Like your first swim after winter, those initial forays into the backyard in spring can be a bit challenging. But with longer, milder days in store, now is the time for backyard action, and there are loads of simple things you can do to get your outdoor zones primped and ready for entertaining.
Bring beauty to a bland backyard with a striking feature, says horticulturist Tammy Huynh (@leaf_an_impression). “Try a decorative pot planted with colourful annuals, such as violas or cineraria or, for a more permanent display, go for a feature tree, such as citrus, magnolia or dwarf crepe myrtle,” she says. “Burying the legs of a garden arch in large pots – filled with potting mix and topped with flowering annuals – and training a climber like star jasmine or hardenbergia also makes for a lovely garden feature. Position a bench or table and chairs nearby to turn it into a destination spot.”
Transform outdoor gatherings with a dedicated zone – perhaps a fire pit and benches for casual get-togethers, or a dining table and chairs for a more formal approach. Choose a spot not too far from your kitchen or barbecue area, but not too close to avoid smoke drifting over your guests. Define the area with decking or pavers and a pergola – or even a cantilever umbrella wrapped with fairy lights – and give it a sense of enclosure by placing it in a corner or by adding screening on two or three sides. Position lighting for both atmosphere and extended time in the garden.
The easiest way to refresh any space in or around the home is to clean it. Get rid of cobwebs on walls and gutters with a cobweb brush, give every area a good sweep, then grab a water blaster to deal with stubborn dirt such as mould, moss and algae on the deck and paved areas. But use the right equipment for the task – softer timbers and paint can be damaged by a concentrated jet of water.
Disguise an ugly area or enhance privacy by installing a screen, says horticulturist Chloe Thomson (@beantheredugthat). Timber trellis, plastic and aluminium are great screening options. Cover with climbers to lift your greenery quota. Alternatively, fill a row of trough planters with tall-growing plants or climbers. “If you’ve got a support structure like a wire fence, or you can add one, my favourite faster growers include the climbing vines hardenbergia or pandorea and clumping bamboo,” adds Chloe.
Outdoor lights can bring a sparkling new look to your space on balmy evenings – and they needn’t add to your energy bill. “Solar lights all the way!” says Chloe. “I love outdoor lights with a warm white glow – it’s softer and more welcoming than bluish white light. Strings of festoon lights always look amazing looped around outdoor dining or entertaining spaces, and they cast a surprising amount of light. Solar path lights are a must for safety. Use the ones on spikes to illuminate paths or steps where you can or look for ones that will mount onto a hard surface.”
Refresh your space with a few well-chosen pieces. New seat pads and/or scatter cushions will breathe life into your outdoor furniture, including outdoor chairs and couches, while you can distract the eye from a tired setting with pretty pots or ornaments. In an enclosed alfresco area, repurpose a decorative garden screen as wall art. String a hammock nearby for a resort feel and pop solar lanterns around the area for after-dark ambience.
Store all garden chemicals out of reach of children and pets. Wear gloves and a mask when handling potting mix, mulch or compost. Make sure any lighting used outside is suitable for outdoors. Any hardwired electrical fixtures must be installed by a licensed electrician.
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Photo Credit: Cath Muscat, GAP Photos/Robert Mabic, Alex Reinders