Creating Shade in Outdoor Spaces

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“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree long ago.”

Warren Buffet

Some seek the sun. I prefer a respite from the sun, yet still spending a lot of time outdoors.   I took shade for granted until neighbors cut down mature trees between our yards and we lost the shade we had designed a patio around.  Overnight, we stopped using this patio which had been a favorite spot for reading and dining next to a peaceful water feature.   It made me sad to be unable to enjoy this beautiful space anymore.  We recently came up with a solution for this dilemma which gave me the idea to write about shade.  More on that later.

Offering shelter from the sun creates cooler, comfier spaces and enhances existing outdoor spaces for maximum enjoyment. It is possible to let the sun shine and enjoy being outdoors without soaking up the damaging UV rays.  Designing pockets of shade is just as important as the plantings in your garden.  Shade also reduces stress on plantings and decreases watering needs.  Here are some ideas to help you create nice shady spots, shielded from harsh rays and sizzling temperatures.

1) Garden Umbrellas

The easiest way to create shade is to add an umbrella over your outdoor table.  Obvious.  Near our dining table we had created an outdoor seating area to lounge and read.  The problem was it could not be enjoyed for 90 percent of the day because it was in full sun.  Enter the off-set, free standing umbrella. I fought my husband on this one.  I thought 2 umbrellas near each other would look tacky.  I thought it was gimmicky to get one of these giant umbrellas with adjustable positioning. Boy, was I wrong.  This seating area is now one of my favorite places to enjoy the garden and entertain. It gets used daily and is shady almost all day long.  To minimize competing umbrellas, we matched their colors.   Our umbrella, a special-order from Home Depot,  came equipped with a canopy-top solar battery that powers a series of mini lights that run along the umbrella’s ribs and cast lovely whimsical star-like lighting at night as an added bonus.

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Front Porch Decorating

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“Porches are America’s lost rooms.”

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

One of my favorite spring rituals is setting up the front porch for warm weather living.  This year, I looked at the porch furniture coming out of storage and suddenly felt I had it all wrong.  I decided to move everything around.  Do you ever do this?   I really love the new design so much more and can’t figure out how I didn’t set it up this way all along.  The porch seems more spacious.  The conversation easier.  Movement around the porch smoother.  There is much more of the pretty outdoor rug, my design starting point, to see and enjoy.  I even had room to add a bar area!  It’s not a huge space but it lives big.  I had to laugh, as I sat on my “newly” designed porch reading the latest Architectural Digest issue, when the words of Bunny Williams, a favorite designer, jumped out at me:  “I get so upset when people ask what’s new in decorating? Just take what you have and make it look new.”  Point well taken Bunny!

You can read about how I first created an outdoor room on the front porch here.  Tour the redesigned space and let me know which version of the porch you like more. But don’t  be seduced by those gorgeous blue hydrangeas on the old porch….They’ll be making another appearance at a porch near you, soon!

One of the biggest changes I made was moving this console table previously used as a room divider to the focal point of the porch. The plate rack with its bird house and green tole garden plate was already on the wall. It makes so much more sense to put the console there. The lanterns and urn are the same as when the table was on the side of the porch. Now they really all work together. The table is also in the middle of the seating area and can be used to serve food when entertaining on the porch.

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Easter Table and Front Porch Décor

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Treating you to lots of eye candy today to inspire your spring or Easter décor and entertaining!  From the welcome of spring blooms on our front porch to Easter around the house and at the table, there are ideas galore  to take away.  Enjoy!

An ice cream parlor chair repurposed into a planter greets visitors with a chalkboard welcome sign. Tutorial here.

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Easter Centerpiece with Supermarket Flowers

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“Easter spells out beauty, the rare beauty of new life.”  S. D. Gordon

Today I’m sharing an easy make-ahead Easter centerpiece that captures the magic of spring.  I will show you how ordinary pots of supermarket flowers are elevated in a beautiful arrangement that gives you a big bang for the buck.  I especially love how this arrangement captures the sense of emergence of new life into a new season.

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Witch Hazel Front Door Basket

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In the depth of winter, when most of my zone 6 garden is hibernating, there is the most magnificent blooming tree in my garden. It seems as if overnight, the bare limbs of this tree are filled with clusters of feathery flowers up and down its branches. Their fragrance is intoxicating and beguiling.  The spidery flowers with long crinkly petals vary in color from yellow to golden orange and burgundy.

My witch hazel's flowers are golden orange with deep burgundy centers.

My witch hazel’s flowers are golden orange with deep burgundy centers.

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Christmas Evergreen Front Door Swag

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This year our front entrance is showing some swagger for the holidays.  Instead of a wreath, I made a large swag with evergreens cut from around my garden then adorned it with ribbons, pine cones, pheasant feathers, ornaments in gold and burgundy and even some jingle bells.  I love the scent of fresh greens to greet one and all at the holidays.  Take a look at how it came together.

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