An Afternoon in the Garden with Annalise Fosbery: Tips and tricks to help create a cool garden

Annalise FosberyGeraldton Guardian
 Spring is one of the best times of the year to prepare our gardens in advance of the heat of summer.
Camera Icon Spring is one of the best times of the year to prepare our gardens in advance of the heat of summer. Credit: zstockphotos/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Our gardens have the potential to affect the heat of our homes, externally and internally, too.

Our gardens create microclimates within them, too. Spring is one of the best times of the year to prepare our gardens in advance of the heat of summer. Planting and working in the garden now will give plants the chance to establish deep root systems before hot weather and it’s certainly more pleasant when temperatures are in the 20Cs rather than 30Cs.

When you are considering the design of your garden, think about how you want to use your garden and where in the garden you want to do that.

For instance, we want to include space for children to play and also sheltered seating for dining outdoors particularly in summer. Our outdoor play space is easy to design, it incorporates a large lawn space.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Lawn is naturally cooling. Yes, it takes water and maintenance, but there is a lot of research demonstrating the surface temperature differences between natural lawn and synthetic turf. With careful planning and care it is possible to use minimal water throughout the year and still have a usable lawn area.

Our next design inclusion will be to create more shade in our garden, particularly for late in the afternoon in summer. I am planning a selection of trees that suit a variety of our needs. I try to make sure that any substantial investment in the garden is giving us multiple benefits, such as fruit trees that will conceal the back fence and cast a late-afternoon shadow, or sculptural trees that provide a focal point as well as shade over the sand pit. Also, spiky citrus trees that shade the bathroom window and would deter anyone from getting too close to the window.

Our outdoor entertaining area is an easy inclusion for us. We have a great veranda and the inclusion of comfortable seating means that we have sat out there for breakfast and dinner for summer and even for meals in winter.

Our challenge for summer is that the veranda area can be very hot in the afternoon until after sunset. Using removable shade sails has been a cost-effective solution for us. I also plan to improve the microclimate in that area by incorporating a few more plants in pots, such as palms, ferns or hanging baskets with herbs. As plants transpire they release moisture into the air, thus having an evaporative cooling effect.

Having a positive impact on the inside temperature of a building takes a little thought. Consider if you are shading a window at a certain time of the day.

If you still want winter warmth through a window or even through a wall, then you may consider a deciduous plant that drops its leaves in winter, or a potted plant that can be relocated to another area in the garden.

Now that we’ve been in our home for nearly 12 months I’ve been able to observe how the sun’s position changes through the year and where the direct light reaches inside across this time, too.

Based on this experience I will position my potted fruit trees strategically to shelter our bedroom window, create a “wall” of cascading hanging baskets that shields our dining area from late afternoon sun and will carefully position my indoor plants to protect them from the harsh direct light.

As always, mind your personal safety in the garden and wear protection from the sun and from the plants and equipment you are using. Our spring sun can be very harsh so please don’t get caught out.

This month in the garden we hired a turf cutter and removed 30sqm of lawn to create a garden bed, cubby house slab and sandpit. We sourced clean sand, limestone blocks and irrigation parts from independent local suppliers who’ve been able to assist us with materials, advice and competitive pricing. Remember that if we want access to local materials and supplies then we need to support those local businesses as much as possible.

The next few weeks will involve planting out seeds and potted plant stock of ornamental and edible shrubs. My tomato seedlings have been significantly more successful than I expected so I have been lucky to share some with friends.

Annalise Fosbery is a landscape architect who has recently returned to live in her hometown of Geraldton

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails