Temporary garden structures to keep you in the shade

Kya deLongchamps says there are myriad options when it comes to creating shelter from the sun and even outdoor accommodation in the garden.

WE ALL love furnishing the garden when the weather allows. Many of us go that one step further and throw up some seasonal structures, adding visual focus, charm and determined practicality amidst the vagaries of the Irish summer.

Shelter, a feature, distilling light and holding back rain — what do you expect from that gazebo or tenting?

Gigantic umbrellas

If it’s simply to throw up a bower over a chair then an inexpensive 10-15kg, 3x3m pop-up is ideal, and requires little more manipulation than the cranking open of an umbrella.

You can do a little light dressing up — attaching light hangings to diffuse the sunshine and views to please yourself. 

Temporary garden structures to keep you in the shade

Add bunting for a lemonade stand for a child’s birthday, or use it as a stand at the local boot-sale. Look for aluminium rather than a plastic frame including the mechanism.


Forming an enclosed area even on two sides creates more possibilities, so consider designs with panels or curtains that can be attached using poppers, zips or even Velcro. Do you want to keep a view to certain planting open to view?

Do you want to hide say where the bins huddle by the side of the house? Would the addition of sheers allow light while creating a blind from the kids trampolining on the other side of the fence?

Temporary garden structures to keep you in the shade

Panels that can be detached completely or rolled up offer great versatility, allowing you to follow the sun during the course of the day. Expect protection from light showers but not complete waterproofing for your €30-€50 investment.

Sizing up

There’s a lot of difference during a crowded lunch on a drizzled afternoon, between 3sqm and 3.6sqm.

If you don’t want walls, a couple of large cantilevered parasols for around €100 each might be good alternative, as there’s no interruption of flow with four poles to the corners. Set these against a wall or deep hedge to create an instant awning.

Once you start sticking furniture in a standard tent or gazebo, your standing guests can be forced to the gusty perimeter, their paper plate of lasagne flapping miserably into a wobbling drink. Add a little drizzle and you have created all the glamour of a listing bus shelter.

Curtains will clip a corner off headroom when coming in and out and may flap annoyingly if not well tied back on a breezy day.

Consider where you place anything semi-permanent as the grass will suffer and surrounding plants and the house may be placed in significant shade.

Temporary garden structures to keep you in the shade

For greater architectural weight, a larger gazebo or rectangular marquee with trellis timber or wrought metal columns to the corners can support full curtain weight draperies, and seriously heavy side panels right to the ground.

After sizing your choice in frame quality, panel materials and the addition of any ‘windows’ will determine if you pay €200 or €600.

Steel frames galvanised against corrosion together with hard woods such as seasoned eucalyptus are at the high end of domestic gazebos, but with durability and structural strength comes weight.

A solid frame, canvas and sides can add up to 110kg for a 4x3m gazebo. Push and click poles are generally easier to deal with than the type that simply rest in place as they won’t detach as you put them together in snaking lengths.

Mesh panels are a useful extra if insects trouble you over your Sunday morning papers, but they won’t keep the breeze or rain out.

A larger gazebo or marquee will require at least two people to erect and a full afternoon’s work (ignore the brochure’s optimistic estimates).

The great glamp

Some homeowners take those balmy nights offered by summer further still, staging luxurious surroundings of a better tented nomadic tribesman. With dedicated roll out beds, reindeer hides and rag rugs, lanterns, pole-mounted chandeliers, there’s a whole world of glamour camping to be done out on the road or in the back garden.

If you are prepared to put your overnight guests under canvas and the stars, the wildly popular ‘bell tent’ with a camping level guide-rope system set up for the entire summer may be for you.

Camping bell tents are not designated to open up at the sides, but have fixed canvas walls, often sewn into a heavy duty ground sheet. They have a steep pitch will makes standing room in all but a monster tent limited.

These seasonal shelters with can be set on the lawn or screwed down to a concrete patio for extra stability. The raising of the gazebo or bell, can be an annual tradition using the same siting and bolt positions.

Overnight tents should have a BS5852 standard for fire-proofing.

Weather or not

Keep in mind that a gazebo with no walls propped on four or six legs is useful for only one thing — sun protection, and that’s only direct UV rays, not reflected or scattered light.

You’re tying down a kite — heavy rain can loosen guide ropes set in malleable clay in a few short hours. An airborne gazebo could lead to injury or material damage.

Site the gazebo to use existing hedging, the house or a fence line to buffer the prevailing wind, which will otherwise catch a light gazebo in a rebellious lift against the ground pegs.

Look for taped seams as this is the first point of entry though vulnerable fabrics that may be water repellent but not water-proof. ‘Anti-puddling’ eyelets allow some water through the roof edges to ensure rain does not build up into heavy reservoirs.

Untreated cotton canvas looks delightful in its first season, but won’t keep the rain out. Put away without being clean and 100% bone dry, it will re-appear the next summer season a mouldy wreck.

Look for a grade of 320 g/sq m, 1005 cotton and full waterproofing if you intend to overnight.

An A-frame entrance ‘porch’ to a bell tent will keep the rain out, a common problem for tent entrances in soft romantic materials. Polyethylene will shrug off most downpours as long as you stay out of the doorway during the worst of it.

Any gazebo with a plastic coating on the material of the roof and side panels will be less likely to leak.

If your cotton gazebo or tent does let you down, you could try a ‘proofing’ spray for tenting or horse rugs (try any equestrian outlet or camping shop), which creates an invURisible barrier against water ingress. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for coverage.


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