Design Class: shade

Plan now to beat the heat next summer.

If this summer has left you more hot and bothered than hot and happenin’, then don’t despair.

As the season officially draws to a close it’s a good time to make some observations so you can plan ahead and be prepared for next summer.

While the sun is still high and the days are long, take a good look around the garden and bear in mind the following three questions:

Question 1: what time of day do you plan to use the garden space in question?

Seems obvious huh – the day time. But you mightn’t actually need shade throughout the whole garden from sunup to sundown.

If you’re an early riser who enjoys having your first cuppa and breakfast out in the garden, then it might be most important for you that there is shade then.

If you have young kids at home you’ll also be an early riser (!), but it might be more important that you have some consistent shade throughout the day. That way there’s always somewhere sheltered available for running around, playing with the hose and splashing paint about.

Maybe you have dogs, and you’re out at work all day. It’s also important that they have access to somewhere shady through the hottest part of the day and year.

But if you dream of having sunset drinks without burning out your retinas, then some late afternoon shade might be what is required.

Anyone for Pimms?

Anyone for Pimms?

Question 2: what type of shade do you want?

Again, this might seem obvious, but there are many different types of shade.

Think of the huge fig trees you see around Brisbane. They create a pool of shade that is deep, dark and noticeably cooler (left below).

Other tree species have a more open canopy and form, and consequently they cast a shadow that is lighter and more fragmented (right below).

Deciduous trees, of course, seasonally change the amount and type of shadow they create. They can be a good choice if you're after summer shade and winter sunlight.

Remember that shadows also change with the seasons. In summer, the sun is higher overhead, so shadows are smaller and closer to the object casting the shadow (left below). In winter the sun is lower in the sky, resulting in shadows that stretch out a long way away from the source (right below). Your neighbour’s palm shadows for example, are close to the trunk in summer, but could be falling over your garden in winter.

Try and think about what type of shadow you’re after, and then consider the ways that could be achieved.

Question 3: how patient are you?

This might seem like a personal question, but it pays to be honest with yourself in order to get a result that fits. The two ways we can create garden shade are through live elements – trees, shrubs, climbers trained over arbors and trellises; and built elements – rooves, shelters, screens and the like.

Unless you can afford to import a mature tree, all plant material will require time to establish in your garden and grow. This is true even if you select the right species for your area and provide optimum growing conditions.

Until the plantings are doing their job, you might have to rely on some temporary shade solutions – maybe some cool umbrellas.

If the thought of waiting 5, 10, or even more years until the vines clamber over the pergola or the tree reaches full height fills you with anxiety, you might need to consider a built solution.

As well as the benefit of shade without the wait, this allows you to complement the architectural detailing of your house. You have to consider all the seasons carefully though, as there aren’t too many deciduous rooves around if you also need winter sun. And of course, structures require maintenance, just like the rest of your house and garden.

Often, a combination of built and growing shade solutions can be tailored to meet your exact conditions and requirements.

Pergola structure with newly planted climbers (left), temporary shading (centre) and fully grown (right).

Pergola structure with newly planted climbers (left), temporary shading (centre) and fully grown (right).

Now it’s over to you.

Did this help you consider some of your garden shade options differently? Feel free to confess if you suspect you’re an ‘instant shade’ person or not, and how you might plan your attack in response.

If you think someone else might benefit from this article, please share it with them. If you liked it, then hit us with a big heart below.

Thanks for reading, and see you soon for more garden, landscape and design stories.

Rust and Shadows - landscape wonders of the Asia Pacific Triennial

A whole exhibition dedicated to the way artists from different cultures and places see their landscape – few things could be more enticing for your Landscapologist. So it is with great excitement I bring you my completely biased personal faves from APT7.

APT is officially The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, and it’s on until April 14 at the Queensland Art Gallery.  Sure, sure, it’s not described in any catalogue as a ‘landscape’ exhibition. But that doesn’t change the fact that nearly every single one of the pieces on show in this epic cultural event represents a deeply physical, emotional and sensory connection to place and landscape.

Let’s start with Shirley Macnamara’s gorgeous Wingreeguu 2012. At first glance it looks like a chance breeze has blown it, ready formed, into place in the gallery, and yet it tells so wonderfully of a very particular place - spinifex land of far western Queensland - and its role in the lives of both Shirley’s traditional people and the later grazing community. It’s as if the artist has reached back through time and plucked out the heartstrings of a thousand generations, and then woven in the tough grass to encircle the work.

You can see the same re-imagining in Lorraine Connelly-Northey’s stunning pieces.  Crafted from salvaged farm and building materials, they reinterpret the traditional fibre practices of her mother’s Waradgerie people. Couldn’t you look at the patina of rust for hours? No matter what distance you’re at the surface resembles it’s own richly detailed landscape of tiny textures and colours.


I’m not sure if it was the way they were hung, or the overcast sky when I visited, but these works would have been doubly delicious for me had they been lit to throw shadows.  As a long-time shadowphile I was heartened to discover that several other APT offerings definitely gave good shadow.

These elegant beauties were cast by Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi’s Kulasi; crisp geometries and such rich, strong colours humming as the taut cylinders floated against a dark background.

Richard Maloy’s Yellow or Blue?  both consumes space and creates it anew. The enormous cardboard installation suggests a landscape of rugged, impermeable terrain that all the same could collapse at any moment. Is it perhaps reminding us of the dangers of hubris? That humanity’s great edifices remain standing by chance rather than design? And what's with the yellow? Is Mr Maloy tipping his hat to The Vault, Melbourne's much maligned 'Yellow Peril', or am I reading too much into things?

Around the corner, Parastou Forouhar’s Written room uses clouds and dust storms of Arabic script to create a swirling, pulsating landscape that writhes off the walls to embrace the viewer.

The urban landscape is not forgotten either.

Both Nguyen Manh Hung’s Living together in paradise and Paramodel’s How to make a paramodel use accessible, almost whimsical techniques to comment on today’s cities and pose questions about the future of the metropolis in Asia Pacific countries.

Phuan Thai Meng’s jaw-dropping realistic painting in The Luring of [ ] draws us into the in-between spaces of the urban landscape.

Finally, Yuan Goang-Ming’s Disappearing Landscape – Passing II  is a wondrous video installation across three screens that evokes the urban landscape of Taiwan with great delicacy, compassion and genuine curiosity. I loved it.

If this was all the APT7 had to offer it would have been enough. Luckily for us, there’s way more on offer. If you’ve been along, tell me which artist most moved you, or most clearly evoked a different landscape? If not, when have you experienced an artwork that powerfully spoke of a place or landscape?

Art shares with landscape the power to move, inspire, comfort, awe and amaze us. I hope they continue to do so for you.

See the APT while it lasts or check out the QAG website for more details on the artists and the show.