When it comes to creating shade in your backyard, the first thing you probably think of is planting trees. However, there are many other ways to provide shade and give your yard a unique look.
Pergolas, Arbors, and Trellises
The terms “pergola”, “arbor”, and “trellis” are becoming confused, but they actually refer to three different structures.
An arbor is narrow, usually slightly wider than a walkway. It may have an arched or flat roof, and vines can be trained to grow up the sides and across the roof. It is often used as an outdoor entranceway into a particular section of the yard or landscaping. However, with a bench built into the arbor, it can become a private, shaded seating area.
A trellis is a wall-like frame of vertical supports for horizontal slats of lattice. Trellises provide support for flowering and decorative vines that are trained to grow up them, and the vines can provide privacy and shade while allowing the sun to dapple through. They don’t, however, protect against rain.
A pergola can be the versatile base for many ways of creating shade. The open roof can be covered with a retractable awning so that you have a choice of sun, shade, or moonlight. To add color, fill the open spaces with sun panels — pieces of outdoor fabric stretched over a frame. Hanging baskets of flowers and vines can shade the sides, and a sturdy pergola can support containers of plants on its roof. The roof of a really sturdy pergola could support an upper-level seating area with a stairway, or even a ladder, for access. Full tieback curtains create a romantic look, but draw curtains offer a more tailored look and more control over an exterior view versus privacy.
Sun Panels and Sun Sails
If you lack a pergola, attach sun panels to poles for a festive shaded space. No one said that all of the sun panels have to be placed at exactly the same height or angle, either. Mix panel colors and add sun sails for an even more kite-like, freeform look.
Sun sails are pieces of outdoor fabric that come in a variety of shapes and colors. You can attach them to poles or to your house. You can combine shapes and colors and place them at different angles and heights. Even if they are not sail shaped, they still appear to be soaring along.
Walls of Hedges, Screens, and Shelving
You don’t need to wall in an entire area. Juniper, boxwood, or bamboo contained within a container along the west side of a seating area lets in the morning sun but provides shade during the hot afternoon. Use the idea of a shoji or oriental panel screen as inspiration for a decorative outdoor screen of interesting wood panels, painted panels, or sun panels. To add a contrasting metallic look, fill shelving with an intriguing container garden.
Use one idea or combine them to create a unique, shaded space that reflects you.