Design Element 3--Light
In garden design, light is direct, filtered, or reflected sunlight. The angle of the sun can have a dramatic effect upon color, both because the color of sunlight is reddened when it makes a longer pass through the atmosphere, and because the pupils of the eye under lower light conditions change the color signals to the brain. Often early morning and late evening colors appear more luminous than those with direct midday sun. Screens of trees with openings to this low-angle light can briefly transform the aura of your garden.
Contrasting areas of light and dark intensify the experience of both. Here the path leads visitors from a sunlit stopping point to a heavily shaded tunnel under largeleaf rhododendrons, oaks, and pines. Different rhododendrons like varying amounts of shade, so you have ample flexibility to use rhododendrons in a variety of light conditions.

Effective use of shadow can continually change a particular scene throughout the day and the year. Shadow can highlight the unique trunk and branching structure of large rhododendrons. It can visually link the understory of shrubs with surrounding trees. It can accent the contours of your garden. Light and shadow can intensify or subdue color in both flowers and leaves, adding to the complexity and interest of a particular view.

Most of the trees here are pruned of all branches from five to ten feet above the rhododendrons around them. Light comes under the branches, while the trunks and tops create bold silhouettes. One of the most interesting for shadow patterns is the honey locust, a large but delicate tree with fine leaves and extensive branching.

© 2001 by John and Doreen Anderson