The sun is here, let’s go outside. If your garden faces south, it will get plenty of light and flowers will be able to bask in the sun from morning to night.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing plants, as the most colorful annuals, perennials and shrubs all like a sunny spot, as do roses and wonderfully fragrant vines.
To get the most out of the garden, set up seating in the shadier areas where you can enjoy a quiet scene during the long, hazy summer days.
1. DESIGN A HAVE-IT-ALL SPACE
Start with a checklist of how you want to use the garden. Do you want a place to lounge, a bench for evening sun, or a place for the kids to play? The back of the house will be in full sun, so how about a shaded patio for outdoor meals? Are you an avid gardener or do you need a low maintenance property? Is a shed, greenhouse or gazebo a must? Jot down your ideas on a plan drawn to scale.
2. PLANT FOR SUMMER COLOR
There’s nothing more summery than flowering peonies, like the pale pink Paeonia lactiflora ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ or the deep red ‘Karl Rosenfield’, which bloom from June to July. Other perennials include Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla mollis, with frothy yellow flowers above showy leaves, and Geranium × oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’ for pretty pink blooms. Complement them with summer borders.
3. LOOK AFTER A HOT BORDER
Some plants are adapted to thrive in the heat, but others need a little more help. If you are installing new plants, adding compost or manure will give them a good start. Then mulch with a good layer of bark or pebbles to keep water from evaporating. Give plants a long drink of water the day before a heat wave and water again early in the morning.
Even better? Layer your bed with taller plants that can shade the flowers below – like in the garden above.
4. FILL GAPS IN BEDS
They’re only here for a season, but annuals are the jewels of a south-facing summer garden. A few trays of potted plants or a little seed will fill beds and borders and decorate patio pots, containers and planters. Try opposites on the color wheel, such as the spicy Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’ against the bright blue of the cornflower Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’ for added impact.
Also consider drought-tolerant plants, such as lavender and verbena (above), which are easy to care for even in sunny locations.
5. FIND SPACE FOR A ROSE
No garden is complete without a rose. There’s one for every sunny spot, and some that can tolerate partial shade. Choose repeat-flowering shrub roses to fill a bed, climbing roses to adorn a wall, rambler roses to climb an arch, or tea hybrids for exquisite blooms.
For lush blooms, fertilize and mulch roses in early spring, before the leaves have fully opened. Repeat-blooming roses benefit from pruning and the second fertilization in mid-summer.
6. BRING IN FRAGRANCE
Lavender thrives in a well-drained area where it can enjoy the sun. Whether planted in a border for dramatic effect or simply in a pot by the door, it will release its fragrance when you touch it. Want a change from the popular English lavenders Lavandula Angustifolia Hidcote and Munstead? Try the French lavender, Lavandula stoechas Fairy Wings Pink. Its sinewy wings will put on quite a show.
7. FOLLOW THE SUN
A south-facing plot will get plenty of sun throughout the day. The back wall or fence faces north, which will be the shadiest spot, a good place for climbers that prefer their roots in the shade, like clematis.
Hydrangea climber anomala subsp. Petiolaris does well in a difficult location. For a year-round curtain of greenery, you can choose from many species of ivy.
8. SIT OUT A HEATWAVE
In the heat of the day, it’s nice to have a little protection from the sun. Shady garden ideas range from fixed garden structures to more flexible solutions like a parasol or shade sail that can be attached to walls, trees, fences or posts.
9. GET THE COTTAGE CORE VIBE
Quintessential cottage garden ideas paint a pretty picture in a lush mix of colors. Plant hollyhocks, delphiniums and lupines for extra height. Prop up taller plants and use canes to support rising peas. Phlox and carnations make a nice addition to the front of a bed.
10. PLANT BEE-FRIENDLY PLANTS
Bees and their butterfly companions are always on the lookout for new pastures. Help them by researching wild garden ideas and dedicating a portion of your property to a wildflower meadow.
Clean and loosen the soil, then rake it before sowing seeds. You can get a head start by sowing seeds in seed trays in the fall and then planting them as cuttings in April.
11. ESCAPE TO A HIDEAWAY
What could be more beautiful than a garden building that captures the imagination? A cedar-roofed garden house, gazebo, tree house or even a shepherd’s hut placed at the end of the garden will catch the eye and provide welcome shade. You can also go a step further and build a folly.
These structures make wonderful focal points and are ideal if you want to increase shade opportunities or are looking for garden privacy ideas.
12. DINE OUTSIDE
Outdoor dining can be as simple as a grill or as complex as a restaurant-style kitchen with pizza ovens, countertops and sinks. An area protected from the wind and sun is ideal. Get into the vacation spirit with modular furniture and a bar table that can be complemented by other pieces.
13. GROW YOUR OWN FRUIT AND VEG
It’s a proud moment when you harvest nature’s fruits on your own property – whether you’re looking for vegetable garden ideas or just want to grow a few stylish containers, a south-facing garden offers the perfect orientation for a bountiful harvest.
With a raised bed on the patio, you can harvest lettuce without bending oversee our special article for more raised bed ideas. Or try growing apples, cherries, pears, and plums in large containers.
14. USE CONTAINERS TO TELL A STORY
South-facing gardens are perfect if you’re thinking about container garden ideas – from the grandeur of an avenue of trees in giant planters to the charm of a terra cotta pot at the front door. For a colorful spectacle, fill patio containers generously with bright summer bedding plants, including nasturtiums or ivy that grow over the edges. More subtle, but just as effective, is choosing a single color to accent the pots.
15. TAKE TO THE PRAIRIE
Look at your own savanna. Ornamental grasses love south-facing gardens, and planting clumps of several varieties creates an interesting landscape. Try the striped zebra grass Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’, the mossy hair grass Deschampsia cespitosa or the red-colored switch grass Panicum virgatum ‘Fawn’.
16. PLANT AROMATIC HERBS
With aromatic herbs near the kitchen door, the stressed cook can step outside when a recipe needs tweaking to get a little boost. For the flavors of the Mediterranean, plant marjoram, oregano, sage and thyme in full sun. Rosemary produces pink, blue or white flowers and aromatic leaves.
17. CREATE AN OUTDOOR LIVING ROOM
There’s no reason an outdoor room shouldn’t be as inviting as your living room, especially if you invest in a structure with a roof for shade. A comfortable sofa is a must. If you haven’t opted for furniture that can stay outside year-round, don’t forget that you’ll need indoor storage for winterization.
18. LOOK AFTER THE LAWN
An emerald green lawn that’s the envy of your neighbors requires some maintenance, but it’s worth it. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends feeding the lawn in mid-spring when the soil is wet or when rain is expected, and again in late spring to late summer when it starts to look dull.
19. SIT BACK AND RELAX
A garden is primarily an opportunity to take stock and connect with nature. With this in mind, the best advice is to find a bench in the shade, settle down with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and spend an hour or two doing nothing.