Landscape & Hardscape Ideas

Throwing shade: Patio options for summer sun

Sitting outside in the summer is one of life’s simple pleasures. A few clever and well-placed shade providers can make your patio an even cooler place to hang out.

While some people still love to bask for hours in the sun’s hot rays, many of us prefer to enjoy the outdoors in a cooler, shady spot. Having a few of these different shade providers on the patio and around the landscape will help you and your family and friends spend more time outside.


Nature’s first option for a respite from the sun is the ever-reliable shade tree. A “shade tree” is “a tree (such as the American elm) grown primarily to produce shade,  with the flowers being of secondary importance.” (Merriam-Webster). In the Northeastern US, maples, oaks and elms are popular shade trees for their thick branches and large leaves. Trees take decades to grow, though, and you may want something in the meantime.





Pergolas as they commonly exist in the US seem to be a confusing option for a shade provider. Pergolas are not much more than a frame with overhead beams that in themselves don’t give much shade at all. In their original form, however, pergolas are meant to be accompanied by a removable sun shade that is hung from its rafters. The shade can be laundered and re-hung as necessary. Some homeowners use pergolas as frames for crawling vine species. This also takes years to fill in but is a lovely way to shade a table or patio set.


While pergolas are typically set close to the home above patio pavers, a gazebo is a stand-alone structure with open walls and a solid roof that is usually set away from the home. Gazebos were traditionally made entirely of wood, but bases of concrete and brick pavers that match the existing patio are popular options. Gazebos usually have arched openings, allowing for a full view of the property and cross breezes. The openings can be fitted for removable insect screening if the homeowners are looking for pest-free outside dining.




Outdoor living accessory technology has come a long way. Modern patio umbrellas come in all shapes and sizes. No longer does an umbrella need to assume its traditional place in the middle of a patio table. A cantilever balance system allows for an umbrella canopy to hover from an arm above it instead of from a center pole below it. Rolling cranks or pressure systems raise or collapse the canopy from a pole and weighted base.

Retractable Awnings

A roll-out awning attached to the house is a great option for a walk-out basement patio or exposed porch. An easy crank handle expands and contracts the frame and fabric of the awning, making sun or rain protection a quick endeavor. Finding the right fabric for the awning is important, as many types exist. Do you want full SPF shade or a lower-weighted material that will allow for optimum amounts of light to come through? Most awning companies can guide you in the selection of what will work for your particular outdoor space and your preferences.

Throwing some shade on the patio is a good way to get yourself out there and enjoying your investment in your hardscape. Look for spaces where you can add some shade providers to help you get the maximum amount of time outside.

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