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We long for warmth and sunshine for many months of the year only to desire a shady retreat when the hot temperatures hit. You can have it both ways with some planning and patience. Creating some shade in your backyard for warm summer days necessitates both short- and long-term planning.

John C. Young, the eponymous owner of a landscaping and design company in Delaware, specializing in custom-built outdoor living spaces and water gardens, says getting your focal point is the first step. He says it could be a water feature or swimming pool and from there you build your outdoor living area around it.

For immediate shade around the water, he recommends a mobile covered awning that can be moved with the seasons. Young says a cabana will provide lasting protection from the sun and there are many styles and designs to choose from.

Young has been landscaping in stages for more than 30 years and says each year you can add to your shady oasis. “I’ve been in situations where we’ve gone from full sun to full shade and the plantings have totally changed.”

He adds that if you’re planning long term, consider planting a sugar maple tree that can grow up to 35 metres tall. It will grace your yard with colour as the summer gives way to radiant fall.

Grace Boekestyn, owner/retail manager of Heritage Garden Gallery, which marks 30 years in business this year, says finding colourful flowers for a shaded area can be difficult. “There are not a lot of plants that bloom well in shade but you can overcome that with some beautiful foliage plants that give lots of texture and variety of colour.”

Boekestyn recommends cultivating hostas, brunnera and ferns, along with flowering perennials such as astilbe, woodland phlox and bleeding hearts that can withstand shade. If you prefer annuals, she suggests blue angel, begonias and fuchsias.

For an instant punch of colour in your shady sanctuary, she recommends looking for bright and beautiful pots. “It looks gorgeous if you have a colourful pot with foliage in it. It’s an artsy flair.”

The other plus with using pots is that they provide low-maintenance gardening. “You can move them in and out of shade and into the rain to get water, and you’re not battling weeds when you use pots,” she says.

If you want immediate shade this summer, use an existing structure such as the side of a garage, and soften the area with foliage, chimes and a gazing ball to reflect some light, she suggests.

When planning your outdoor space, Boekestyn says people sometimes forget to consider all the senses. Plants that do well in shade and have a lovely scent include lily-of-the-valley, phlox and the mock orange shrub.

Tall, ornamental grasses can create some shade and appeal to eye and ear, Boekestyn says. “The beautiful thing about grass is it creates a sound that’s therapeutic.”

Young says a bubbling rocks water feature provides many benefits and is pleasing to the senses. “Water, especially if it’s moving, is soothing and will have a cooling effect on you. We’ve done water features continuously for the last 25 years, and I don’t have to teach people to love it. They automatically love it. People tell us it has changed their lives.”

And of course, walking barefoot in the grass is a rite of summer and feels luxurious under foot.

Young says above all when outdoors, enjoy it and take pleasure in the process of creating your backyard space.

“Landscaping is a living, active thing that you’re participating in.”