a home with a north west facing garden

What To Do With Your North West Facing Garden

The direction of your garden can have a significant effect on many elements. For example, your garden’s direction plays a part in the amount of sunlight your property receives, at what time of day, how damp your garden will get and the kinds of things you can grow in it. That being said, many people prefer a south-facing garden since it receives the most sunlight all year round. However, much can be said for other, often overlooked garden directions, including north west facing gardens. A north west facing garden receives plenty of late afternoon sunlight while providing enough natural sunlight protection throughout the rest of the day. Find out more benefits of a north west facing garden and the best ways to design one right here!

How To Work Out Which Direction Your Garden Faces

a person holding a compass to understand the direction of their garden

Working out the direction your garden faces is the easy part! The direction your garden faces, also known as the aspect, will sit within the parameters of north, south, east and west. Of course, this means that some of you will find your garden faces halfway between these points, leading to the north west facing gardens that we will discuss here. The aspect of your garden will determine the amount of sun and shade your garden gets and in which spots.

To work out your garden’s direction, you should stand by the exterior wall of the back of your home and point a compass to the back of your garden. Once your compass points in a cardinal direction, you’ll have the aspect of your garden.

Read More: What To Do With A West Facing Garden

The Advantages & Disadvantages of A North West Facing Garden

children in a north west facing garden

Each garden direction comes with its benefits. For example, a north west facing garden has the advantage of receiving plenty of sun in the afternoon and evening, meaning warmer summer nights spent outdoors with friends and family. However, the opposite side of more sun after midday is that your garden will be much colder during the mornings. Additionally, in some cases, a north west facing garden will only start receiving warm afternoon sun later in the warmer season than other garden aspects.

Here are some more advantages and disadvantages of a north west facing garden:

Advantages

  • Plenty of Evening Sun – A north west garden is blessed with the benefit of both north and west facing gardens: getting plenty of sun! Usually, north west facing gardens get an ideal amount of afternoon to evening sun from late Spring through to early Autumn.
  • Planting In The Shade – Many plants thrive in full or partial shade, and a north west facing garden is the perfect place to grow them. Even plants that enjoy the heat will be thankful for a bit of midday shade.
  • Perfect for Awkward Shapes – Most people find long garden shapes awkward to design, but in a north west facing garden, this could be a blessing. For example, the far end of an extended north west facing garden can bask in the sun while the rest remains in the shade through summer. In this case, you can design a seating area that sits in the sun while the rest of your garden is taken up by planting, storage and play areas for children during the cooler hours.
  • Natural Sun Protection – If sitting directly in the sun isn’t for you, a north west facing garden could be. The balance between sun, shade and a mixture of both allows more sensitive-skinned gardeners to get outdoor work done without needing constant sweat breaks and suncream applications.
  • Less Damaging Temperature Fluctuations – Unlike other garden aspects, a north west facing garden won’t fall victim to extreme temperature fluctuations. This means you won’t have to worry about excessive heat or cold in your garden.
  • More Space For Entertaining – The balance of sun and shade means a north west facing garden is perfect for entertaining. Whether you plan to set up an outdoor kitchen in a shady spot or a party area in a nice warm space, a north west facing garden gives you the opportunity.

Disadvantages

  • Cooler Spells – Unfortunately, an abundance of afternoon sun also means cooler spells throughout the day. Of course, a north west facing garden will be cooler in the morning. However, it can also remain mostly cool until later in the season.
  • Growing Moss – Damp and cold can quickly become the perfect breeding ground for moss, which may spring up in a north west facing garden. Reduce the chances of moss growing in your garden by keeping up with the removal of leaves and debris from your decking, patio and lawn.  
  • Planting Limitations – Unfortunately, although many plants thrive in the shade, many also prefer full sun. This can limit your planting choices. Some gardeners’ favourite plants love warm temperatures and full sun, which a north west facing garden can’t provide.

