Best garden parasols UK 2023: garden umbrellas for blocking sun and wind
A perfect, pretty garden parasol will provide shade and comfort in your backyard this summer - we review the best, and tell you the right size and model for you
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If you want to spend time lounging around or entertaining outdoors during the summer months, a decent garden parasol is a must. A parasol will help shield you from the sun's harmful rays whilst providing a degree of rain protection should the weather unexpectedly take a turn for the worse.
And these days, the choices are superb, from sophisticated, to bohemian, tropical to modern. There’s a garden parasol for every kind of garden space.
Some stand alone as a freestanding parasol or come with their own base, while some are designed to slot into a garden table.
There are a bewildering amount of parasols on the market to choose from, so here’s a few pointers on how to make the right choice to suit your garden or outdoor space.
Do I want a normal parasol, or a cantilever?
A cantilever parasol is where the canopy is suspended from a long beam attached to the main pole which is offset rather than central. This type of parasol will generally afford more space underneath, but requires a heavy base to counterbalance the outstretched canopy. A tilting parasol will have a hinge in the pole to allow the canopy to be angled against the sun to provide more shade if needed. An upright parasol is your basic, straight pole sun shade. These can typically be secured within existing garden furniture or screwed into a base for greater stability.
Upright parasols and umbrellas have minimal flexibility - you can’t really tilt them to alter the cast of their shade. By contrast, a cantilever parasol can flex it’s ‘hood’ away from the stand, to lend its shade to where you want it to go.
Cantilever parasols have the benefit of flexibility, the trade off is that normal parasols are generally sturdier (if you live in an exposed, windy area, this is a consideration).
Size up your space and intended use before taking the plunge. There’s no point buying a huge, parachute-sized parasol if you’ve only got a small patio to cover. Similarly, an undersized canopy will be no use for entertaining guests alfresco, especially if the weather takes a turn for the worse.
At least 2 metres, to ensure a reasonable cast of shade. 2.4 metres is industry standard. Of course, if you have a larger backyard, go for something a little wider.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a larger parasol requires a stronger base unit, so make sure to purchase accordingly. Some models will come with the base unit included, other garden umbrellas comfortably fit into a garden table. If you don’t have a table and the parasol doesn’t have a base unit, we recommend this option, the Aria Resin Free Standing Parasol Base.
You’ll find that most parasols are at the very least showerproof, which means that you should be able to sit relatively happily under one in light rain. Heavy rain may be an issue with certain parasols and may result in a soggy end to an outdoor soiree, so check the canopy specs to make sure it fits in with your requirements. Ultra violet protection is probably the most important factor when buying a parasol, as prolonged exposure to the sun's rays can be harmful. Most parasols provide excellent UV cover, but it's still worth paying attention to the figures quoted on the box. A UV rating indicates the amount of the sun's rays that are absorbed by the fabric. So a parasol fabric with a UV rating of 30 will allow 1/30th of the sun's UV radiation to pass through it.
Wind- up, push up or pulley?
While not exactly a deal breaker, it’s worth checking out your proposed parasols opening and closing mechanism. A wind up mechanism will afford you the easiest operation but can potentially jam or malfunction due to its multiple moving parts. A pulley system offers easy operation using cord or rope, whilst a push-up parasol usually requires a little more effort but without the potential for tangles.
A wipe down with a wet cloth should see off most stains accumulated over a season of outdoor use, but some parasols offer the ability to detach the canopy that can then be machine washed for a deeper clean should you so wish. As always, check any care labels before proceeding. Some parasols also come with protective bags which you can either pull over a collapsed canopy in situ for weather protection when not in use, or used as a storage bag for stowing your parasol in an outhouse or garage during the winter months.