Find solace in summer shade
When the mercury soars, some gardeners enjoy the peace and calm of a cool, shady haven.
Yes, we can all crouch under the sun umbrella, but it’s just not very pretty, is it? And I’m afraid I don’t go for canvas gazebos either, even if they are practical, what with all those metal poles and coach bolts.
So how else can you create shade in a sunny spot?
Awnings are another option and can add a splash of colour if you need it. But they have to be situated in the right spot, can be expensive and if your patio is windy, they may be vulnerable.
One idea which can be effective is to train leafy climbers over an arch to create a retreat.
If you have a wooden bench, you could place some sort of arch over it and grow climbers in pots or in the earth on either side, to train up it and provide colour as well as some shade.
A light-roofed structure, such as a pergola, can also provide relief from the sun, as you can train climbers over the crossbeams, providing more hours of shade.
Pergolas are usually made from timber or metal, with a horizontal trellis laid on top.
They are usually built out from the house or a wall, often positioned directly above a patio and, as well as providing shade, they also put paid to nosey neighbours who may want to know what you’re up to. Ideal trailers to use on pergolas include sweet-smelling roses, honeysuckle or clematis.
You can buy kits from DIY stores and big garden centres consisting of timber uprights and cross pieces to put together yourself, or alternatively have a local builder do it.
If plants aren’t creating your shade, you can add colour and texture to a shady spot with hostas and ferns, heucheras and hydrangeas, adding further splashes of colour with shade-tolerant Busy Lizzies, stocks, violas and nicotiana.
Climbers which grow over a freestanding structure in the sun often do better than when planted against a wall or fence because there is no restriction of light.
If the structure – arch or pergola – is big enough, virtually any climber will be suitable, but if the gap is only small, avoid roses with sharp thorns or other bushy plants.
And remember that a combination of climbers which flower at different times will provide colour to your patio for longer and create an attractive mix. For big structures, you could train wisteria, laburnum and a late-flowering clematis.
Trellis is another useful commodity to help create shade in a sunny spot. Panels with curved tops are available to make useful screens to shelter the patio.
Arbours are another option for shade. They are open-sided structures, usually set over a sitting area in an informal part of the garden, and while they may not suit the patio area, you could always move down the garden to sit in an arbour smothered with fragrant climbers.
Remember before you start, though, to experiment with temporary shade before investing in time and money to create permanent shade.
If you have that old sun umbrella, move it around the patio to find out where it is most effective.
Best of the bunch – Cosmos
They often flower longer and later than other bedding plants, but these elegant half-hardy annuals which produce large, daisy-like flowers in shades of red, pink and white in summer to autumn, add a splash of colour to the summer border. They are often mistaken for single dahlias, but good varieties include C. ‘Sensation’, which grows to 90cm (3ft) and varies from bright pink to white, while C. sulphureus produces slightly smaller orange to yellow flowers. Most garden cosmos are varieties of C. bipinnatus and the more interesting kinds include the red and white patterned ‘Candy Stripe’. They should be grown in well-drained fertile soil in full sun and, if dead-headed regularly, can last until October.
Good enough to eat – Lemons
They look wonderful in large pots or tubs, kept in the conservatory in winter and then placed outside on a sheltered patio in summer, giving the area a Mediterranean feel. You can buy pot-grown plants at any time of year, and they like being fairly pot-bound, so don’t re-pot them straight away. The secret to success is in the watering, and it shouldn’t be little and often. Give them a good soaking when the compost is almost dry and then wait until it has almost dried out again before repeating the watering. Don’t use tap water, as lemons dislike lime. Save your rain water instead. Lemons should be fed regularly with a special citrus feed available in garden centres and nurseries, from April to August, after which you can feed plants monthly with a general-purpose liquid feed. They don’t like huge changes in temperature, so don’t move them unless you have to. In winter they need plenty of light, so keep them in a conservatory at a minimum temperature of 7C, ventilating the room well if it’s not too cold. Move them outside from June to September, where they’ll enjoy a shower of rain and some sunshine. They can be harvested from July to October. Good varieties include ‘Meyer’s Lemon’ and ‘Lemonade’.
WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK
Plant dwarf bulbous irises for winter colour.
Continue to water hanging baskets and containers every day.
Tidy your pond by dead-heading marginal aquatic plants.
Repair, clean and disinfect the greenhouse during the quiet summer period.
Take cuttings of lavender, choosing non-flowering side shoots.
Continue to harvest crops, particularly courgettes and beans.
Carry on watering crops regularly to increase yields.
Pick dried flowerheads and seedheads from a range of plants including poppies and nigella and dry them in an airy room.
Cover cherries and autumn-fruiting raspberries and blackberries with nets to keep birds at bay.
Sow hardy annual flowers in pots to flower early next year.
Remove suckers developing from the roots of roses.