Making Shade in the Garden - The Importance Of Shade
Shade is important in many ways.
- It makes a garden and surrounded buildings cooler in summer and warmer in winter.
- It can provide protection from storms and strong winds, and provides protection from damaging UV light.
Shaded areas sometimes seem to happen without much thought. At other times they need to be created. If you don't have any ready made shaded areas, there are two main ways you can create them:
- By growing trees which will provide shade.
- By building structures to provide shade, such as pergolas, fences or shade houses.
Pergolas are structures built to provide shade and shelter. They are usually a roof supported by posts and/or walls of an adjacent building.
The roof is commonly made from beams covered by something to filter the sunlight while still allowing rain to penetrate. It's normal for one or more sides of the pergola to be open, allowing access to adjacent garden areas.
Pergolas are commonly constructed over a path, patio or verandah and may be attached to or between buildings. In the southern hemisphere, pergolas are normally attached to the north side of the house to provide shade in the heat of the day. In warmer climates a pergola can also be very useful on the east and west sides of your house where the morning and afternoon sun can be more of a problem than the high midday sun.
There are three parts to a pergola:
- The posts (uprights).
- Roofing framework.
- Covering material (not always used).
Posts and roofing framework
These are most commonly made from timber, though metal is sometimes used. In most situations, a height of 2.5 metres is ideal for pergolas.
The covering material is very important as it will effect the amount of light, or shade, that the plants will recieve. A solid cover creates a more shaded, cooler area, but restricts rainwater moving through. Plants under a pergola may need more watering.
The main choices in coverings are:
- Growing Plants
- The combination of foliage, flower, scent and colour provide a sense of
continual change and freshness.
- Regular pruning may be necessary to remove growth hanging too low, or
spreading beyond the pergola.
- Avoid plants that may damage an attached building (eg. Ivy) or block
- Deciduous climbers will let light through during winter (when bare of
leaves), but provide coolness and shade in summer.
- Brush (cut foliage for plants)
- Brush can be purchased in bundles or slabs, or cut yourself (do not cut
it from the bush though) from plants like Melaleuca and tea tree.
- It can in some cases carry disease and may be very flammable in drier conditions.
- Soft wooded plants are rarely any good as brush.
- Water moves in an irregular way through brush, creating heavy dripping in
- Shadecloth comes in a variety of degrees of shade.
- Lasts for a very long time.
- Needs to be well supported by beams and slats, or it will sag, forming
low spots which collect leaves and other rubbish.
- Timber slats
- Timber slats or battens give an optimum cooling effect if run in a north
- All timber needs to be treated to extend life.
- PVC or Fibreglass sheet
- Sheeting must have a slope to move rainwater. It is normal to slope the
roof away from buildings or pathways, to keep those areas free of water.
- A collection system or guttering may be used at the bottom of the roof,
and take it to a drain.
The covering material of shadehouses has been primarily with the use of wooden slats or shadecloth. Traditional shadecloth colours of black and green are now added to with pale blue, sandstone, brown, white.
Green is actually the least desirable colour for shadehouse coverings as the plants do not photosynthesis effectively - the green fibres make the light slightly green. Aesthetically, the green used does not blend in with natural leaf greens either.
Black is perhaps the colour which is least noticeable, whilst brown fits in well with rustic and colonial style homes and with native bush gardens.
Sandstone may be in keeping with the colour of the bricks or roof tiles of a house, whilst pale blue and white go well with white houses and swimming pools. White shadecloth is good for growing plants, as they are protected but still grow in bright conditions, as the light is reflected and dispersed as it passes through.
In warmer climates, darker coloured shade cloth will have more of a cooling affect than the lighter colours.
Shadecloth is available in different strengths, with 50 and 70% shade being common. The stronger shade is used in hotter climates and to grow shadeloving plants like ferns in summer. Most orchids tend to prefer lighter shade. Shade cloth (50%) can also be used as a windbreak material.
Pergolas and shadehouses are ideal for growing ferns, azaleas and orchids. They can also be used to grow rainforest plants like gingers, monstera, philodendrons and cunjevois; or frost/heat sensitive plants such as fuchsias, impatiens and begonias.
Some councils require a building permit for a pergola, particularly if it is attached to a house or has a solid roof such as fibreglass sheeting. You should check with your local council building department before installing or erecting a pergola.
Landscaping Shaded Areas
Once you have an area shaded, the next step is to landscape it. It is essential that you take time to plan what you do, and think carefully about the implications of everything you put into a shaded area of a garden.
Consider the following:
- Every extra plant, wall or piece of garden furniture will restrict the flow of air through the area, and make it harder for the ground to dry out.
- The surfaces which are most shaded and least ventilated will remain moist longer and are more likely to become slippery.
- In temperate climates shaded areas can remain colder for longer over winter, making it harder to grow many types of plants.
- The edges of a shaded area can be in direct sunlight at times, and in fact may not be suitable for shade loving plants.
- Furniture, large shrubs, rocks, walls, pots etc can throw additional shade on corners of a shade area.
- Enclosed areas can trap native animals and birds trying to escape cats.
Your choice of plants can greatly influence the amount of maintenance.
Remember shaded areas are normally restricted areas where plants don't have as much room as elsewhere to spread.
ACS offer a wide variety of courses on gardening and landscaping, including the following 100 hour courses:
Landscaping Home Gardens
If you would like to broaden your knowledge, then our range of eBooks make an excellent read. Titles include:
Landscaping & Gardening In The Shade
What To Plant Where
Learn from our experience - use our FREE COUNSELLING SERVICE.