Get shady to chill out on your patio or deck this summer

By: K. Michelle Moran | Metro | Published June 23, 2021

  A trellis like this one from Piechnik’s Garden Gate, especially if vines are attached, can be positioned to block some of the strongest sunlight and give residents a cooler spot to unwind outside.

A trellis like this one from Piechnik’s Garden Gate, especially if vines are attached, can be positioned to block some of the strongest sunlight and give residents a cooler spot to unwind outside.

Photo provided by Piechnik’s Garden Gate

METRO DETROIT — This is the time of year that many homeowners like to spend as much time as possible outside in the backyard or on the patio or deck. But extremely hot weather might drive people back indoors to air-conditioned comfort.

There are ways to make an outdoor space cooler and more comfortable when temperatures spike, though.

Anything that offers cover, from umbrellas to retractable awnings, can provide some relief from the heat.

Pergolas offer shade and can be outfitted on the open sides with outdoor fabric, similar to a cabana, for additional sun protection, as well as privacy, explained Angie Shoemaker, landscape designer and greenhouse assistant for Piechnik’s Garden Gate in Oakland Township. Ceiling fans are now also being made for pergolas, she said. Shoemaker said vines could be added to the pergola, as well.

“Wisteria really grows quickly and provides a lot of shade,” Shoemaker said.

A trellis — particularly in combination with vines — can be set up near a deck or patio to block some sunlight, she said. Shoemaker said homeowners whose backyards face west tend to get the hottest, so the trellis should also be positioned to face west for the best coverage. Shoemaker said homeowners need to make sure their trellis is sunk into the ground at least 48 inches, so that it’s below the frost line and won’t end up tilting in the future.

A trellis attached to a planter box can do double duty by offering shade and elevated plantings, which are easier for people with mobility challenges to maintain.

Umbrellas and umbrella tables in a variety of sizes are great ways to create a cool spot to relax.

A newer product is sails, which Shoemaker said is fabric with grommets that can be attached to the home to set up a shady outdoor space.

Water features like fountains don’t make the area cooler, but they can do more than just beautify.

“Even a smaller water feature tends to give an area a cooler feel,” Shoemaker said.

Outdoor kitchens remain wildly popular this year, as was the case last year, said Kathy Pilon, who works in sales for Bourlier’s Barbecue and Fireplace in Royal Oak.

“What people have been looking at is ways to improve their outdoor living,” Pilon said. “Everybody is trying to make that outdoor space into a living space.”

Second grills — such as smokers — and pizza ovens are hot items for the outdoor kitchen, and Bourlier’s can customize an outdoor kitchen to be as simple or elaborate as the homeowner wants, Pilon said.

No matter the size, “I encourage people to plan plenty of electrical outlets,” Pilon said. This allows the homeowner to plug in small appliances like blenders or juicers, which will enable them to stay hydrated while preparing icy beverages outside. Smoothies, milkshakes or piña coladas, anyone?

Planting trees might not be on the radar because, even though they can provide lots of natural shade, it takes time for them to reach a substantial height and canopy depth. However, depending on the type of tree and the maturity of the tree when purchased, they could provide a solution faster than homeowners might think.

Andrew Papadelis, manager of Telly’s Greenhouse in Shelby Township, said maples and oaks — both of which are terrific shade trees — can start effectively offering some cover from the sun by the second year after they’ve been planted, with more to come.

“It’ll take a good five years to get to the point where they’ll provide a good bit of coverage,” Papadelis said.

Potted trees or tall potted plants like Japanese maple, large palm or banana trees, can also be planted around a patio or deck to offer some shadow or shade, he said.

Another option is the honey locust tree.

“It grows quickly,” Shoemaker said. “It does provide dappled shade.”

Because of the pandemic, many people have been spending more time on their patios and decks this year and last year, so outdoor items are flying out of stores.

“My advice to people, if they see something they like, is to grab it,” Pilon said.