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What kind of parasol do I need for my garden?

Garden parasols come in many different shapes, sizes, colours and styles. Knowing which one to buy can sometimes be quite daunting, especially when there are so many to consider.

We’ve put together our top ten things to consider when it comes to choosing the right parasol for your garden.

1. Location

Most parasols are used to protect against bright sunlight. So, think about where shade is needed in your outdoor space. For some, it will be on a sunny open patio, for others it might be in a corner of the garden that has no natural shade. Many gardens benefit using shade in different parts of the garden at different times of day. Thinking about the location of the parasol will help you to determine where a parasol is needed and if it needs to be portable.

2. Garden parasol size

Find out the approximate space available for a new parasol by measuring the outdoor space you have in mind. Measurements are important as you won’t want the canopy catching on anything over head like a tree or at the sides like a fence, wall or a bush. Think about when the canopy will be open and how much space it will require. Parasol sizes vary, but are usually described by canopy width. Popular canopy widths include: 2m,  2.5m,  2.7m, 3m or 3.3 metres.

If you have a parasol base already and wish to reuse it, remember to check the width of the parasol pole. Some larger parasols will require a larger base to allow for thicker poles. Some bases come with ring adaptors to enable you to secure the pole firmly in place.

3. Function

The way you intend to use a parasol or its function is also key to making the right choice. For a garden dining set think about the shape of your table and the area shade needs to cover. For example, a round canopy looks great over a round table and a rectangular canopy with a central pole and base will fit neatly over a rectangular garden dining set. Many traditional parasols with a central pole do benefit from the additional support of a table to support the parasol as well as the parasol base.

However, if the parasol is not intended for use without a table, then consider a free arm or cantilever parasol to provide greater flexibility as they can be left free standing in situ. A cantilever parasol is a free-standing parasol with a side pole instead of a central pole. They do not require the support of a table and can be levered easily into any position with minimum effort to suit the shade space you require. Cantilevers are fully adjustable with some rotating a full 360° to help you position the canopy where you need it and track the sun. They are ideal for many types of garden furniture including corner garden lounge sets, duo sets or even over play areas.

Cantilevers are more expensive than traditional parasols with a central pole, but they do offer more features. Not only do many rotate fully, but they also include a bluetooth speaker system and integrated lighting which can be plugged into a mains power supply or work with a rechargeable battery. Many quality cantilever or free-arm parasols come with integrated canopy air vents to allow airflow to be managed and not affect the parasol in a breeze. They also come with covers, some even include rigid poles within the covers to make them easier to fit.

Garden Parasols

4. Style

What’s your style? Uber modern or classic and traditional? Garden parasols come in many different styles to suit so many different pieces of outdoor furniture, whether you need a clamp on parasol for a single lounger or a large free arm parasol to cover a recliner set, there are so many different styles to think about. If you like a themed garden, consider a Shanghai style parasol. These are orient inspired umbrellas include nice detailing with many impressive struts and ribs. These parasols usually come in a choice of vibrant colours to make a real statement in any outdoor space.

5. Shape

Traditional round parasols are perhaps the most popular choice of garden parasol because they fit easily into a garden dining set. However, many new styles appear each year and there’s some great shade solutions now available for more unusual outdoor furniture. For example, a 3m x 2m rectangular parasol is a great choice for a rectangular dining set, but isn’t always the obvious choice. With so many shapes to choose from think about what will suit your space, style and what the parasol needs to shade. A round parasol is ideal for a round garden set, whilst we know a rectangular parasol suits a rectangular dining set and a square parasol suits a square shaped set. There are now half shape parasols available too called Balcony Parasols. These are ideal for balconies or locations near a wall or fence as these can be positioned close to a boundary. Just remember to think of any nearby neighbours when deciding on this solution.

6. Colour

Introducing a canopy colour to the garden is not as straightforward as you might think. There are things to consider when choosing a canopy colour. Think about the outdoor setting and what you are trying to achieve. If you want the parasol to blend into the background, choose natural or darker colours like green or grey. But if you want to make a statement and create a focal point – go bold and choose a bright vibrant colour, like lime or pink. Also, consider other features in the garden, perhaps a prominent fence colour, the colour of garden furniture fabric or garden scatter cushions. You can choose a canopy to compliment or contrast with colour in the garden already.

7. What is the parasol & canopy made of?

Traditionally parasol canopies were made of canvas. Most parasol canopies nowadays are made from 100% polyester which is durable, heavy-duty and weather-resistant. Polyester offer good levels of UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) sun protection. The thickness of each canopy will vary so always check the manufacturer specifications. For example, some canopies are made from 180g polyester which offers UPF 30+, whilst 230g polyester canopies provide UPF 50+. These provide a good level of sun protection, in addition to wearing sun protection.

