Garden Sundials

You can use garden sundials as beautiful accents to your floral areas or if you'd like to, you can even use them as a way to measure time.

According to history, obelisks and shadow clocks date back to around 3500 BC in ancient Egypt. Greek, Chinese, Roman and Islamic cultures all participated in further development of these ancient timekeepers.

The Romans are said to have built the largest one the world has known.

garden sundial

By using the position of the Sun as it moves across the sky, a shadow is cast on a flat surface marked with the hours of the day.

As the sun changes positions while moving across the sky, the time indicated by the shadow on the flat surface changes.

Garden sundials are available in many weather-resistant materials with brass being the most common. You can choose an in-ground or pedestal type dial for your garden area.

These timekeepers are designed to be set with the dial oriented horizontally rather than vertically.

While they can keep fairly accurate “solar time” throughout the seasons, garden dials are used primarily as accent or decoration and not considered truly accurate time-keeping devices.

However, if you want your dial to be more than an accent, you'll need to place it in the garden where it will receive full sun.

Position your timekeeper away from trees and buildings where shadows may interfere with the shadow the sun would cast on the face of the dial.

With the face usually receiving sunlight during most or all of the daytime period, your dial can be a beautiful way of keeping time for you in your garden all year long.

Many ornamental garden sundials are designed to be used at 45 degrees north. If you wish to use it for keeping accurate "solar time", they must be set up properly or the time will be off.

Most horizontal sundials sold in the United States are constructed for a latitude somewhat south of Connecticut, but they are still serviceable in the state if set up properly.

* The gnomon (the fixture that casts the shadow) should be attached to the dial plate so that its sloped, shadow-casting edge touches the plate where the 6 o'clock hour lines meet.

The gnomon should slope up to a high point above the 12:00 mark; stores sometimes attach the gnomon in the opposite direction, making the dial useless.

* Be sure the dial is horizontal and turn it so the gnomon points to true north. (Note that true north is about 12 to 13 degrees east of magnetic compass north in Connecticut.)

An easy way to find true north is to determine the time exactly midway between sunrise and sunset as listed in your local newspaper; at that time, turn the dial so that it reads noon.

Leave it in this position; it is properly aligned regardless of what your quartz watch says.

A simple horizontal dial in Connecticut will differ from Eastern Standard Time by as much as 25 minutes fast (in early November) or five minutes slow (in mid-February).

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