Made in the Shade: Keeping Your Backyard Cool on Hot, Sunny Days

It may be hard to believe, but summer is finally on its way, bringing with it plenty of sunshine and heat — at least we hope! And while that weather forecast pretty much describes the perfect kind of summer season we all crave during the cold, endless winter months, no one, not even the most die-hard among us, wants to spend all day sizzling in the blazing summer sunshine.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to seek shelter, with a variety of styles sure to fit every budget and personal taste. Whether your backyard is big or small, and no matter your personal style, there are lots of different ways to find respite from the sun — and the rain — while still making the most of those all-too-fleeting summer months.

For those who need a flexible or moveable source of shade, Mary Haitas, Manager of DOT Patio in Newmarket recommends the Tilt Top Umbrella. The TTU can be raised or lowered, tilted, and rotated 360 degrees, so it’s extremely versatile. Fastened to a 95kg concrete or granite base, this 10 (or 12) foot umbrella boasts stability, adaptability, and wind resistance. Haitas says, “I use mine over my outdoor dining area during meals, and then swing it around to shade the seating area when we’re lounging on the deck.”


If you’re looking for something a little larger, or with more privacy, a gazebo or pergola may be your best option. Sam Chow, owner of Inside Out Patio in Newmarket, says “gazebos can provide shade as well as added bonuses such as privacy curtains and mosquito netting.”

Although in the past most gazebos were custom built from wood and screening, these days you can purchase gazebos very affordably with a wide variety of features. An added benefit is that you can easily take them apart and move them if you decide to sell your property.

Josh Meyer of New Roots Garden Centre in Newmarket has an abundance of ideas for homeowners looking for more natural shade. He says, “we all tend to think of the large, beautiful shade trees such as the sugar maple, but in today’s smaller yards that may not be an option.” If you do have room, you may be in for a bit of a wait for your new tree to be large enough to provide shade, and that time will vary by species. You can of course get a head start by purchasing a larger tree. Getting it into the back yard and planted requires some advanced planning and often, heavy equipment, but it is doable.

If you have a small back yard, Meyer has a number of tree species that stay small. One example is the Ornamental Pear called “Chanticleer” which provides flowers in the spring, and green, glossy leaves in summer. Flowering Crabs, Lilacs, and Ornamental Cherry trees also offer a burst of colour and fragrance to look forward to, but don’t become overly large. And “the Curly Willow is a really cool shrub that is interesting to look at year round with its corkscrew-like branches,” Meyer adds.

Is a more involved renovation in the budget? If so there are full structures such as cabanas and pool houses, which can bring a whole new level of luxury to your landscape. A pool house can be customized into an elaborate and multi-functional outdoor room, and offers much more than storage — it can be equipped with a lounge area, bar equipment and ample seating, as well as a place to safely house your entertainment centre. A cabana brings all the luxuries of indoors outside, including furniture, pillows and carpets, fridge and bar, and even a washroom, so you can make your open-air experience as comfortable as possible.

Perhaps a simpler retractable awning is more your style. There are a wide range of styles to choose from, including a complete line of retractable window awnings and fixed canopies. Not just for heat, though — awnings are practical even in cooler temperatures, offering protection from wind, dust, rain, snow, and noise. Throughout the fall and winter months, there are numerous advantages to be found with an outdoor awning.

With so many options you’ll need to consider which factors matter the most to you. Are you looking for something temporary or aiming to create a cool oasis for your forever home? Are you more interested in something aesthetically pleasing, or just relief from the heat? No matter which option you choose, you will be able to keep your yard attractive, fun and fit for entertaining, or just the perfect place to enjoy a little time alone no matter the weather.


Local Links
New Roots Garden Centre, Newmarket

Inside Out Patio, Newmarket

D.O.T. Furniture, Newmarket


by Allison Dempsey & Elaine Jackson

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