It’s so close to the longest day and, this year, the sun is making the most of the long daylight hours, with temperatures soaring higher than Britain is used to! Walking out into the garden only to be hit by a wave of heat is enough to keep some people indoors with a constantly humming fan, or popping to the shops for ice cream in order to enjoy the car’s air conditioning for as long as possible.
However, adding some shade to your garden with the help of plants and trees (that’s not to say that parasols and pools aren’t also necessary additions in the short term) can allow you to find somewhere to enjoy the heatwave without melting. From lofty trees that shade large areas to shrubs that shade your patio, there are a plethora of plants to help you out(side).
Follow these simple tips to create shade your garden (while the hot weather lasts) and for many years to come:
Plant short shrubs and flowers to cast shade on a path . Whether you mix up a variety of shrubs or go for the uniformity of the same species, either way can work and the look is down to personal preference . To achieve the most shade, it is best to choose plants that are about 1 to 3 feet tall. If you go shorter this lessens the effect, and anything too much larger can encroach too far onto a path.
Add a tree with far reaching branches and dense foliage that will suit the size of your garden space. Smaller gardens can benefit from trees which can grow up to 16 feet such as the cherry Prunus 'Kiku-shidare-zakura'cherry
If space is abundant in your garden, the 50 foot tall fern-leaved Catalina ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribunda ssp. asplenifolius) fits well in larger gardens and can take the sun. Planting a tree in the middle of an open space will create maximum shade, or near to a patio if you’re after shade for a specific spot. Naturally, it should be noted that the more mature the tree you buy, the more expensive it will be, but it will undoubtably give greater shade quicker than a plant that will take years to mature.
Place a pergola or arbour in the garden to train a vine up the structure. This can be especially useful for a seated area or walkway away from the house. Wisteria sinensis, for example, looks great twisting and turning as it grows to a mature height. Its flower petals droop down from the arbor giving shade the ground below. Alternatively, a grape vine can be prolific around a pergola and give you the shade you need.
Plant taller shrubs around a patio area to allow both people and plants refuge from the summer heat. The "Hydro Dawn" rhododendron (Rhododendron "Hydro Dawn") cultivar is one of the few rhododendrons that enjoys full sun. Its mature height of 5 feet is perfect as a shade provider for other plants or alongside a patio.
Creating pockets of shade rather than shading the entire garden allows you to enjoy the look of the dappled light contrast between the shaded and sunny areas. It’s also often easier to achieve than blanketing the entire garden in shade. British summers are not known for their longevity, so what might seem like a great idea for a sun filled week could lose its benefit once the heatwave has passed. You could design a garden that shades the edges of your garden and leaving the middle to bask in the sun, or adding shade to one corner of your house.
The shade will change during different periods of the day. For example, planting "Hydro Dawn" rhododendrons on the west side of a garden bed, will have the following effect: as the sun rises, the garden bed will appear sunny, but later in the day the rhododendrons will block the light. This type of landscaping is perfect for providing a crossover from the early morning to the late evening.
As always, there are a few things to remember if you are designing a garden for a mix of sunshine and shade:
In order to avoid root damage, always place other plants away from the root zone of shallow-rooted trees.
Make sure you are conscious of the root zone of a tree. Don’t plant trees with vigorous root systems close to structures as they can eventually cause damage to property.
Always make sure any plants in shady areas tolerate partial or full shade. Full shade (less than three hours of sun per day) is average under trees. Partial shade (about three to six hours of sun per day) is more usual in front of shrubs and other plants.
If you would like any advice or help with designing your garden, my team and I would be happy to help. Please take a look at what we can do and get in touch.