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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.
A fabulously chic all-in-one option if you don’t have a garden table but want somewhere to place that all important summer drink as you laze.
With a stylish glass and wicker table forming the parasol base, it will stand-alone. The black canopy is both striking and ideal for warding off UV rays - a modern looking option.
A classic ash wood pole holds the canopy aloft, and it comes with a waterproof sleeve to keep it protected when it’s not in use.
There’s very little to quibble with with the Anthracite Parasol. With a 3 metre wide circumference, it offers a wide circle of shade.
A wind outlet in the canopy prevents the cantilever parasol from being buffeted about - notoriously an issue with these models. The base is included with the unit, and ensures the parasol itself is sturdy.
With a crank handle for open and closing, it’s no effort and all to put up or take down. Easy to assemble, too. A great choice.
Want to make a statement? Bring a taste of the tropics to your garden with this lovely, Bahaman-style beach parasol.
The canopy is made from braided plant fibre, and with a 2.2 metre diameter, is large enough to keep multiple family members covered (There’s also nylon in the upholstery - don’t worry, this will protect you from sun and light showers).
With a simple up and down lever, this is the type of dream parasol you want to lounge under with a tiki cocktail. Can’t go abroad? Go on holiday in your backyard.
Charles Bentley cantilever parasols tend to sell out each summer, being - as they are - some of the best on the market, and very reasonably priced.
This hanging umbrella makes a great alternative to a more traditional parasol.
Free-standing, you can place whether you want in the garden (you simply need a weight at the bottom to secure fast) - so the canopy can hang atop a BBQ or hot tub.
It’s easily adjustable, too, so you can tilt to cover as required, as the sun moves.
It comes without a base - we recommend pairing with Sturdi’s 25kh parasol base, a heavy, reliable number.
So elegant: this garden umbrella is modelled on traditional Japanese geisha parasols, and captures their serene beauty.
Available in five colours, it’s canopy is stretched across 24 fibreglass ribs, to give it the classical, beautiful form. But besides looking good, this umbrella performs well.
It has a weatherproof canopy, a strong aluminium central staff. To be put up and down with a non-sticking easy to use crank handle - it’s a distinctive, pretty choice. Please note, though, the base comes separately.
Italian beach vibes are the order of the day with this jazzy, graphic print parasol. It sports a low-profile canopy perched atop a 3.2cm diameter reclaimed timber pole and operates with a slick, umbrella-style mechanism.
With its huge UV rating of 50+, this parasol is primarily designed for scorching days down at the beach, so its pole packs a screw thread spike at the base for securing into sand. You can also easily slot it into a garden furniture with an existing parasol hole if you wish to bring a touch of the Med to your patio or garden.
Along with offering 2.7m diameters worth of water-resistant cover with UV rating of 30+, this parasol will also bring the party to your patio after dark. USB rechargeable strip LEDs adorn its underside to illuminate your nocturnal gatherings which can be dimmed via the small, rib-mounted control panel.
Despite its bargainous price, this parasol feels suitably strong and stable, with its easy-to-use crank handle helping make light work of raising and lowering the canopy. You also get a 180 g polyester protective bag thrown in for free.
Conduct shady business on a budget with this neat, stylish parasol. A shade under fifty pounds buys you a water resistant canopy providing 2.2m of tilting, weather repelling shelter with a UV 50+ rating. This sunshade sports a wind-up crank handle for swift operation, with its canopy available in either oyster or grey shades. A 25 kg base is recommended for this product, which can be purchased from the John Lewis website.