Garden shade ideas – planted pergola, parasols and simple sails to shelter from the sun

Look for innovative ways to welcome shade to enjoy an outdoor space for longer
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  • In the hopes of the arrival of our long-anticipated summer we give you our best ideas for shady gardens. Because while sunshine is always welcome there are points during the sunny spells where shade is a must. These garden shade ideas offer solutions for creating shade in order to make an outdoor dining or seating area a pleasure to use on even the brightest of summer days.

    Even if you’re not out laying in it a shady garden allows you to spend more time tending to gardening tasks, without being in the direct path of overwhelming and harmful UVA rays. Explore our easy garden ideas for creating a safe place to escape the heat this summer.

    Garden shade ideas

    1. Float a sail to protect from the elements

    shade sail over a garden seating area

    Image credit: Dobbies

    Create a small shaded spot with the simple placement of a sail shade gazebo. This example by Dobbies is just the thing to float above a seating area to welcome a break from sitting directly in the path of  scorching sun beams. The lightweight sail shade is quick to assemble and fast becomes a garden essential, perfect for a whole range of outdoor events, from family gatherings to spontaneous BBQs and more.

    The simple shade solution boasts a robust powder-coated rust resistant steel frame plus a durable polyester canopy for protection from the elements. Come rain or shine, a sail gazebo has you covered.

    Buy now: 3m Sail Shade Gazebo, £299, Dobbies

    2. Shelter beneath a canopy of plants

    Garden shade idea with flowering trellis above a patio

    Image credit: Simon Scarboro

    Encourage climbing plants to take up residence on a terrace pergola  to provide a beautifully natural shaded area. This garden shade idea is beneficial for adding a charming touch of planting and colour to a patio area. While also highly-practical for providing a shaded area on the terrace beneath, offering the ideal safe spot for lunch.

    3. Move with the times throughout the day

    garden parasol

    A freestanding, lightweight parasol allows the freedom to follow the sun and move the positioning depending on the time of day. A moveable shade solution is ideal on patio areas that are far-removed from the house, where there is no tree covering to offer any protection from the sun.

    4. Attach an awning to shade a patio

    awning over patio area with dining table

    Image credit: Chris Everard

    To save space on having a sizeable parasol on the garden decking or patio area, not to mention the storage for out-of-season months, consider a smart awning. Having an awning attached to the rear exterior wall allows you to have a retractable source of shade, as and when you need it  – and in a matter of minutes.

    Many of the modern designs are now electrical, making the job even easier. The average cost of an awning starts from around £200, and can range to anywhere up to £8,000.

    5. Stick to natural cover

    garden shade idea on sun terrace

    Image credit: Simon Scarboro

    A patio area immediately off the kitchen is the ideal place for a permanent structure to shade a dining area. Keep the scheme simple and rustic with a covering of wooden lengths laid across a solid wooden frame. A simple willow slatted framework feels light and airy, and seems to float in the space.

    6. Seek shade from a garden room

    timber structure garden shade idea

    Image credit: Garden House Design, Maluwi Canopy garden from £7500

    Timber structures have long made favourite garden shelters, and there is a vast choice of styles beyond the standard summerhouse. This contemporary pergola offers a private place to sit away from the glaring rays of the sun and the gaze of neighbours.

    The Maluwi Canopy garden room can be attached to an existing wall or house, or freestanding. The multi functional aluminium and timber canopy comes in a variety of lengths to suits gardens of all sizes. With water-resistant walls, plus lighting and heating options this really is a structure for all seasons.

    Of course a garden structure of this stature is not a cheap option, but it is well-worth the investment for creating an alfresco space to enjoy for all seasons – explore garden room costs.

    7. Weigh in with a fixed parasol

    patio ideas

    Image credit: Nick Pope

    A solid parasol, the likes of which are used by restaurants and hotels will be a practical solution for a patio and won’t wobble and fall over as soon as the wind picks up. Weight it down with concrete for extra stability. A wall mounted parasol is a great solution for a small garden idea and offers flexibility for angling to protect from the sun.

    8. Add an arbour for a charming touch

    country-style cottage garden with arbour

    Image credit: Spike Powell

    In a country-style garden an arbour is ideal for adding a charming area to seek a seat in the shade. The wooden structure adds character to the surrounding garden while providing a much-needed spot for shade. Add outdoor cushions to make the seating experience all the more comfortable.

    In this picturesque cottage garden idea the arbour is surrounding by country-style planting and accessories, including a bistro table and chairs set. Garden arbours are suitable for all budgets, they start from £185 at Wickes but you can spend a lot more at other high-end garden retailers.

    9. Fashion a DIY fabric canopy

    Garden shade idea with fabric

    Image credit: Simon Scarboro

    A simple fabric canopy creates shade wherever and whenever it is needed, and choosing a bright colour will make it a ‘destination’ in a large garden too.

    Outdoor fabrics have the benefit of being showerproof, strain-resistant, UV and fade-resistant, but an improvised shade in a sturdy interiors fabric will stand up to occasional use too. Simply attach the fabric to surrounding trees.

    10. Shade in serene green

    Garden decking ideas

    Image credit: David Hiscock

    Enclosing patio seating in lush planting, not only cools the area, it has a cocooning effect that will envelop the space in scent, colour and the sound of breeze through the leaves. Add a fabric awning over the pergola structure until the green has grown in pace, for fine-tuning the shade on the sunniest days.

    11. Plant trees to provide shade

    Image credit: Rowan isaac

    An alternative garden shade idea is to incorporate mindful planting into your garden design, so that you know there will always be some form of a shady spot to retreat to. Wether that’s shaping shrubs or trees to provide a canopy of lush green or simply rethinking a layout so the patio is near existing trees, be mindful on the light quality when planning your garden layout.

    How do I make shade in my garden?

    Making shade in the garden is easier than you’d think. There are a wealth of options to provide shade, for all garden types and all budgets. For those looking to keep options cheap and simple, a fabric canopy is the perfect solution. Ensure the material is an outdoor fabric that will offer a level of protection from harmful sun rays. Specialist outdoor fabrics have the benefit of being showerproof, strain-resistant, UV and fade-resistant.

    A canvas parasol is another reliable and affordable way to offer shade for a garden. Plus a parasol is handy for every style of garden, from small courtyards to large gardens with a pool – there are many fabulous designs on offer t cater for each gardens needs.


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