Polyester canopies can be hand washed or wiped clean and drip dry easily, so they are easy to manage and maintain. To help maintain the canopy most parasol manufacturers recommend closing the parasol when not in use and not to leave it up in windy conditions. Some even provide a 12 month warranty for added peace of mind.

Also, think about the structure of the parasol. Choose a strong parasol that will last season after season. Lightweight aluminium poles and frames will not rust, so these are generally a good choice. But if you prefer a more traditional look, there are many real wood poles and canopy structures to choose from and many are sustainably sourced.

8. Do I need a parasol base?

Check if your parasol comes with a base. Many do, but many don’t and not having the right base can be equally frustrating. So remember to check if the parasol base is included. If it isn’t included, then choose one that will fit the pole on your chosen parasol.

As a general rule of thumb, a 15kg base is suitable for a parasol going though a table. If your parasol is not going to be used in a table and it will stand alone, then please consider a larger base from 25kg upwards. This will provide the right support and prevent the parasol from blowing over. Typical parasol bases range from 15kg to 50kg.

Some parasol bases are made to be portable and have wheels underneath so you can pull the base to the right location. Some are more permanent and once set up are quite heavy to move, so agreeing the location of a heavy base is important. This is true of granite and fillable bases which use sharp sand or water to weigh them down.

Bases come in a number of different materials, from plastic and concrete to granite. Larger bases come in pieces to make them easier to manage. For example, some Bramblecrest granite bases come in four pieces, whilst some free arm Kettler parasols come with a durable black fillable plastic base which is made of four joining parts.

9. Parasol features

Most of us are happy with a simple parasol that has a straight forward canopy mechanism to open or close the parasol. But for some, having the added flexibility to crank and tilt a parasol comes in really handy, especially as the sun moves around the garden. Being able to angle the parasol canopy to protect against the sun, especially as it lowers throughout the day is a really useful feature. If you think you will find this canopy feature helpful, then look for a parasol that has a crank and tilt feature. There are many traditionally shaped parasols and cantilever parasols that offer this facility.

There are lots of different canopy features to look out for to make using a canopy easier.

For traditional parasols with a centre pole, look out for either or all of the following features:
  • Push up system– push up & pull down with a pin to secure the canopy (eg. 2.5m Sturdi Wood Pulley)
  • Crank system – wind the canopy up or down with a crank handle (eg. 3 x 2m Sturdi Plus Rectangular Parasol)
  • Crank & Tilt system – wind up/down with a crank handle & push button to tilt (eg. 2.7m Sturdi Shanghai)
  • Crank system with LEDs – wind up/down with a crank handle. Canopy includes integrated LED lights on ribs (eg. Sturdi 2.7m Round LED Solar)
For cantilever (free arm / side post) parasols look out for the following useful features:
  • Side Post wind with 360° rotation – opens and closes the canopy (eg. Bramblecrest Chichester 3m Side Post)
  • Free Arm Tilt with integrated handle for 360° rotation – move the canopy to any position (eg. Kettler 3.3m Free Arm)
  • Side Post lever – operate the canopy position (eg. Bramblecrest Gloucester 3m Side Post)

10. Accessories

If you like to impress, then choose a parasol with all the added extras. Some luxury parasols include some amazing accessories from LED lighting to Bluetooth speakers. These help to create the perfect party atmosphere. Some even have built-in solar powered LED lights which light up underneath the canopy at night.

Bramblecrest Sidepost Parasol LED light with Bluetooth Speaker

If this sounds like your thing, but you already own a parasol, don’t worry, there are additional accessories you can purchase to create the perfect party parasol. Try a Parasol LED Light with Bluetooth Speaker. These can be paired easily with your smart phone to play your favourite tunes.

Lastly, don’t forget to keep your parasol covered. Using a cover will keep the canopy clean and free from bird droppings. And always lower the canopy when not in use to protect it being damaged in any unexpected windy weather.

So, when it comes to choosing a parasol for your outdoor space please remember to think about our top 10:

  1. Location
  2. Garden parasol size
  3. Function
  4. Style
  5. Shape
  6. Colour
  7. What is the parasol & canopy made of?
  8. Do I need a parasol base?
  9. Parasol features
  10. Accessories

If you need further advice about our garden parasols for sale then please contact the furniture department at Gates Garden Centre on 01664 454309.