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There are many ways to try keeping cool during hot, dry and sunny weather. Some are obvious and others, less so. Garden umbrellas are probably the first line of defence. Put up several before the sun rises, and not only will the shade provide a mini-refuge, but the air flow around the umbrella will create a little breeze too. You don't need a fancy stand, some garden parasols, such as the Eazy Shade from Cave Innovations, come with multi-function clips and clamps so that they can attach to chairs and tables.
The shade of choice for the moment is the sail. Sail shades come in all sorts of sizes, colours and shapes and the art of creating an attractive design is fun! These woven fabric shades can be mounted on trees, poles or other high anchor points and offer sun protection for a day, a week or a month, depending on your fixings. Style and practicality all rolled into one.
Or maybe you prefer the option of a roll-out awning which can be fixed to the side of a house, offering a more permanent shade which is there when you need it. These come in many different colours and patterns and somehow they always seem to add a beach hut type of atmosphere to a garden
Then there's water, of course. This offers a relaxing and immersive experience which calms the mind and lowers temperatures too. The sound and sight of water is not only visually cooling, but as water evaporates, the air temperature is cooled, and air movement is created. This offers a relaxing and immersive experience which calms the mind and lowers temperatures too.
Fountains in public places are great spaces in which to relax!
Pergolas, arches and arbours are a great way to achieve shade and long-term structure. Wooden or metal framework makes ideal climbing areas for plants such as Clematis, roses, passion flower, jasmine and even Bougainvillea during hot summer sunshine. The shade provided by these structures provides a long-term benefit to your garden and it's fun to find suitable plants for the various areas adjacent to the form.
Place a table and chairs under or next to the pergola for a cool and shady seat which benefits from the scent of beautiful summer flowers
Then there are plants, of course. There's probably nothing better than the shade cast by a semi-mature or mature tree. But of course, you have to wait for your tree to grow before you benefit. If you are lucky enough to have garden trees, make the most of the cool area beneath. As the branches sway in a gentle breeze they create a pleasant air-flow and a sound that is reminiscent of the sea. Cool!
There are other plants that generate a cooling swish and help to move the air around. Ornamental grasses are some of the very best as they shimmer and sway in even the slightest breeze, making a sound that transports you to the beach. Some grasses are used as living screens, such as Miscanthus sinensis Gracillimus for example. It grows up to two metres high and not only brings sound and movement to a space but creates a welcome patch of shade too. The slightly smaller Miscanthus is just as effective and highly versatile.
Pampas and bamboo
Then there are the pampas grass types which form tall plumes up to three metres high, on a mound of strappy foliage and bamboo which has a multitude of different uses. If you have ever heard bamboo stems moving in a breeze, you will have to have some! Not all bamboo needs strike fear into the hearts of men. Some is well-behaved and clump-forming rather than rampant. It makes an excellent screen and has terrific form, particularly when the foliage is removed from the mid and lower parts of the stems. Light the stems at night for the ultimate cool effect!
Every garden has a little shade and you could consider making a fernery in suitable spots. Garden ferns are generally shade-lovers and they like damp soil. By planting en-masse, you create a rich habitat which shades the soil and the fresh green fronds help to cool the air.
Other shade-loving plants make you feel chilled just to look at them, including Brunnera in all its different guises. Top favourites are B. Alexanders Great; B. Hadspen all of which have the most amazing, silvery, shimmering leaves with green veining.
They are also groundcover plants that will thrive in dappled shade and give you heaps of joy. Their colourful foliage conserves moisture in the soil beneath. Heuchera come in many different colours including reds, lime greens, purples and coppery orange. They can be used to create a cooling sea of foliage which is both eye-catching and practical too.