The ratio of shade to sunlight is an inexact science – about 50 per cent of the garden may be ideal, increasing to around 75 per cent in the most scorching parts of the country – but the perfect ratio is what is most comfortable. Carleen Rigas of Coolaroo suggests, “Shade should always be provided where people and pets will be spending time – around any seating areas, swimming pools, play areas and outdoor entertaining.”
Blocking the sun from hitting the walls of the house can also be beneficial. With the wraparound verandah falling out of vogue, there's often nothing to block the full force of the sun from the home. Strategically placed shade can help to cool the inside of the house, as well as the outside. Choose from the following shade-givers or combine for a perfect shadowy solution.
A good umbrella is the ultimate flexible solution. The classic market version is a perennial favourite, but cantilevered ones provide the same versatility without getting in the way. “A cantilevered umbrella allows it to be positioned so it doesn't influence how you arrange the furniture. Most good ones now will come with movable arms and tilting operation,” says Mark Curtis of Secret Gardens.
Umbrellas are also handy around pools, providing a great solution to the conundrum of pool safety regulations, which preclude the building of a climbable structure within a certain distance of the pool fence. “And, of course, umbrellas can be moved out of the way if you're swimming towards the end of autumn or beginning of spring, when you don't mind a bit of sun to warm up the pool,” adds Mark.
A shade sail offers the ability to screen a much larger area for a budget-friendly price. Use one to extend a pergola in the hottest months, protect the kids on their play equipment, or even strategically cover garden beds; shade cloth is ideal for protecting delicate plants on the most burning hot days.
Square and triangular shade sails do essentially the same job, the only difference being one less fixing point on a triangular sail, which gives you more flexibility. Remember to install shade sails at an angle so rainwater doesn't pool in the middle but runs off, ideally into an adjacent garden bed.
Choosing the right colour of sail for your home is mostly an aesthetic decision, but Mark suggests, “Always go for a darker shade sail as opposed to a lighter one, firstly because it doesn't show up the dirt and grime as much, and secondly because you can see the sky through a dark sail – stand under a white sail and you can't see past it.”
No amount of overhead cover will shield you from the sun when it slants in at an angle. This is where outdoor blinds, which are easy to add to an existing covered outdoor space, can help, particularly in west-facing spaces. “All homes should have outdoor blinds where possible,” says Carleen. “They protect your indoor furniture and cool the house, especially on hot afternoons, helping to reduce your energy bills and save money.”
If the primary purpose is shade – rather than sheltering from rain – choose a mesh fabric to allow airflow, or even bamboo blinds to give your home an instant tropical vibe.
A permanent pergola built off the back of the house is one of the best ways to enjoy an indoor/outdoor connection year-round, with the structure providing shade for outdoor entertaining, as well as helping cool your home's interiors. The basic design tends to be the same, but there are myriad options to cover it, from a shade cloth to a motorised retractable awning or louvres.
“We would always look to a retractable awning rather than a solid roof, simply because of the flexibility it offers for winter sun,” says Mark. Consider where the sun comes in throughout the year, so you don't short-change yourself on light in winter.
Though not an instant solution, you can also install tension wire and grow a deciduous climbing plant through it for blissful shade in summer, and sun in winter when the leaves fall off.
Head in-store to your local Bunnings, pick up your chosen shade products and create some shade in your backyard.