Free UK delivery for all Clara products! Free Norfolk Leisure delivery for orders over £150

10 Smart Shade Ideas for Your Garden and Patio

Shade Ideas for Garden Solutions

Backyard Shade Options and Solutions to Keep You Cool

We all get so excited when the good weather finally arrives that we just want to rush out and enjoy it, however, we quickly realize it’s not actually that comfortable sweating in the full glare of the sun when trying to enjoy a meal or tipple with family and friends! 

We need shade; but what sort of shade? 

There are so many options and possibilities on the market, creating that much needed shade can seem overwhelming.   Where do you start?

This article helps cut through the maze of research and gives you 10 great shade ideas for every look and budget. 

1. Pergolas

According to the Oxford Dictionary pergolas are “an arched structure in a garden or park consisting of a framework covered with climbing or trailing plants.” Typically, square or rectangular, made of wood, without a roof.

A typical Pergola is a classic shade solution.  If you have the space, time and budget this is the right choice for you.   A pergola will bring shade to your garden without completely blocking the sun; a pergola does not have a solid roof, rather thinner wooden slates, so rays of sun will filter through. 

Plants such as climbers or vines could be planted to soften the look of the stark wooden structure that will eventually envelope the pergola creating a beautiful latticed shaded canopy.   This has the added bonus of giving you greenery all year around if you select the right plants.

You can also build or purchase ‘Partial Pergolas’ which are a great idea if you want some shade but don’t want to cover an entire area such as a deck or patio.  This structure is attached to a wall, nothing touches the patio floor or deck, so no need to dig out for footings – making this an attractive option!


We love the idea of attaching lots of fairy lights to your pergola so make a real night time feature of the structure in your garden.


2. Pavilions

A ‘Pavilion’ is “a building at a cricket ground or other sports ground, used for changing and taking refreshments or a summerhouse or other decorative building used as a shelter in a park or large garden.”

Pavilions are a permanent large shade structure that usually require a larger garden and a greater budget.  Of course we are not talking about installing the likes of Brighton Pavillion, but you do need to consider, as with any home additions, the space, proportions, your needs, building restrictions and the all-important budget! 

There are a variety of choices for pavilions.  Actual wooden buildings like summerhouses or even fully insulated and heated garden rooms or offices are often marketed under the term ‘pavilion’, however metal or wooden framed structures with supports in four corners that you can hang curtains from are also found when you search for pavilion.



A pavilion is a large investment but this option will work for you if you want to install a separate area for you to entertain in all year round or have a place for the children to play, have a gym or even a private yoga studio. 

3. Cabana

A ‘Cabana’ is either a small hut or cabin with a thatched roof, or a recreational shelter at a beach or swimming pool.

This is rather an exotic choice and is traditionally any type of structure, fabric or wood, next to a pool or on the beach.  If you are trying to bring a bit of that holiday feel to your outdoor space then a cabana is right for you.

Again, you need a big enough space, but you could get really creative and have a Hawaiian themed cabana with straw roof and a bar!

4. Gazebo

A ‘Gazebo’ is “a small building, especially one in the garden of a house, that gives a wide view of the surrounding area.” Typically made from wood or metal, round or octagonal, with a roof.


The addition of even a small gazebo will create a covered seating area perfect for reading, relaxing or a good old natter with friends.

With a gazebo you are instantly adding an outdoor room that will protect you from the sun and elements.

If you have the space, budget, and a gazebo fits in with the ‘look’ of your garden, this is a great option for you. 

Nowadays there are a lot of temporary event shelters which are metal framed with a waterproof plastic/polyester covering that are marketed as gazebos.


5. Awnings

An ‘Awning’ is defined as a sheet of canvas or other material stretched on a frame and used to keep the sun or rain off a shop window, doorway, or deck.

Awnings are attached directly to your home and generally don’t need posts.  You could attach awning posts if you wanted to create a permanent structure and some styles do have posts integrated into the design.

There are basically three types of awning to choose from: fabric awnings that are stationary; fabric awnings that are retractable and solid metal awnings.  Obviously, the solid metal awning is the sturdiest option that will withstand rain, wind, and sun for years.

With advances in technology you can now purchase motorized retractable awnings equipped with sensors that adjust automatically to changes in the weather that can be controlled from your phone.  

This is a great option if you want to cover an entire area such as a patio, have the space for the fitting on your wall, and have the budget – these tend to be pricey.


6. Wall mounted parasols

If you have limited outdoor space or just want to shade a very specific area, wall-mounted parasols are perfect choice. We have one we sell which customers love because it doesn't take up any floor space and there is no pole to get in the way.  Check it out here.


7. Arbour

An Arbour is defined as, “a shady garden alcove with the sides and roof formed by trees or climbing plants trained over a framework.” 

Where a pergola has four or more posts, arbors are a combination of a trellis and a pergola. An arbour is used as a design element, but also for gardening purposes with either an arched or flat top, hence  why they are confused with pergolas.

As we have discovered, the term arbour and pergola are often used interchangeably, but we now sort of know the difference! 

If you have enough space for a larger arbour you could incorporate a bench or a Clara Tasselled Hammock to create a shady spot to read and have a coffee or wine.

White Hammock with Tassels Fringe

8. Shade Sails

Shade sails are amongst the most convenient DIY sun-blockers, they are a simple, attractive way to add shade to your outdoor space that are easy to install  and won’t break the bank in the process! 

Check out our 31 ideas for Shade Sails Blog for more inspiration

Sail shades are essentially large pieces of fabric, typically, triangle, square, and rectangular in shape, that are stretched between posts or structures to cover specific areas of your outdoor space.

Depending on the colour and style you choose, shade sails can look either incredibly modern and sleek, or a bit more rustic. Multiple shade sails can be combined to increase the area of coverage and create a stunning sculptural feature.

Shade Sail White Waterproof Sun Sail Garden

9. Parasol/Sun Umbrella

Parasols/Sun Umbrellas have been around for forever and are a tried and tested way to add shade to outdoor areas.  Umbrellas are one of the most popular ways to add shade instantly; finding the perfect umbrella, however, may take a bit more time

The options on the market for colour, shape and leaning are far more advanced than the straight pole 1970’s ones that I grew up with! 

You can opt for simple traditional umbrellas with a straight pole that fits into your outdoor dining table, or the ground or the more modern ‘off-set’ umbrellas that allows you to place the base more out-of-the-way and direct the shade to your entertaining area.  These tend to be more expensive however, if an umbrella is right for you invest in a quality one as there is nothing worse than having it blow over in the slightest winds or collapse as you are eating.

Umbrellas are great but they shade limited areas at a time so this would be a good option if you have specific spots that need sun protection.

 Check out our own selection of parasol umbrellas here.


10. Planting for Shade 

Shade trees are the oldest source and an eco-friendly choice to add shade to your outdoor space.  You will, however, need to spend time researching what varieties will grow the way you want it, to provide you with the shade you need.  This is not an instant fix and will, depending on the trees/plants you choose, take time to establish.  

Hanging plants, while not providing enough shade on their own, can be a great supplement to shade structures such as pergolas, patio roofs, cabanas, pavilions, or arbours.  Vining plants would be a good choice here as they will provide more protection as the vines hang below the structure, examples of vines that grow well are jasmine and ivy. 

If the thought of this daunts you, hire a Landscape Gardener to help you with the selection or discuss options at your local garden centre.  This can be costly but if you are passionate about gardening and the environment then this can be a very rewarding choice.

As you can see, the choices for incorporating shade, into your garden or any outdoor space, are numerous but we hope our handy ‘one-stop-shop’ of the various options will help.