I must admit, I’ve lived in NJ for 30 years of my life, and in all that time, I’ve never been able to easily identify where north, south, east and west are. But things were different during the five years I lived in Arizona. I went to Arizona State University, and within the first few days of living there, I understood where north, south, east and west were. I think it had a lot to do with the way the roads are structured there. It’s essentially a grid, with everything running north, south, east and west. It was very simple for me to stand outside and say, “This is where north is, this is where south is.” But in NJ, it’s a whole different ball game. I think this is because the roads follow rivers and there are many old roads, and so there are not many grids. Here, it’s all angles and turns. Here, nothing quite runs east, north, south and west. So I carry a compass with me all the time, because I find it so fascinating to discover where I am in someone’s front yard, where I’m facing, and how the sun will move.

Following the sun is an important piece of landscaping and gardening. When you are following the sun, you are studying how the sun moves across your garden, across your yard, across your property, so you can understand which plants should be planted where.

Because all plants require sun, the correct amount of sunlight is probably one of the most important elements needed for the survival of your plants. But knowing how it travels across your yard is important, because there are some areas that will receive little sun, and some areas that will require full sun. So it’s important to study it, and figure it out.

So observe the sun closely to understand how it moves across your property. Notice when and where there is partial shade, which amounts to about a half day of direct sun. Notice areas of dappled shade, where sunlight is filtered through trees. Look for areas of open shade, which are usually on the north side of a building where there is no direct sun throughout the entire day, but is not otherwise covered by trees or structures. And finally, notice areas of full shade, where the plants don’t receive direct sun and are also shaded by trees or structures. As you develop a greater sensitivity to your property by following the sun, you’ll be learning lessons that will show you where different plants will thrive.