Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Great Outdoors!

So with the days getting a bit warmer and the sun out a little longer, I’ve started the process of laying out plans for my garden and outdoor entertaining space. Just as I pay attention to how I style the inside of my home, it’s just as important that the outside have the same level of care and appeal to my family. Working for my dad’s landscaping business when I was growing up gave me ingrained love for a manicured lawn. Then as I traveled to Europe over the years, I’ve developed a fondness for how people live in their outdoor spaces. These are my perennial favorites, pun intended.

I should point out I don’t have an expansive plot of land to plant and harvest. Since space is a premium, I’ve had to get creative on how to grow a practical, yet beautiful garden. I’m also keen on the idea of including my kids in gardening because they love the moments of seeing the flowers first bloom and picking fresh tomatoes off the vine. Even at their young ages, they have their own plots to manage and water.Container gardening is also a technique I love because it doesn’t demand much space. I use them for flowers, vine plants and for herbs, such as mint, that have intrusive root systems. In larger containers I like to mix annuals and vegetable plants since the textures make an interesting presentation, besides being practical.I also use urns and old terra cotta planters to create varying heights and visual interest. I even use them for seasonal planting like tulips in the spring, mums in the fall and fill them with evergreen branches and winter berries during the cold months. I’m especially happy when they are overflowing with a mix of vines, vivid flowers and sprigs of fern during the summertime. You will always find a pair of old cast iron urns flanking the entry to our home because they seem to say ‘welcome, we’re so glad you’re here!’

Another element that I always use in my garden is a multi-tiered, antique English wire plant stand. These date back to the mid-1800s and have truly stood the test of time. As they rust and peel, they look even better. There are some great reproductions available on the market today that almost look like the real deal. These are great because they’re portable and hold a number of pots and have a trellis backing that allow for flowering vines to crawl and bloom. I use mine to hold herbs and little starting pots. These are also great because they keep little critters from getting to the harvest before you do

There are a lot of really bad, tacky garden ornaments that should never be parked in the yard. They should only be used to create visual impact, and used sparingly to prevent becoming an ornamental cement garden. I tend to opt for weathered finials, zinc-coated architectural fragments and antique Italian puttos or cherubs. They look best as they begin to age and distress and even better when they have moss and lichens. There are even techniques to expedite the aging process by applying dairy products, like buttermilk, right to the statuary.

Summertime on my block brings out the masses. Our backyard becomes a hub of activity and impromptu gatherings where more furniture is needed than a few tables and chairs. I like to use small vintage benches and old French café chairs to accommodate guests. These store nicely and can take the outdoor elements. Just as you would opt for the most comfortable furniture inside, don’t sell yourself short outdoors. Toss in some cushions and pillows. And on cool evenings, a cotton throw can do the trick.

Happy summer time!

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