June hasn’t exactly delivered the best summer weather so far. But in the great British tradition millions of us are gearing up for the BBQ season regardless. If you’re keen to get going it’s time to get your garden sorted out, looking its best for friends and family. You might even be planning a Father’s Day barbecue or outdoor bash, in which case there isn’t much time left. That’s why we thought it’d be interesting to look at a few sure-fire, quick ‘n’ dirty ways to beautify your outdoor space in preparation for a party.
Make your garden look beautiful in 13 easy steps
1. Simple ideas for unusual planting
It’s a great time of year to pick up annuals, many of which are available already in flower. And you don’t have to try too hard to create a splendidly colourful effect. You don’t even need to buy planters, although low cost plain terracotta plant pots take a lick of paint beautifully.
How about planting flowers out in old shoes, for example? It sounds odd but it looks amazing: colourful outgrown kids’ wellies planted with California poppies, old types painted bright colours, filled with potting compost and planted with geraniums, or wooden crates lined with scraps of fabric to keep the moisture in. Old buckets, trugs and watering cans also make stylish planters.
You can hang ordinary plant pots from your fences and walls with wire, making perfect little pockets for flowers and plants. What about old handbags, again attached to a fence or wall with wire? Or used metal paint pots, drawers from unwanted furniture painted bright colours and stacked, even one of those hanging fabric things with lots of little pockets, sold as shoe storage? And finally… why not stack up some painted breezeblocks, the ones with two square holes per block, and plant them up?
Ivy is a tough customer and looks glorious hanging gracefully from a planter, and it isn’t prone to snail and slug attacks like many annuals are. No time for planting? Silk flowers, artfully arranged, do a lovely job instantly without the hassle.
2. Instant garden lighting
Create instant atmosphere at dusk and late into the balmy summer night with solar lights, available all over the place in a huge range of colours and styles including silk flower lighting and beautiful strings of pearly mini-lights to hang amongst the greenery.
Got spare jam jars, coffee jars or pickle jars? Tie garden wire around the rim, pop a tea light in and you’ve created instant hand-crafted glamour, or simply stand them on the ground, for example to mark a pathway. You can use glass paints to decorate them to stained glass-like effect.
3. Get busy with the topiary
Topiary is a great way to smarten up straggling bushes and shrubs, and most respond well to a trim even at this time of year. There’s no need to go mad trying to create birds, butterflies or anything else complicated and artistic. Simply clip out-of-control bushes and shrubs into neat globes or cubes for a quirky yet neat look.
4. Achieving lawn perfection…or not!
It takes time and effort to create a perfect, striped lawn free of weeds and moss. It’s a labour of love. But a good trim makes even the most weed-choked lawn look better, and the more you mow those weeds the smaller they get. You eventually get a lovely natural bonsai effect complete with tiny flowers, much more interesting and wildlife-friendly than a traditionally-perfect lawn.
If your lawn’s looking less than green, scrubby and yellow, a quick treatment with a special lawn-greening product will deliver a healthier, more inviting look within a few days.
5. Hide the ugly stuff
Most of us have all sorts practical bits and bobs we need for gardening, but they’re rarely pretty. Compost bins and heaps, greenhouses and water butts, tools, stacks of bamboo stakes and so on. If they’re causing an eyesore, pot up a few tall plants – evergreens are brilliant – and stick them in front of the offending article to create an instant screen of green.
6. The power of fabric
Striped deckchair fabric is great value for money, perfect for outdoors and ideal for adding texture and interest to a dull outdoor space. Woolly picnic blankets and car rugs are great too, adding big splashes of colour. And a big, bright swatch of fabric can hide a multitude of garden sins.
There’s floaty, sophisticated voile, semi-opaque and also remarkably good value for money, available by the metre in a host of gorgeous shades and prints, many of flowers. You could drape it over an ordinary windbreak or hang it over a string – your washing line might do just fine – to hide the less-than-attractive back end of your garden from view.
Last but not least, there’s nothing quite like a collection of bright cushions to add interest and verve to your garden, either regular sized or great big floor cushions. For unique and quirky cushions, we recommend that you visit Poppykins. You can even make your own floor cushions from unwanted bedding, sewing old duvet covers or sheets together and stuffing them with unwanted duvets or quilts…even sleeping bags. Then it doesn’t matter too much if they get mucky.
7. They’re tents Jim, but not as we know it…
Put up a tent in your garden and what do you get? Instant shelter. Fill it with cushions and blankets and you create a gorgeous space to relax with drinks, read, chat or play. If you don’t have a tent, string a rope between two suitable points and throw a sheet of voile over it to make an attractive mosquito net-like shelter to sit under – simplicity itself.
If you’re lucky enough to have mature trees in your garden, hammocks are huge fun and practical as well as an instant way to make the outdoors both comfortable and stylish.
8. Magical chimineas
A chiminea is a free-standing fireplace or oven with a bulbous body and a vertical chimney. They look great, are remarkably warm and practical too. Good looks, safety and lovely warmth combine to make them a modern day garden décor essential.
9. Clean that decking
There’s a world of difference between a knackered, slimy, grubby deck and beautiful, gleaming decking. Well-maintained garden decking is safer too, much less slippery. If you’d like to know how to get your decking in shape for summer we’ve written a blog post about garden decking maintenance.
The same goes if you’re lucky enough to have garden steps and decks made of railway sleepers, which also benefit from a good seeing to.
If your garden walls are real stone, they’re probably beautiful enough on their own. If they’re rendered or plain brick, could they stand a coat of water-based exterior eggshell to cheer them up and add spice? Concrete patios and old-school crazy paving also look instantly better when cleaned, either with a special high pressure washer or plenty of good, old fashioned elbow grease.
10. Water, water everywhere
No garden is complete without a water feature, but there’s no need to make a meal of it. A basic bird bath will do the trick, and the birds and insects will love you for it. You can also create an instant garden pond with a large planter, one without holes in the bottom. Why not place it on top of a cube of wood for extra artistic effect and to add height? You can even buy a large plastic bowl in deep green, grey or black and sink it into the ground before filling it with water, then plant turf, flowers or any other kind of instant greenery around the edges to blend it in.
11. Ditch the clutter
One of the simplest tips to spruce up your garden? Broken and discarded toys, old tools, piles of leaves, bits of wood, rocks, and rubble, garden waste…clear it all away for a satisfyingly instant improvement.
12. Paint your garden shed and fencing
Giving a tatty garden shed a facelift is painless enough, takes no time with a big brush or roller and adds instant sparkle to tired, winter-worn exterior woodwork. Coloured shed paint is popular, especially sophisticated, subtle heritage colours. Alternatively pick up one of our many and varied shed products, all designed to make exterior wood look good. Here’s a link to our blog post about wood preservation and getting your garden shed shipshape.
If your fencing is a total nightmare, on its last legs and about to fall down, you can temporarily cover it up with bamboo or willow screening – cheap and cheerful, available from most good garden centres, easy to fit with a few judicious tacks and great to look at.
13. Add space and increase volume with mirrors
Who says you can’t hang mirrors outdoors? You can bring them out from indoors or pick up low cost mirrors at Ikea or your nearest charity shop, even at your local pound shop. Hang them with ribbon or wire on a simple nail to trick your eyes into thinking your outdoor space is bigger, lighter and brighter. This works especially well if all you have is a small patio, or your fences are a bit high and forbidding. Breaking up the fence makes it look much more interesting, less of an all-consuming, in-your-face block.
What about your ideas for instant garden improvement?
We’d love to hear your ideas for making a sad, tired garden look better. Feel free to leave a comment below.