Expert Advice

Creating Shade with Pergolas & Trees

Posted on July 30, 2018

Pergolas Add Shade
Ken Muellers
Senior Landscape Designer

Beating the Summer Heat on Long Island
With the Summer sun beating down on you any little patch of shade is a welcome break from the heat. Creating more shade for your landscape may be a way to make your yard a little more enjoyable in the dog days of Summer. Two different approaches to this are constructing a pergola and planting trees. Which solution is right for you can depend on several factors.

Pergola structures can provide shade over a patio or deck and create the sense of an ‘outdoor room’ that becomes a destination in the landscape. Whether using a pre-designed kit made of wood or PVC or installing a custom fabricated pergola with details to meet your specific needs, you will what to check local building codes to make sure your structure conforms.

Depending on how much shade you are looking for, you can customize the spacing and sizing of your rafters to provide the coverage you desire. A larger pergola will require thicker beams to support the longer span. The support posts can be clad with decorative rounded columns or boxed out and trimmed with molding to add heft to the structure. Some pergolas incorporate retractable fabric shades that can be adjusted for the occasion. Unlike trees that lose their leaves, a pergola will provide shade year-round.

Hicks Landscapes can design and install a pergola perfect for your space and needs.

Shade TreeTrees
A well-placed tree can provide shade in the summer months when you want it most and unlike a pergola it will grow! You can start small if you have patience or have a mature specimen tree planted for quicker results if budget allows. Planting a tree on a south west corner of the space will provide the maximum shade in the peak heat of the day.

Selecting the right type of tree is critical for good results. Remember a cheap poplar is never going to turn into a valuable oak! The plant experts at Hicks can help advise you as to the ultimate size and other attributes of candidate trees to help you make the best choice. After all, a shade tree is a long-term investment, not a quick fix. 

Here is a quick list of some potential shade trees and their ultimate size:

Small to medium

Purple Leaf Plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’) Purple leaves and pink flowers, 20’

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)- Native tree with pink or white flowers, 20-30’

Japanese Bloodgood Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’)- Red leaves, 20-25’

Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’)- Pink Flowers, vase shape, 25-35’

River Birch (Betula nigra)- quick growing, 40-60’


Medium to large

American Red Maple (Acer rubrum)- Red fall color, 40-60’

Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos var.  inermis)- Delicate shade from small leaves, 30-50’

Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata)- Clean vase shaped tree, 50-70’

White Oak (Quercus bicolor)- Tolerates wet soils, 50-60’

Littleleaf Linden (Tilia cordata)- Yellow fall color, round crown, 60-75’


Additional Information:
How to Landscape Around Your Pool
Screening Plants for Your Long Island Backyard

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