Planting under roof overhang

Asked June 4, 2016, 2:14 PM EDT

Hello and thank you for this service. I live in north Portland and have a big yard I'm trying to make beautiful and manageable. I need advice on what to plant in a S/SW facing bed that's against the house, under wide eaves. It's nearly always dry, and in warm weather it is hot. The area is about three feet deep and 20+ feet long. I'm wondering if it's prudent to also consider our warming climate as I choose plantings for that area, and for the yard in general - plants, perhaps, more typically grown in southern Willamette valley, for example. Thanks in advance for your input. Molly

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

When making major landscape decisions, a critical per-requisite is to ask yourself "What do I want this space to do?" Do you want to grow food? Warm season summer crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplants would like that south exposure--IF it gets lots of sunlight. Or do you want to create habitat for local wildlife or for pollinators or other beneficial insects, in which case the Backyard Habitat program run jointly by the Portland Audubon Society and Columbia Land Trust has many resources, including visits and consultations. ( Perhaps you want to develop a collection of interesting plants--irrigation can easily provide adequate water for any climate-appropriate plants; the amount of sunlight is much less adjustable, but interesting plants are readily found that tolerate all levels of light. Rather than suggest two or three of the thousands of plants available, I would suggest that you a) keep your eyes open for interesting plants you discover as you observe similar conditions in other people's yards, and b) haunt good nurseries and garden centers with you copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book in hand--it will provide growing conditions for virtually any plant you could purchase.

Regarding climate changes: this is certainly an issue. The greater Portland area is currently USDA zone 8A / 8B (average winter lows about 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit; twenty years ago it was generally considered to be zone 7 (lows about 5 to 10). Almost certainly overall temperatures will continue to rise, but here are two caveats: local microclimates, like the one you describe, can be substantially outside the zone norms. And climate changes should have a stronger influence on your decisions about what long-lived plants to use (some landscape trees have a life of several hundred years); it is much less of an issue when planting short-lived plants like vegetables, annuals, or most perennials.