of Southern Utah. Many will also shoot out a tall delicate flower in mid summer. Combine varieties to get an interesting shade garden.
Your local nursery will carry a variety of hostas.
Bleeding Heart Plant
Every year in Southern Utah, the bleeding heart plant shows up in garden centers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart. But where do you plant this whimsical delicate plant? The bleeding heart plant is perfect for your deep shade locations in your yard. Just make sure you keep these plants well watered. This would make a perfect plant next to a fountain in the shade.
Some plants can grow anywhere and the Tiger Eyes Staghorn Sumac can grow in full sun or full shade. It’s lacy bright green leaves turn to a bright orange and red in the fall and the striking branches add architectural interest to the Winter yardscape. This is an envy worthy plant.
Call your local nurseries to see if they carry this dwarf tree.