As staycation Brits dread the end of summer and the beginning of autumn looms, RHS award-winning garden designer Rob Dwiar tells Metro how to max-out time in your outside space.
‘Lockdown at home has made us really appreciate our outdoor spaces,’ says landscape and garden designer Rob Dwiar.
‘And the warm weather has enabled lots of us to escape the confines of the same four walls to eat, work and relax outside.
‘But your garden can give you enjoyment all year round, not just in the summer months.’
Here Rob shares his top tips to prolong your time outdoors.
1. Create covered outdoor ‘zones’
If a purpose-built garden room, studio or office is out of your budget, a pergola is a great way of creating an extra ‘room’ outside.
They can shelter you from the sun – and protect you from the chill of autumn.
Ready made pergolas come in many shapes and sizes or a good chippy will be able to build one fairly reasonably.
It can be placed immediately next to the house and used like an ‘extension’ – or put it in the middle of the garden to zone the area and create an outdoor ‘room’ you can use for dining, work or entertaining.
Alternatively put it at the bottom of the garden to enhance an unused or secluded spot.
The most important consideration is to ensure there is plenty of space around it or it will appear cramped.
Adorn with sweet-smelling plants such as honeysuckle, fragrant climbing and rambling roses and passionflowers.
For good shade and to create a cosy feel, consider Trumpet vine, which attracts pollinators such as bees, and intensely-smelling jasmine or abundant clematis.
Try these handy covers in your garden…
Forest garden radial pergola, £210.00, wilko.com
Classic corner bench wooden lattice pergola, £393.95, westmount-living.co.uk
Rowlinson St. Tropez canopy, £349.99, dobbies.com
2. Invest in heaters and outdoor rugs
Fire pits, electric heaters or gas towers are a good way to ensure you can enjoy the outdoor space all year round.
When the nights turn chilly, retreating indoors may be tempting, but these bits of kit will enable you to enjoy a late night drink outside.
Large raw steel fire pit, £189, limelace.co.uk
Cox&Cox industrial style firepit, £175, joules.com
KETTLER Kalos plush table top electric patio heater, £149, johnlewis.com
Use it to create a cosy focal point in your garden. Surround with outdoor chairs, lots of cushions, throws, and blankets to collapse into – or splurge on a corner outdoor sofa instead.
To create the perfect autumn ‘room’ finish with an outdoor rug and some woody scented candles for extra ambiance.
Contemporary Intreccio turquoise Floorita rug, from £89, therugshop.co.uk
Hundslund large flatwoven rug, £79, ikea.com
3. Spread lights across your features and foliage
Effective garden lighting enables you to stay out longer as the darker nights draw in.
Battery-operated fairy lights are relatively inexpensive and look magical. To illuminate garden features such as ponds solar LED lights will charge during the day and are very cost-effective.
Spike lights hidden in borders or at the bottom of trees cast a powerful up-light glow while spotlights illuminate features and create a warm ambiance – the Philips Hue smart lighting can be controlled via an app on your smartphone.
LED pedestal lights and bollards are ideal for paths and make a garden much safer to traverse in the darker months as do motion sensors.
Ornamental lanterns such as Fermob’s LED wireless Balad lamps for tables create beautiful settings for entertaining.
Rosewood festoon lights (5m string), £54, neptune.com
Fermob Balad small LED wireless lamp, £75, madeindesign.co.uk
Philips Hue lily outdoor stake lights 3x starter kit Black, £267.55, dmlights.com
4. Keep the barbecue going
A sheltered BBQ area will get you out of the kitchen and into the great outdoors whatever the weather – great for keeping smells like cooked fish out of the house.
However a good barbecue requires the right location – always place at a reasonable distance from your home, preferably away from the back door where there’s a lot of traffic. And beware of low hanging trees!
There’s nothing better than taking your time in the summer months at the BBQ to produce a real, smoky fire to cook your food – but when it’s chilly the speed and convenience of a gas BBQ cannot be over-stated.
Morsø Forno gas media BBQ grill £399, osoliving.com
Kuhn Rikon table top BBQ, £150, argos.co.uk
5. Pick up some late blooming flowers
The sun might not shine so much in autumn, but there are plenty of late flowering plants which will inject the perfect mix of colour and fragrance into your beds or pots and will last up to the first frost.
Consider Japanese Anemones, with flowers that range from a flawless white to an intense pink; the Californian Lilac blooms bountifully and is easy to grow and to maintain; the Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’is a perennial flower with a dazzling yellow colour; the Stonecrop looks astonishing long into late winter, and autumn sage is an evergreen aromatic plant that will charm your senses.
6. Plant some autumn vegetables
If you’re looking for a fulfilling and rewarding venture to keep the whole family outdoors, nothing beats growing your own fruit and veg.
All you need to start is a raised veg bed (2.4m x 1.2m) in a location that gets at least five hours of sunlight a day.
Start with root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beans, onions, beetroot or peas.
And attract natural predators by growing trouble-free plants nearby like marigolds, which will attract ladybirds to keep pests away.
Allotment wooden raised beds, from £23, harrodhorticultural.com
7. Try out a new water feature
One of the most transformative elements in a garden can be a water feature.
Besides the visual enhancement, it also reduces background noise like traffic or noisy kids.
Even if it’s chilly, the gentle sound of water encourages relaxation after a tough day work.
It will also attracts birds to your outdoor space, creating a natural hotspot for wildlife. Better than Netflix!
Ripple urn water feature, £299, gardenesque.com
Modern Contemporary patio ball or slate fountain, from £379.82, just-fountains.co.uk
8. Make sure your furniture is weather-proof
For outdoor furniture, materials such as good-quality artificial rattan or powder-coated aluminum are more durable.
For hardwood that’s often rained on, add a top layer of protection by painting it with products from Cuprinol or Ronseal.
The paints come in an array of colours to make your furniture stand out while also protecting them from decay and mould. Too much sun can also be detrimental, so oil wood furniture with a teak or Dutch oil.
9. Keep it tidy
Outdoor wooden, plastic or metal storage boxes and cupboards are incredibly handy for keeping your garden tidy (particularly in smaller spaces), and for storing items such as wellies and umbrellas.
They can be stored neatly at the side of the house or on a balcony so they are convenient but don’t get in the way.
Benches with built-in storage are a great choice for smaller spaces.
Rob Dwiar is an RHS gold medal winning landscape and garden designer. For more tips on outdoor living, check out www.gardeningetc.com
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