“Have you seen the Johnsons’ back yard? I wouldn’t give you five bucks for the house, but what’s outside is out of this world.”
There is more to a property than the bricks and mortar. That’s why it’s referred to as a property, not just a house.
If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor area to call your own, making it look good can make you look good. And it can add to the value if you decide to sell it.
But never mind the ulterior motives: it’s yours, you live there and the outdoors part can give you a lot of pleasure.
It all depends on what you’ve got to work with, of course. For the purposes of this article I’m going to assume you’ve got a medium to smallish area.
Many such yards suffer from neglect because they’re not big enough to be considered worthwhile. So what you have is a small patch of mud with the garbage bin in one corner and odd bits of wood and plastic pipes dumped there just to get them out of the house. There might be an old washing machine and a pile of broken bricks and other debris.
It’s a sad sight – and it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are ten ways to make your outdoor area something to be proud of.
But first you have to decide what it’s going to be for. For you to relax in? For entertaining friends and family? Will it be for decoration only or do you want it to be productive, growing herbs and vegetables and maybe fruit?
- What’s under your feet?
That patch of earth may have a history that’s glorious, productive or completely downbeat. Whatever the truth is, it’s going to have a brighter future by dint of being covered with something. That could be wood (decking), gravel, grass, paving slabs or even concrete (of the colored, patterned variety).
Each has its advantages and disadvantages in terms of appearance, practicality and cost, so it’s very much a question of your particular case and your budget.
Whatever your outdoor area is for, make sure it’s comfortable. That means seating and maybe a table. There’s a wide variety available, so it’s worth setting your sights higher than a cheap plastic patio set. Sure, that is both economical and practical, but it’s rock bottom as regards to aesthetics. If you’re in a sunny area and you like afternoons in the garden, you should think about umbrellas. Moreover, you could have some hardwood chairs and a table, some wicker or a cast aluminum set – all of which are pleasing to the eye. And they can stand a bit of weather too, if you look after them.
- Make it look bigger
You may be limited as regards to length and width, but the sky’s the limit for height, so take advantage of that. Hang plants on walls and fences (trailing rosemary lends fragrance, hangs like curtains and has pretty little flowers). Use trees with slender trunks but bushy tops (palms if you have the climate for it, or maybe bay trees, which can look great and also give you a supply of fresh herbs). Fruit trees can both look good and supply you with free food.
- Plants for color
Nature has an incredible color chart and can vary it according to the seasons, so you can load your outdoor area with an ever-changing show.
- Light it up
The Christmas lights manufacturers now have year-round business because people have discovered that a chain of little lights looks good any time. You can wind them around a tree, trail them along a fence and so on.Or you can go for stand-up lights, illuminating the table and certain features you want to highlight. There are even solar-powered ones, if your area gets enough of the warm yellow stuff to feed them.
- The peaceful magic of water
Someone once said you can’t think when you’re watching a river, and even if that is not strictly true, you know what they meant. Moving water has a fascinating quality that makes us relax, so you could perhaps install a fountain or even create your own miniature Niagara Falls. You might need professional help with this one, but doesn’t hurt to get somebody to have a look and make some suggestions.
- Make a doorway
There is something about walking through a doorway that gives a little sense of adventure. So putting a wooden arch in the garden, even if it doesn’t lead to anything other than the barbecue, can add character. And you can decorate it with lights or have some trailing plants entwined in it.
- Give it a roof
In hot countries a canopy is often a blessing. Like the archway, it is a simple wooden structure on which you can grow vines and anything else that creeps: grapes would be nice, but ivy is also an option. Have a look in the garden center and see what you fancy.
- Build a barbecue
As mentioned above, your wooden arch could lead to the outdoor cooking area, and if you are a barbie lover and have the climate for it, you could build a simple brick unit and add metal grill bars.By the way, a tip born of bitter experience: make sure there’s enough light to see what you’re doing, or you could end up with cremated sausages and raw, salmonella-bearing chicken legs.
- Maintain it
The outdoor area you create may be the sensation of the entire street, but you will need to keep on top of it. Plants will need attention, grass will need cutting, furniture will need cleaning, wood will need preserving. So just as your house needs to be cleaned and occasionally repainted, wallpapered etc, you mustn’t forget the great outdoors. Otherwise nature will quickly reclaim it and it will be discovered centuries later like an Aztec city no one ever knew existed.So there you have it: food for thought. Start working on your plan, set your budget and let the fun begin.
Do you have a success story to tell the world? You could tell us about it here.