Adjusting to Living in a Condo – Part 2

So, the backyard – little as it was – was no longer our private area. I had always done most of my gardening for the back yard and had always thought of it as “my” area. The front yard, since it faced the street, was public, not private.

But there was another problem. The condo’s backyard was shaded; in the morning by the building itself, and in the late afternoon by the building behind  behind ours.  But in the early afternoon, it got the full midday sun. Midday sun in the South is very hot and going from solid shade to full midday sun made for a difficult growing environment.

To make matters worse, most of our favorite flowers were full-sun plants – marigolds, zinnias, and roses. There just wasn’t enough sunlight in the back to grow them successfully.

Roses need at least six hours of sunlight a day. I knew I didn’t have that much sun, but I had always grown roses and I stubbornly kept trying. (One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting that you will get different results) I went through four different varieties of rose; each claimed that they would tolerate less than full sun. Each one would start out bravely but soon grow spindly from insufficient sunlight. As it became obvious that it wouldn’t do, I would give each one away to our neighbor Lisa. She had a boyfriend who had a house and a nice yard – and soon he also had a nice collection of rosebushes.

I had the same problem trying to grow annuals in the back yard. Marigolds, sunflowers, zinnias, petunias all required more sunlight than I could give them. I had grown traditional shade plants such as begonias and impatiens (sultanas). But the quick change from solid shade to midday sun was hard on them and they wilted. Eventually we settled on bronze-leaf begonias (they seemed to tolerate the heat better than the green-leafed varieties) and New Guinea hybrid impatiens which tolerate the sun and heat.

On the other hand, the front of the condo got a good half a day of sunlight, getting sun from just after sunrise to about 1:00 PM when our building cast solid shade over the front. I widened the bed for the foundation planting to give me an extra two feet of growing space.

Note: If you have a choice, morning sun is better than afternoon sun here in the South. By midday, the sun is getting really hot and can be hard on your plantings.

So, what happens if you want to make changes to the foundation planting (such as it is – a row of small-leaved ilex, a pair of large nandina flanking the front door, and a row of dwarf nandina)? I found this out the hard way when I dug up and discarded two large nandina bushes that flanked the front entrance. They grew vigorously and intruded on the walkway, making it difficult to pass between them. I put up with it as long as I could and then pruned them back to half their height. Within a year I’d have to do it again.

So, I pruned them with a shovel.

Within a week, I was informed that I’d have to pay my condo association a fine of $100 apiece to replace the shrubbery I’d removed. This was a shock. I’d never had to answer to anyone about my landscape choices when I was in a house. The condo association relented when I told them that I was planting daylilies to replace the nandina.

For many years I grew beds of annuals and was one of the few condos that tried to grow anything other than the boring foundation plants.


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