How to create a shady space in the garden

A shady front garden.


While sun worshippers will always head for the hottest spot in the garden, a shady spot can add peace, calm and tranquillity to any open space. Hannah Stephenson looks at how to create a shady haven.

On those rare occasions, we can all crouch under the sun umbrella, but it’s just not very pretty, is it? 

Canvas gazebos, while practical, aren’t very pretty, are they, with all those metal poles and coach bolts. 

So how else can you create shade in a sunny spot? 

Awnings are another option and can add a splash of colour if you need it. 

But they have to be situated in the right spot, can be expensive and if your patio is windy, they may be vulnerable.

One idea which can be effective is to train leafy climbers over an arch to create a retreat.

If you have a wooden bench, you could place some sort of arch over it and grow climbers in pots or in the earth on either side, to train up it and provide colour as well as some shade. 

Training leafy climbers over an arch can be an effective way of creating a shady retreat in the garden.
Training leafy climbers over an arch can be an effective way of creating a shady retreat in the garden.

A light-roofed structure, such as a pergola, can also provide relief from the sun, as you can train climbers over the crossbeams, providing more hours of shade. 

Pergolas are usually made from timber or metal, with a horizontal trellis laid on top.

They are usually built out from the house or a wall, often positioned directly above a patio and, as well as providing shade, they also put paid to nosey neighbours who may want to know what you’re up to. 

Ideal trailers to use on pergolas include sweet-smelling roses, honeysuckle or clematis.

You can buy kits from DIY stores and big garden centres consisting of timber uprights and cross pieces to put together yourself, or alternatively have a local builder do it.

If plants aren’t creating your shade, you can add colour and texture to a shady spot with hostas and ferns, heucheras and hydrangeas, adding further splashes of colour with shade-tolerant Busy Lizzies, stocks, violas and nicotiana.

Climbers which grow over a freestanding structure in the sun often do better than when planted against a wall or fence because there is no restriction of light.

Awooden summerhouse in a garden.
A wooden summerhouse in a garden.

If the structure — arch or pergola — is big enough, virtually any climber will be suitable, but if the gap is only small, avoid roses with sharp thorns or other bushy plants.

And remember that a combination of climbers which flower at different times will provide colour to your patio for longer and create an attractive mix. 

For big structures, you could train wisteria, laburnum and a late-flowering clematis.

Trellis is another useful commodity to help create shade in a sunny spot. 

Panels with curved tops are available to make useful screens to shelter the patio.

Arbours are another option for shade. They are open-sided structures, usually set over a sitting area in an informal part of the garden, and while they may not suit the patio area, you could always move down the garden to sit in an arbour smothered with fragrant climbers.

Remember before you start, though, to experiment with temporary shade before investing in time and money to create permanent shade. 

If you have that old sun umbrella, move it around the patio to find out where it is most effective.


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