What To Do With A North West Facing Garden

a cottage growing climbing plants in a north west facing garden

Now we’ve explored the benefits and drawbacks of a north west facing garden; we can work with the best parts to create the perfect design. First, you’ll want to consider which parts of your garden receive the most sun and which remain mostly shaded – this will help you create the perfect garden for all your outdoor needs.

Here are our tips on what to do with your north west facing garden:

Choose The Best Plants For Shade

flowers growing in a north west facing garden

Although a north west facing garden will benefit from evening sunshine, it will also see its fair share of shade. So, you’ll want to plant for full shade or partial sunlight in the corresponding areas of your garden. Fortunately, you can include many suitable plants in your north west facing garden design for year-round interest. Here are some of our suggestions:

  • Snowdrop
  • Lily of the valley
  • Begonia
  • Hellebore
  • Dogtooth violet
  • Hosta
  • Fern
  • Sweet box

Consider Repeat Planting

orange and yellow flowers used in repeat planting

Of course, the mix of sun and shade a north west facing garden receives can pose some problems. If your planting options are limited, you could consider trying repeat planting. This gardener’s trick can be incredibly helpful in north west facing gardens with limited planting choices because it can create a sense of cohesion with little maintenance. Also, repeating plants gives you more options to choose from when planting your garden.

Make Use of Natural Light

a house with a pond side north west facing garden in natural sunlight

Natural light benefits both you and your garden, providing us with vitamin D and higher levels of happiness [i] and providing energy for photosynthesis to occur in your garden[ii]. To make the most of the natural light your north west facing garden will receive, you’ll need to give it a clear path. So, remove any obstructions to sunlight, such as tall trees or outhouse structures, to maximise your garden’s light levels. Swap these out for lower, less imposing hedges that won’t get in the way of sunlight. Of course, you may not want to remove tall trees or bushy hedges altogether. If this is the case, opt to remove any dense layers of their canopy, so they don’t obscure the light.

Choose A Bright Colour Palette

a cottage with a bright colour palette

A colour palette may not be your first thought when considering garden design. But a chic colour palette can make a world of difference, particularly in a north west facing garden. Since your garden will see some shade, you’ll want to choose a brighter colour palette that brightens up those darker areas and offsets the sunny spots. So whether the colour palette for your north west facing garden includes classic nature colours, like sunshine yellow and lush green, or some of your favourite brighter shades, like pink or orange, make sure it brings some light into your garden. Don’t forget to match your planting to your colour scheme too!

Read More: How To Make Your Garden More Colourful

Create A Hang Out Spot

friends gathered on a garden patio

Although we’ve talked about making the most of your garden’s shade, you don’t want to neglect the sun, either. And the sunny spots of your north west facing garden provide the perfect space to set up the ideal hang-out spot for you and your friends. Use the warmth of the long evening sun to your advantage by setting up plenty of comfy garden furniture around a fire pit for summer nights and winter evenings you can enjoy outdoors.

Add An Outdoor Kitchen

an outdoor kitchen and bar in a north west facing garden

Although a north west facing garden may not be the best place to host a warm, sociable BBQ, the chefs among you can rejoice; north west facing gardens are the perfect environment for an outdoor kitchen. In the case of cooking conditions, a north west facing garden is ideal for an outdoor kitchen. You should never set up an outdoor kitchen in a spot fully exposed to sunlight or one that’s too windy. It sounds like a north west facing garden already! Find a secluded spot in your garden that sits relatively close to your house for the perfect outdoor kitchen location.   

Designing Your North West Facing Garden

Having a north west facing garden may not be your dream garden aspect, but it’s not a complete loss. Use some of our design tips to make the most of your north west facing garden and create an outdoor space in which you’ll want to spend your time.

What’s your advice to someone with a north west facing garden? Let us know your tips.

Sources

  [i] https://www.cantifix.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-benefits-of-natural-light/

[ii] https://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-energy-initiative-better-understanding-how-plants-use-sunlight-1204

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