Creating garden shade in your outdoor space is at the top of our thoughts as we are in the midst of the summer heat. There is nothing more appealing than lazing beneath a cool, shady pergola with a nice cool refreshment, when the sun is high in the sky – this must be one of life’s little joys! Some form of a garden shade structure is essential to make outdoor living more pleasant, especially as we now use our outdoor spaces as extensions to our homes living areas. We want these spaces available and utilised all year round. Whether you choose a motorised louvre roofed pergola, a rustic timber arbour, a simple shade sail, or a temporary shade solution such as fabric or an umbrella, creating a covered space in your garden that gives you an extra room when indoor areas are feeling cramped, makes sense on many levels.
With any garden shade structure, you need to think about materials, position, scale and purpose. A larger more permanent feature such as a pergola or arbour has a much greater visual presence in the landscape than low lying features like decks or lawns. These more architectural statements can also be costly making research in to what kind of shade structure would work best for your outdoor spaces essential, and well worth getting a landscape design expert in for advice. We’ve come to expect our outdoor shade structures not only to shade the backyard but also to serve as stylish features in the landscape, here are a few ideas to get your garden shade planning started.
Arbours are freestanding structures that usually frame a walkway or the entrance to a garden. Pergolas can also be freestanding structures or extensions to your house, but are usually bigger and used to cover outdoor seating areas.
These structures can vary significantly in cost depending on the type of timber used. At Fresh Perspective Landscapes, we love working with hardwood timber to create these feature structures. The flexibility of timber gives you a wide range of design options.
PROS: Natural timber can balance man-made materials in the garden, and well-designed timber pergolas work well as a sculptural element. Timber can be painted to complement the garden and house. Timber makes a strong structure, generally allowing for a swing to be hung for the kids, or a hanging chair for the adults.
CONS: Timber is a heavy material so it needs solid foundations and skilled labour to construct. Timber is strong, but less durable than metal out in the elements and it will also require repainting or re-staining on a regular basis.
Electronically controlled, hand-operable or fixed louvre structures are becoming common in many contemporary gardens. They not only look great, but also allow you to control sun, shade, light, ventilation and rain at the touch of a button.
PROS: Automatic systems are easy to use and versatile. They have an attractive contemporary appearance, and are lightweight, so heavy supports aren’t necessary.
CONS: Price – This is one of most expensive shade/shelter options, and need to be installed by an expert. The modern contemporary look won’t always suit traditional houses.
Translucent Sheeting (Polycarbonate)
Lightweight fixed polycarbonate roofing allows UV filtered sunlight to pass through and cooler temperatures under the cover of your pergola.
PROS: It’s a low-cost, light weight material that allows plenty of light penetration which is flexible and can be used on curved roofs.
CONS: This type of sheeting can scratch and dent if care is not taken, in full sun it can create a very humid area underneath, and it can be difficult to clean.
Pergolas and arbours draped with flowering, fruiting or scented climbers are among the most traditional shade structures in gardens. They will soften the man-made materials of a vertical structure.
PROS: Planted pergolas are an excellent way to bring the garden close to the house, offering the added benefits of flowers, fruit and fragrance. Living, green canopies are hard to beat for sensory pleasure.
CONS: The disadvantages of using plants for shade are the foliage or fruit dropping, they attract more insects and don’t provide rain protection.
Awnings, shade sails and canopies are becoming increasingly popular in gardens where pergolas and more solid structures are not an option.
PROS: Awnings are versatile, lightweight, have flexible sizes and shapes and they suit most garden styles.
CONS: These types of coverings can stain, attract mould, and are not suitable in windy locations.
Temporary Garden Shade
Temporary awnings or sails over a simple pergola can be put up in warmer months to shade outdoor living areas. Materials to use for this include sailcloth, canvas, muslin, polyester, garden shade cloth, rattan or bamboo blinds.
PROS: Temporary shades are cheap, versatile and can be changed easily to match a theme or give a fresh look. They add a lovely casual feel to a garden.
CONS: These lightweight materials are not particularly durable, neither are they wind or water proof.
Umbrellas are the ultimate temporary shade structure and are perfect for shading smaller terraces and eating areas. There are many variations on the traditional garden umbrella, including large, tilting patio umbrellas or those fixed to posts.
PROS: Umbrellas are very flexible, quick to erect and low cost. They suit virtually any style of garden with a wide range of colours and fabrics.
CONS: Umbrellas are not ideal in windy locations and attract mould and dirt. Large umbrellas can need two people to put them up.
Which is your favourite style of outdoor garden shade?