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Add Shade And Serenity To Your Outdoor Space

A few days ago, I had a chance to walk the grounds of Hotel San Jose in Austin, Texas. It was hot that day–almost 90 degrees, yet as soon as I made my way through the shaded entrance and began strolling the hotel’s outdoor pathways, I noticed that it was at least 10 degrees cooler on the property. [images below from Hotel San Jose]

Shaded path at Austins San Jose Hotel Add Shade And Serenity To Your Outdoor Space
Shaded path at Austin’s Hotel San Jose

Large trees peacefully spread their branches overhead, vines climbed the buildings and fences, and a series of outdoor spaces beautifully combined manicured landscaping with native plants in their element. And don’t get me started on the inviting seating areas…

Large trees green trim and sandy paths at the San Jose Hotel Add Shade And Serenity To Your Outdoor Space
Large trees, green trim and sandy paths at Hotel San Jose

One of the most striking features to catch my eye was the grouping of potted plants in a variety of areas throughout the grounds. Terra cotta is the material of choice for the pots, and it unifies each display, which showcases a variety of plants that usher in a lush yet organic approach to gardening.

Potted plants are a standout feature at Austin's Hotel San Jose
Potted plants are a standout feature at Austin’s Hotel San Jose

The whole experience got me thinking about my own yard, which has a less than desirable amount of shade. Even if I planted additional trees at this point, it would be years before the benefits of their shade would make an impact on my outdoor space. Are there helpful ways to add shade–ways that will be effective for the coming summer months?

Vines create a peaceful, soothing effect
Vines create a peaceful, soothing effect at Hotel San Jose

Furthermore, how can I crank up the level of serenity in my yard to make it a true haven? Read on for a slew of inspirational ideas…

A Shaded Outdoor Space

When it comes to shade, there are many ways to cool your yard. Below we see a shot of my own backyard, which features a covered patio. I wish I could say that I designed and built it, but it was there when we moved in. Wooden beams and metal bars create an overhead trellis for vines. I spend a lot of time in this area of the yard, because the rest of the outdoor space is quite sunny! [photo by Kate Simmons]

A vine-covered patio provides shade by day and shelter by night
A vine-covered patio provides shade by day and shelter by night

I’d love to plant more trees, but as mentioned, it would take years to experience the benefits of that gardening strategy. I recently came across this fabulous piece of advice via HGTV: “If you don’t want to wait for a tree to grow, take your patio to the tree.” The space below designed by Jamie Durie shows the benefits of letting existing trees shape the design and layout of your yard. [from HGTV.com]

Seating under a large tree
Seating under a large tree

Trees aren’t the only providers of shade. What about shade panels, shade cloth or fabric strips? In another space designed by Jamie Durie, we see how blue pieces of fabric provide strips of shade for a sunken outdoor dining area. [from HGTV.com]

Fabric strips shade a sunken dining room
Fabric strips shade a sunken dining room

As mentioned, vines are always a good idea. They enhance the natural beauty of your space, and they add shade to whatever surface they climb. [from Lori Scott Landscape Design via Houzz]

Vine-filled trellis
Vine-filled trellis

In addition to your trellises, let the vines climb your fence for an added barrier to the sun. Just make sure they can take the heat! [from Big Red Sun]

Slatted fencing adds serenity and shade
Slatted fencing adds serenity and shade

Another helpful option for outdoor shading? Green trim, such as the manicured boxwood border shown below. Does anyone else instantly feel refreshed when viewing beautifully trimmed greenery?! [from Blasen Gardens]

Boxwood trim in a soothing garden
Boxwood trim in a soothing garden

A Serene Outdoor Space

Most serene outdoor spaces I’ve observed treat the yard a canvas. Each space–from the largest to the smallest–creates an opportunity for interesting vignettes and soothing choices. [from Big Red Sun]

Pebbles, glass and low maintenance plants create a serene scape
Pebbles, glass and low-maintenance plants create a serene scape

Begin by taking a realistic look at the layout of your yard. Then acknowledge your budget. For example, are there funds that you can put toward defining your space with gravel? Can you create an additional area for native grasses? As mentioned above, is there a tree that would make a great anchor for an outdoor seating nook? [photo by Kate Simmons]

Backyard layout with trees, vines and gravel
Backyard layout with trees, vines and gravel

Are there new elements you can introduce–elements that will make your yard a haven? One such feature is privacy, which is often created with the help of fencing or trellises. [from Big Red Sun]

Private areas facilitate introspection
Private areas facilitate introspection

Pay special attention to walkways, which create amazing opportunities for affordable landscaping. Using pavers as stepping stones is a cost-effective way to shape the area, and lining the path with interesting plants creates depth and a sense of peace. [from Trellis & Vine]

Soothing pathway leading to the gate
Soothing pathway leading to the gate

What are some truly interesting features that can make your yard a serene standout? For example, can you select vines in an unusual color or hang some overhead lighting that makes a statement? [from Diego Bortolato]

Unusual accents on a shaded patio
Unusual accents on a shaded patio

Take some time to create special details. For example, these Gilded Terracotta Pots are easy to craft, thanks to a helpful DIY tutorial from Design Sponge. When you take pride in your yard, the elements you personally add will fill you with peace and joy each time you see them.

Gilded terra cotta pots
Gilded terra cotta pots

And if your landscaping plans are grander than your budget, never fear. Start with one area that you can make your special spot, then spread the design goodness as you are able. For example, a shade garden with a bench can make all the difference! [from Bliss Garden Design]

Peaceful shade garden

As you make your yard a rejuvenating retreat, pay special attention to your preferences. Never purchase items that you don’t truly like. The design of your yard is like the design of your home–you should fill it with special touches that reflect your personality and style.

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