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  • Writer's pictureAri Tenenbaum

How to Create Shade in Your Landscape

Shade can create cool, pleasant outdoor spaces that are enjoyable especially during hot summer days. And living in San Diego, we get a lot of sunny days. You would be surprised at how inviting an outdoor shaded space can be and how much more use you will get from your yard with some added shade. When it comes to creating shade, there are several choices to consider each with their own benefits. Fixed shade structures such as pergolas and arbors can be constructed from a range of materials, two of our favorites being clear knot cedar and/or powder coated steel. The roof can be built using cedar lattice to block about 50% sunlight or a more trendy option can be the use of a shade sail to make even, filtered shade ( While arbors and pergolas often land in the higher end of the cost spectrum they offer a more formal approach that works especially well for outdoor dining spaces.

A steel frame with shade sail provides a clean modern aesthetic for this outdoor dining space. Photo: Revolution Landscape

Have a smaller, multi-use space that requires flexibility? The unassuming, often underappreciated umbrella can do wonders for these types of spaces and there are some really nice high-end and fun, colorful umbrellas available. The benefit of umbrellas is that they can be taken down and even stored away for periods of time. Umbrellas can also be a great interim solution for a client that wants shade from a large tree which leads us to our final topic.

A colorful umbrella can be an excellent and cost effective way to provide shade for small decks and patios. Photo: Revolution Landscape

Large trees take years to grow, some shade trees around San Diego can be over 100 years old! So while your strategically planted seedling is growing and getting ready to provide shade in the 2-3 year timeframe, umbrellas can be the short-term choice. Large specimen trees that cast shade are certainly special, but the decision to plant a large tree and your choice for type of tree should be taken with care. For example, ficus trees like the ones you see in balboa park, have incredibly large and invasive roots and should not be planted near hardscape or your home. They also drop a lot of fruit that can create a big mess and demanding ongoing maintenance. Alternatively, Gold Medallion trees have beautiful yellow blooms, are green year-round, and stay small enough for most residential settings but get large enough to provide nice shade. Chilean Mesquite is another great tree that has attractive branching structure and delicate wavy leaves that give the tree an airy character and creates a beautiful dappled shade effect.

This mature Jacaranda tree provides valuable shade for the landscape and home but care must be taken in selecting placement for trees to avoid potential damage from roots as well as debris falling onto hardscaped areas. Photo: Revolution Landscape



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