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Shade Structures

SHADY STRUCTURES AND SUITABLE SHADE PLANTS (for outdoor living)

A warm climate, with plenty of sunshine is certainly attractive and much desired in Australia. However there can be a fine line between pleasant and uncomfortable’ or even dangerous!

The sun can be exceptionally harsh, and skin damage can cause short term discomfort, and in the long term even death from skin disease.

More than ever before, we are being told to stay in the shade which can deter the way we live, particularly throughout the warm summer months. Thankfully, there is a huge range of products that can be used to provide shade in the garden and around the home. Not only do such products create shade, many can be an attractive addition or feature in the garden.

Types of shade structures include:

  • Umbrellas
  • Shade sails
  • Gazebos
  • Pergolas
  • Pavilions
  • Bungalows
  • Canopies
  • Cabanas

Where is shade needed?

  • Over children’s play areas
  • Near the pool
  • Over entertainment areas and the BBQ
  • On the patio/deck

Before installing a shade structure

What sort of shade structure you choose is ultimately a matter of personal choice, but be sure to consider the following:

1. What material is it made of? Shade wings can be made of bamboo and other reeds, shade cloth, fabric, timber, aluminium and other metals. Consider how long the material will last – and make sure you look at what the fixtures and supports are made of as well. A well built main structure held up by rust prone metal clips, for example will only last as long as those clips.

2. Will it stand up to the wind? Many shade structures have a large surface area and can be badly damaged in wind – think of the humble umbrella on a windy day. Umbrellas and portable gazebos can be put away if it becomes windy. However, permanent structures need to be able to withstand the strongest winds in your locality. Some shade structures will do better if they have some degree of permeability (eg: wooden slats or open weave cloth) to allow wind to travel through without doing damage.

3. Drainage off the shade structure. Even semi permeable structures can collect and direct a lot of rainwater. Think about where this water is going to drain to – particularly if you are installing a structure in a low lying area. You may need to put in guttering or subsurface drains.

Checklist for Choosing a Shade Structure:

The following checklist will help you to decide what sort of shade structure to build or install:

1. What is the structure primarily for?

a/ Growing plants

b/ Keeping the house cool

c/ Providing a protected outdoor living area

d/ Reducing overall heat in the garden

e/ As an architectural feature

2. How will you create the shade?

a/ Building a new structure yourself using materials you have or can buy cheaply.

b/ Building a new structure yourself using whatever you need to buy, irrespective of cost.

c/ Paying a contractor to build or install a structure.

d/ Buying a prefabricated structure

e/ Renovating or altering an existing or partly built structure.

f/ Planting trees and waiting for them to grow.

3. What are you most concerned about?

a/ Cost

b/ Quick affect

c/ Minimum disturbance to the garden

d/ Appearance

e/ Being cooler

f/ Being protected from rain or sun (or both)

Shade Density

Shade can be light or heavy. If you choose to use shade cloth, it's easy to control the degree of shade, because such products usually come with the amount of shade stated. 50% or 70% shade cloths are common.

Trees and Vines for Shade

Vines/Climbers

There are many climbing plants (vines) that can be planted in association with structures such as Gazebos, Pergolas and Pavilions. Climbers can yield valuable shade and ornamental value with leaf form and often stunning flowering displays. The advantage of using vines in comparison to trees and shrubs is that they can be planted much closer to the house, building or structure you want to shade. Many vines can be planted in shallow soil near a built area or planted into decorative containers.

Climbers will their tendrils tend to form a tight coverage of foliage and it is this layer of leaves that will provide protection from the harsh punishing sun of summer. There are vines which are deciduous and therefore defoliate in winter to offer the benefits of summer shade yet affording sunlight through in the cooler months. A few of the finest climbers for cooler regions are:

Clematis (Deciduous)

Parthenocissus, (Deciduous)

Wisteria (Deciduous)

Vine selections for warmer regions:

Allamanda (Evergreen)

Bougainvillea (Evergreen)

Mandevilla (Evergreen)

Stephanotis (Evergreen)

Shade Trees

The correct selection and placement of trees in the garden will provide shade and privacy. There are many beautiful trees that will yield shade from the spread of their canopies. Along with the canopy of leaves trees offer other ornamental qualities such as bark texture, attractive flowers, edible fruit and seed to attract birdlife to the garden.

Carefully consider your site before planting specimen shade trees. Consider where you want to achieve shade in the landscape as this will affect the placement and planting of the tree. Plant to consider the mature height of the tree as problems can occur if the tree selected outgrows the garden. Trees that are too large can cause problems with neighbours while possibly encroaching on your favourite views or vistas throughout the garden. Evergreen tree options should be considered for year-round shade coverage. Likewise if winter sun is preferred select a deciduous tree to drop leaves with the onset of cooler weather.

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