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Shady Seating Areas

False Pepper Tree, Cloisters, Sorrento
Wisteria Over Pergola
Rosa Kiftsgate over Pergola
Jasmine at Sunset

For everyone who likes to sit soaking up the sun, there’s another, who prefers the shade on hot days.

I do have a tendency to be cat-like, soaking up whatever warmth the pale British sunlight can offer. But sometimes even I like to wend my way to that cooler, shady spot with a comfortable seat all ready for me to sit on.

 Why do we Need Shady Seating Areas?

Too much sun is not good for us, however much sunscreen we lather on. Shade, so long as it’s cool rather than cold, offers a welcome respite from the summer sun. June 2019 may have been wetter than usual, but think back to 2018, when parts of the country were in a near drought situation. Shady seating areas were a popular part of the garden then!

Choosing your shady spot may be obvious if there’s a conveniently placed tree with sweeping branches to hang a swing seat from.  But if the nearest seat for quick cuppa is on a sun-blasted patio when you’re hankering for a cool garden bench, you need to plan ahead.

Pergolas and Parasols

How to provide the shade when you don’t have trees large enough? Pergolas and garden parasols are popular options, and a combination of the two would keep your shady seating flexible.

The shade may be provided for an elegant wooden bench or swing seat under a pergola, over which is grown a sun-loving wisteria which filters dappled light. Or why not have a swinging day bed with its own integral pergola? Let Jasmine twine and climb over the top of the pergola to give shade and perfume. Jasmine exudes scent in the evening too, offering a wonderfully romantic opportunity for balmy summer evenings.

And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t suggest that edible climbers may offer you shade too. Grape vines may be your first thought, but even in southern England sweet dessert grapes don’t always ripen. Why not try growing purple mange tout peas or large leaved courgettes with their showy yellow flowers?

Parasols allow you to move the shade with you to another seating area in your garden if you want to. I often enjoy feet in the sun and head in the shade – particularly if I’m looking a tablet / laptop screen.  Flexible working includes taking your design work into the garden, so a shady seating area is crucial. Planted around with herbs such as Rosemary to aid concentration, it encourages productivity.

Another advantage of using a parasol to create your shady seating area is that it creates a ‘pool of cool’ whilst allowing you to sit surrounded by sun-loving plants. Those hot reds and oranges of dahlias give your flower border a major zing which you’ll also enjoy from the window on rainy days.

 Plants for Shady Seating Areas under Trees

The trick is knowing the type of shade you have and which plants will thrive there. Think about when you’ll be using the seat to help fine-tune the choice, and don’t limit yourself purely to flowers: foliage can be equally attractive.

You can still have scent even in the shade of a tree. For example, Honeysuckle is a woodland edge plant and will provide scented flowers over a long period if you choose two or three varieties. If you intend growing it up the tree, then wrap twine netting around the trunk to give the honeysuckle some initial support.

Ground cover plants which are happy in this dry shade include Geranium macrorrhizum, sometimes called Balkan Geranium. It has slightly aromatic foliage which turns red as it matures; flower colours of white, pale pink or magenta and the typical crane’s bill like seedheads. If you cut back the first flowers before they seed, you’ll enjoy a second flush later in the summer. Don’t worry if you forget, the foliage is attractive and has the added advantage of suffering small dogs to lie on it without too much damage. (Dogs like shady seating areas too).

Geranium Macrorrhizum
Jasmine Aurea in Flower
Small Garden Arbour with Seats under willow
Lonicera Dropmore Scarlet, in bud


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Resolving your Gardening issues with inspirational ideas and flexible solutions

Passionate about edible ornamental gardens where you have a beautiful, practical space, Marie at Plews offers Garden Design, Garden Consultancy and Gardening Lessons where your garden is your classroom. She writes a weekly award-winning gardening blog – Plews Potting Shed.

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Posted by Siobhan on July 1st 2019

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