Craig N. Huegel
Gardeners in the Sunshine State have a special appreciation for shade. With countless hours spent under the hot sun, shade provides much needed relief. But in a tropical climate like Florida’s, finding the proper plants for shady areas can be frustrating. And even more difficult still is creating shady areas where they don’t already exist.
In this authoritative and comprehensive volume, Huegel discusses the many variables and complexities of shade gardening in Florida and explores options that will yield a varied, attractive, and ecologically vibrant garden. This book is essential reading for any Floridian looking to garden and enjoy lounging in the cool and hard-to-come-by shade–and who in the Sunshine State doesn’t!
In our author interview, Huegel shares his views on the benefits of shade, advice for beginning gardeners, and more!
When did you know that you wanted to write this book? What led you to this subject/area of research?
I wrote this book initially because I was asked by several friends to take it on. They had formed a committee several years prior with the intent of doing such a book, but got bogged down as committee projects often do. When it became apparent that they were not going to actually do anything other than discuss it, they asked me to take it on. The concept seemed important so I agreed.
What are the environmental and aesthetic benefits to creating shade in gardens?
Shade has always been desirable as a landscape feature and in Florida it seems a necessity for those of us that wish to spend time outdoors. Having shady areas that are also functional landscapes provides wildlife habitat for things like songbirds, reduces the need for fertilizer, water, and pesticides, and creates an area that invites you to enter and explore.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of cultivating a garden?
Gardening to me is therapeutic. It relaxes me and connects me to nature in a very real, hands-on way.
What is the biggest difficulty in taking care of shade-tolerant plants?
Plants in shade acclimate and grow slower. They need more attention in terms of regular watering as they become established and they recover from damage slower should something happen to them.
Patience is a virtue—a phrase my mother used on me constantly as I grew up. If you are creating shade from scratch, it will take some time to be anywhere close to reaching your goals. If you are expanding your existing shade or adding diversity into it, it will take time for your new plants to become a functioning part of the whole.
What is your favorite shade-tolerant plant to place in a garden? Why?
A universal plant is wild coffee—especially Psychotria nervosa. It is evergreen and always attractive, attracts wildlife with its flowers and bright red fruit, and it is tough and nearly foolproof for even novice gardeners.
I hope that they come to a better understanding about how plants function in shady settings and I hope that this leads to them being more successful in creating functional landscapes that they want to spend time in.
What are you working on next?
I have plans to write a new book that will help gardeners understand plants better—the biology of plants that is necessary to understand if you are to really be successful in growing them in a landscape.
Craig N. Huegel is the owner and operator of Hawthorn Hill Native Wildflowers and the author of Native Plant Landscaping for Florida Wildlife and Native Wildflowers and Other Ground Covers for Florida Landscapes.