Blue Daisy Garden Diary - August/September 23
Uncovering Garden Shelters by Nicki Jackson
Garden shelters: so many reasons to have one, so many types to choose from. ‘Shelter’ comes in many guises, meeting many needs, and some may not be what you immediately associate with the term. If you feel you’ve never needed shelter in the garden before, you might like to think again!
Here’s a quick round up of the 5 ‘W’s of garden shelters:
Who – you might wonder ‘who’ else might benefit from shelter in the garden other than us humans but wildlife, plants and ‘stuff’ (okay, technically a couple of ‘what’s’ in there too) can all benefit as well.
Why – link the who’s (above) to the why and things begin to make more sense. In terms of us, we desire shelter for all sorts of reasons: weather protection – think sun, rain, wind; for storage, for ambience, for activities such as work, relaxing, socialising, dining and more. Wildlife need shelter for warmth, safety and survival. Certain plants require shelter to provide heat, or microclimates to thrive or protection against pests and/or weather. ‘Stuff’ – think bikes, tools, mowers, logs, and more – usually requires shelter as protection against the elements or as a place to belong and be organised; to extend its life and subsequent usefulness.
When – not all shelters are required all of the time, so while some may well be permanent others can be seasonal or pop-up as and when required. Nest boxes, for instance, can nurture young birds in the spring but are as equally welcome as respite from the cold during the winter months – come summer and autumn there’s less of a demand for them. Sunshades like awnings, sails and parasols may only see the light of day for a number of weeks every summer whilst pergolas and gazebos can lend themselves more easily to differing seasonal requirements throughout the year.
Where – the space you have available in your garden and the area you need it in will often limit the potential size and type of any shelter you may be considering. If you’re thinking about planting a hedge as a living screen to help mitigate the effects of a windy location, for instance, then choose plants that will grow to a size relative to the size of your plot and property. Think proportionally too if considering pergolas or gazebos. They need to be large enough to not get ‘lost’ in the garden but not so large that they dominate the whole space. And if you’re thinking of siting a large gazebo right next to a boundary fence ensure that the roof line doesn’t overhang your neighbour’s property or that the height of it doesn’t exceed 2.5m and don’t forget to leave enough space to be able to maintain it too. If you need to shade an area next to the house an awning may be a possibility given the potential to use the house walls for installation, but it wouldn’t be an option if shade is required in the middle of a garden with no options to site one. In this instance a pergola or sail or parasol may be a more appropriate choice.
What – when you know who (even when it’s us that are making decisions for wildlife, plants and ‘stuff in our gardens), why, when and where shelter is needed it’s time to consider what will best meet those needs. If you’re a human that needs a place to work all year in the garden, for instance, you know that a pergola or sail or awning isn’t going to cut it for you. You know you’ll need something permanent, enclosed, secure and dry, and preferably insulated with windows, and even though you may be limiting the scope of choice to a ‘garden office’ category, there are still many options to choose from. It’s at this point that style, size, materials, sustainability, maintenance needs and of course, price considerations come to the fore; all subjects for further articles perhaps, but for now we hope we’ve uncovered enough about garden shelters for you to want to explore more.
© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2023