How to Create a Cool Summer Garden

How to Create a Cool Summer GardenAh, summer. Do you look forward to long, lazy, stress-free months relaxing by the pool, sipping icy beverages in the garden with friends, or watching the hummingbirds’ acrobatics? Unfortunately, summer’s bliss often evaporates as the thermometer rises. It’s challenging to enjoy the garden view as sweat drips into your eyes.

Wait–don’t retreat into the air conditioned house just yet. You CAN enjoy your summer garden by incorporating a few cooling strategies—some that literally reduce temperatures, plus a few that help you psychologically beat the heat! 

Create Shade

What’s the first thing you crave when trying to avoid the scorching sun? Shade, of course! While shady trees offer the perfect screen from the sun’s glaring rays, not all gardens reside in a cooling forest, particularly if it’s a garden in a new housing development.

During the heat of summer, instead of trees, look for other options to create shade in your garden. Pergolas planted with lush vines, gazebos surrounded with perennial plantings, and even a simple, colorful umbrella covering your favorite lounge chair offer respite from the sun while also accessorizing and adding interest to your garden.

Then, when the cooler fall temperatures arrive, plant a few shade trees to enjoy in coming years.

Embrace Microclimates

You may know your garden zone, but did you know that microclimates exist within most gardens? Microclimates—climates that exist within a larger climate—can be nominal or extreme in a garden. For instance, your USDA garden hardiness zone may be 7b, but in certain areas of your yard—near a building, stone pathway, or fence—you might discover a warmer area where you can grow plants that thrive and survive outside of their preferred more tropical zones. Here, heat is absorbed and reflected into the garden from the surrounding elements, causing a warm pocket of air and soil. Likewise, a garden may offer cooler microclimates—a lower elevation in the yard, a north-facing garden, or a space shaded by hedges, for instance.

Look for areas in your garden with less intense direct sun and cooler temperatures when planning your outdoor seating areas or entertaining spaces. Microclimates may offer you a reprieve from the most intense summer heat, which both you and your plants will appreciate.

Add Water

Garden PondNaturally, a refreshing plunge in a swimming pool provides a great escape from summer heat. However, if installing a pool isn’t in your budget, consider adding other water elements, like a pond, fountain, or even a patio misting system. Not only does a water feature add interest and ambiance to the garden, it also creates a cooling station for wildlife—birds, bees, and butterflies will thank you for the drink. Plus, ponds encourage a diverse ecosystem in your garden. With the movement and sound of water nearby, a water feature can even reduce your body’s reaction to oppressive heat, as your psyche responds to the cooling sounds of water.

 

For a physically refreshing element, a misting system installed on your patio or near a seating area offers a cooling option for sweltering days. Or, if kids frequently visit your garden, keep an old-fashioned, oscillating sprinkler in your garden—and join them in jumping in for chilly fun! 

Lighten Up

Dark colors absorb heat, so if you’re hoping to create cooler zones in your garden, opt for light colored fabrics, containers, and paint to reflect heat away from your outdoor space. By painting fences and walls a light color, you’ll help create a cooler oasis in hot summer gardens.

Your plants will also appreciate light-colored containers. A black or dark pot absorbs sunlight, heating the soil and potentially damaging delicate plant roots, particularly in climates with extremely hot summers. Instead, consider choosing light-colored pots for container gardens.

To create visually cooling surroundings, choose plants that fall into the cool-color spectrum. Blue, purple, green, white, silver, pink…flowers and foliage in shades of cool colors add a calming, tranquil design to the garden. While they may not actually lower the temperature of your space, the plants create a feeling of peace and relaxation as temperatures rise.

Cool Plants

To create a garden design filled with cool colors, add the following plants to your beds and containers:

Ajuga reptans Chocolate Chip

With bright blue flowers in the spring, this trouble-free ground cover offers a cooling purplish-brown foliage all season long.

Achillea Wonderful WampeeCampanula Blue Waterfall

Perfect for containers, borders, or hanging baskets, this blue blooming, floriferous beauty creates a gorgeous, low-growing, spreading carpet to add coolness to the summer garden. For a more compact bellflower ideal for smaller gardens, try ‘Blue Rivulet’.

Achillea millefoilum ‘Wonderful Wampee’

A pretty, pastel pink yarrow with a compact habit, it’s a perfect addition to smaller gardens or containers. Best of all, it loves the heat and doesn’t meltdown like common yarrow.

Centaura ‘Amethyst Dream’

Drought and heat-tolerant, the radiant royal-blue flowers are lovely in borders, and the silvery foliage continues the cool feel throughout the summer. For a lovely white bloom with purple center, try ‘Amethyst in Snow’.

Eryngium ‘Big Blue’

For a gorgeous plant with architectural interest in the garden, ‘Big Blue’ adds huge impact with cool blue flowers and spiky green foliage.

Geranium Lilac IceGeranium Rozanne

Award-winning Rozanne provides the perfect, continuous cool-blue throughout the summer garden, with ongoing blooms adding soothing interest during hot days. 

Geranium Lilac Ice®

For a more compact habit, add this pretty sport of Geranium Rozanne to your beds or containers. The pale, 2.5-inch lilac flowers with darker veins offer cool color to the garden from June through October. 

Leucanthemum Freak!®

For a pretty addition to your garden, add this ruffled white flower. More compact than many Shasta daisy varieties, the unique blooms add interest to beds—and also make a good addition to bouquets.

Dendranthema Frosty Igloo

Anemone ‘Pretty Lady Maria’

For hot, late summer and autumn days, these elegant, white blooms add movement and interest to the garden.

Dendranthema ‘Frosty Igloo’

Covered in fluffy, 1.75-inch white flowers on attractive green foliage, this hardy mum begins blooming in late summer and continues into fall—a perfect cool-bloom for hot summer and autumn days.

Create your own cool-colored design in the garden, or take a look at an easy, classic “Cool, Calm Corner” design prepared for you!

Entertain in the Evening

Break out the tiki torches, citronella candles, and twinkle lights and turn your garden into a haven for evening entertainment. Nothing is nicer than beating the days’ heat with a night filled with good friends, good food, frosty beverages, and the sounds of frogs and cicadas singing in your garden. Your garden will glow in the moonlight, and you’ll enjoy spending time outside without the burning heat.

After all, you’ve worked hard to create a beautiful outdoor space. Relax, stay cool, and enjoy it all summer long!

 

For more gardening inspiration, be sure to join Rozanne’s Inner Circle!