Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Don't Have Any Shade In Your Garden? No Problem!

Have you always wanted a little shade garden but have nothing to work with except glaring sun?  Well, maybe the answer is to build a little shade house like this one at Bourton House Gardens, in Bourton-On-The-Hill, England (  I simply loved this little structure from the first moment I saw it.  It's built almost  entirely of "slatted" lumber, which seems to provide just the right combination of sun and shade inside.  It has a little mulched path that runs right down the center so that plants are visible on two sides.  And, in addition to providing shade for the array of plants inside, the structure itself is handsome and serves as great 'ornamentation' in the garden. Here are a few more views…

A side view...

Looking up through the roof...

The sides are tilted in slightly at the bottom giving it a "corn-crib" appearance.


  1. I really enjoy learning something new, and this is an idea I have not come across. I do find myself wondering why the decision was made to build a structure, rather than create shade using trees or shrubs. Intriguing.

    1. I've wondered the same thing, Afoxizzle. This is a unique structure, one that I have not seen in any other garden. Perhaps it was originally used as a house in which to "grow on" potted shade plants and then, over time, converted to more of a walk-through shade garden. Paul Williams ( was originally involved in the design and development of Bourton House Gardens and Paul Nicholls has been head gardener there since 1999. I will try to find out more about it from them. Thanks for your comment!

    2. Howdy all, Paul Williams here. Yep, I built the shade house above. It was something the previous owner had seen when travelling abroad and came back with the brief for us to construct something similar. There were two reasons for it being built. One was to create a quirky piece of garden ornament and the other to create an environment where we could grow shade loving plants. Because because the soil is alkaline ( The garden is on limestone in the Cotswolds) I wanted to create a patch of acid conditions soil where we could grow some small acid loving woodlanders. I cant remember exactly what we had in there but the likes of Podophyllum , Arisarums, Arisema and Jeffersonia come to mind.
      It is constructed of roofing lathe which is very cheap timber and was not that difficult to construct. There is relatively little weight in the roof so no massive structural timber required. We set up a small jig to cut the 'fancy' pointy bits on the top.
      If there was never a plant grown in it it would still be a thing to behold. On a bright sunny day when you are inside the structure the angled geometric shadows are fantastic.

      Why didn't I just grow shrubs / trees to provide shade? Well any one who has grown under such conditions knows you are constantly up against the dry conditions and depleted nutrients associated with competing plants and shrubs just want to get bigger so they either push out you little shade lovers or you have to prune quite drastically and apart from that I am too impatient. Who can wait for a tree to grow so you can start collecting your favourite plants?
      Also, as I say, we wanted to have a bit of easily managed acid soil under shade that was not going to dry out and where were not always doing battle with tree and shrub roots.
      I haven't seen this for a while and it has made me think I might dig out some of my old pictures of the shade house(they are like abstract pop art) for my blog .

      Very best wishes to you all. Paul

    3. Hello, Paul again here, My wife has just reminded me that the shade house idea came from Canada, sorry I cant be any more precise. She also said that the original was made as much to protect from the wind as to provide shade.
      Best wishes

    4. Hi Paul! Great to hear from you and thanks for that history on this innovative and interesting little structure! I'll look forward to perhaps some more photos on your blog. For our readers who haven't done so…make sure you check out Paul's great gardening blog. You can find him at or you can link to him through the "Featured Garden Blogs" on our sidebar. Cheers~ Joe


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