We’ve all heard this one: to shade your house in summer (and save the energy used to run fans or air-conditioners), plant a tree on the south side of the house. According to my guest this week, that’s not so much a no-brainer as it is brainless. (Though she’d never put it so rudely.)
In the course of the show, Sue Reed not only explains why that won’t work, she also tells us how to plant trees in order to shade a house and funnel breezes towards it in summer–but also capture sunlight and deflect winds in winter. These and dozens of other tips take the familiar gardening maxim, “the right plant in the right place,” to a whole new level.
A registered landscape architect with 25 years of experience in energy-conscious design, Sue is eminently qualified to address this issue. She has taught at the Conway School of Landscape Design, and her amazing, and amazingly thorough, book, Energy-Wise Landscape Design: A New Approach for Your Home and Garden (New Society Publishers), came out a couple of years ago.
In the book, Sue actually explains how to take into account your latitude (and the season) in deciding exactly how far from a house to plant a tree that will eventually reach 40’ (or 60’, or 35’), either to maximize or minimize the shade it casts on the house.
We don’t get into the math on the show, but Sue does explain how plant transpiration cools air, how to cool house foundations and walls, and where to place hard surfaces such as driveways and patios—and what to surface them with—in order to capture or avoid heat, both in the house and outside of it.
But that’s only one part of the show, because Sue talks first about how to save energy while landscaping and building, how to build and landscape in order to save energy during the life of the house or garden, and finally, how to actually generate energy from one’s land.
In all of these areas, she goes well beyond conventional wisdom or obvious answers. Her take on generating energy, for instance covers photoelectric cells, of course, but also home use of wind, water, and the ground. So if you were wondering how to use the soil to heat a house in winter and cool it in summer, listen up; Sue Reed will explain it.
But even if you’re not looking to replace your furnace with buried pipes, Sue offers an astonishing array of simple steps that can be taken in an established garden that will help lower energy costs both in it and in the house nearby.