With gas already reaching $3.75 a gallon and the economy struggling, many families are foregoing a big summer vacation this year.
If you can’t go to your favorite summer spot, how about a mini-makeover for your backyard so you can enjoy a stay-cation?
We’re lucky to live in a part of the country where we can enjoy the outdoors many months of the year. But landscaping and furnishing outdoor areas can leave a hefty hole in your wallet. If you’re not ready for a complete overhaul, new landscape beds or all new patio furniture, here are a few simple ideas to freshen up your outdoor space.
Are your shrubs taking over, hiding the front of your house, and covering up your windows? One of the easiest ways to increase your curb appeal and spruce up your landscape is to prune your shrubs. Think about the way they should look. If you are trying to tame an overgrown shrub, you need to make heading cuts. Remember that the shrub will grow bushier at the point where you make the cut. To keep it from becoming leggy, you can cut up to 1/3 of the plant, cutting below where you want it to thicken and grow. Be selective when pruning. Don’t just buzz your shrubs with shears or a power hedge trimmer. Think about the way they should look – are they formal or natural? Do you like the existing form, or could you change it to make it more attractive? Don’t be afraid you’ll mess them up – it’s like getting a haircut – they’ll grow back!
If your shrubs are too tall and leggy to prune without eliminating most of the growth, but you’re not ready to dig them up and invest in new ones, there are still things you can do to freshen up the bed. Leggy foundation plants can be disguised by placing colorful perennials in front of them to hide the woody stalks.
Annuals are another a great way to add color– creating a colorful focal point to freshen the look of your beds.
To create vertical interest and height in your landscape, consider adding a trellis on a fence or an obelisk within a bed for a colorful climbing vine.
Many people think landscape bedding plants go in the ground and pots go on patios and porches. However, more and more gardeners are integrating beautiful pots into their beds, adding color and contrast to existing plants.
Let’s step onto the patio now.
The home and garden industry has coined a new term for the outdoor areas we use around our homes – garden rooms. It’s certainly appropriate. After all, what do we want when we spend time outdoors? We want a comfortable place to sit and visit, read or eat. That means designing nice surroundings, good lighting, and a lovely view. Those are the things we strive for inside of our homes, so why not apply the same principles to the garden?
So, how do you take your patio from a boring, plain Jane 5-piece table and chairs, to a peaceful paradise that is inviting and attractive? Simple additions can make a big difference.
There are so many options, it’s important to start at the beginning, analyzing your “style” first and then choosing a theme or color scheme.
What kind of plants do you have in your garden? Do you like bright tropical colors, an arid desert look or soft cottage garden pastels? Determine the look and feel you want.
Simple Patio additions
A few large pots with some “thrillers, spillers and fillers” can provide a framework for your open space. What are thrillers, spillers and fillers? That’s the formula for making beautiful pots of plants – you need a tall focal point that will stand out above the other plants and make a statement. Then you should add some smaller plants with contrasting or coordinating colors around the tall plant. Then finish the project with trailing plants around the inside perimeter of the pot.
Other good choices for patio anchors include very tall plants in pots or even small trees like Dwarf Palmettos, citrus trees or tall grasses.
Three is the magic number in design, so a grouping of three similar or coordinating pots – small, medium and large — will have more impact than a single pot.
And the old stand-bys still hold strong – simple hanging baskets and window boxes (using the thriller, spiller and filler formula) can brighten up your porch or patio.
Another way to add color and interest is a rug. Many local nurseries now carry colorful outdoor rugs — some traditional and some made of durable woven plastic — that are weatherproof and great for outdoor spaces.
A few cup hooks and two inexpensive curtain panels in your color scheme can also help frame your new “room.” Simply screw in hooks along the ceiling over a few feet of space, gather the curtain evenly, hang, and place tie backs.
Side tables, benches, shelves and many other pieces of outdoor furniture are easily transformed by a new coat of paint in your favorite color.
Light up the night
Sure, you have a big spotlight outside, glaring down on you, but some smaller, softer lighting can set a nice evening mood in your garden room. A simple string or two of miniature lights draped from the ceiling or a pergola or even run along the fence can be very quaint and inviting. Or, if you have a sheltered patio, a little table lamp in a corner on a side table will soften the space. (They are available specifically for outdoor use.)
New trends in lighting also offer many simple options for landscape beds. Inexpensive solar lanterns and path lighting can provide charming ambiance. Up-lights for trees and large specimen plants now come in solar versions, too.
A little night music
What better to add to the calming effect of your new backyard paradise than the sound of bubbling water? Disappearing fountains in glazed pots or vases come in do-it-yourself kits, complete with pot, reservoir, pump, and stones. A little elbow grease and you can make an instant oasis.
No matter what your budget, there are a host of ways to spruce up your landscape and patio to create your own personal paradise.