Landscape Ideal Exposure

By Keith Markensen

Orientation is the direction in which a house faces. If you are building or can choose among houses that face in several directions, you should always try for an orientation that takes maximum advantage of sunlight. Anyone who already owns their home can, of course, do nothing about its orientation.

Unfortunately, habit and tradition prevent most people who live in crowded urban and suburban areas from taking advantage of undoubtedly distress his more conventional neighbors. Nevertheless, such a rugged individualist would certainly make the interior of his home more comfortable and would also be able to use the garden area to better advantage. A few modern builders, however, have tried to improve orientation in a number of their large developments.


In rural areas, however, homes are farther apart and an owner need never think twice about orienting his house so as to take advantage of the surrounding elements.

Whether or not the house is parallel to the highway is hardly noticeable under such conditions, so the point should certainly be discussed with the architect or builder.

Ideal Orientation

Generally speaking, the ideal exposure is for the front of the house to face southeast or south . This permits a wider selection of plants to be used in front of the home where it is important to present a pleasant picture to the public, and it puts the more shaded part of the house toward the rear of the property where terraces, patios, porches, and service areas are usually found. In these locations fewer plants are required, so that heavy shade there, would not seriously interfere with the selection of plants.

Also, it makes it possible to take advantage of the shade cast by the house itself on hot summer afternoons. The need for large trees to supply shade would not be so great, and this would mean better gardening because more sunshine would fall on the ground. In addition, trees could then be planted in places where they would complete a satisfactory landscape picture instead of in places where they would cast the most shade on a porch or patio.


By taking advantage of orientation possibilities you can do much to bring under your control some of the "microclimates" of your property. Microclimates are little areas that exhibit some particular type of weather, such as a cool corner, or a hot side of a house, or a wind-swept spot on your lot. Each of them, although a part of the large air masses that make up the climate of the locality, differs from others only 5 or 10 feet away. By properly orienting the house, and properly locating plant material, you can control to some extent these small bits of climate.

For example, the rear wall of the author's home faces directly south. The two bedrooms are on that side. No shade is cast upon the roof or the south side of the house during hot summer afternoons, and large trees to make such shade would be undesirable

Nevertheless, the south wall of the house should be kept cool in summer so as to reduce the temperatures inside the house and permit comfortable sleeping. To control somewhat the climate on the rear wall of our house, we propose to construct a pergola along the entire back wall so that it projects for about six feet out from the house, and to plant two wisteria vines or variegated ginger to grow over it. Being deciduous plants, they will shade the walls in the summer and yet in winter allow the sun to come through and help warm that side of the house.

This is a perfect example of overcoming, at least partly, poor orientation by employing climate-control practices in a small way. The house wall will be shaded while the remainder of the backyard will be flooded with sunlight and we will be able to grow almost any kind of plants we desire. - 29857

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