Your Money: Grow money in your back garden
It's often our biggest 'room' - and the cheapest to spruce up for dividends
If Easter's lovely weather didn't help you find your green fingers, nothing will. Everyone seemed to be out in the garden as the first promise of summer appeared. This week I'm looking at how to make your outside space a place of joy, relaxation and yes, a financial asset.
Garden designer Peter Dowdall (www.peterdowdall.com) says: "Our gardens are often the largest room in the home and financially the cheapest to decorate but they play a far more important role too.
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"Working or even just being in the garden has significant benefits to our mental health along with being our cheapest and closest gym. A few hours tending to garden is as good an aerobic workout and perhaps the most important value is that it provides food, shelter and refuge for pollinating insects and beneficial wildlife, without which we simply would not survive."
He adds that adding colour and beauty to your garden doesn't need much money, but will certainly enhance its value.
"Green walls are all the rage in urban architecture but you can create splashes of colour yourself.
'Wonder Wall' planters, widely available (from €9.99, thegardenshop.ie), create 'living artwork' panels.
Bedding plants give a blast of summer colour, or use small alpine and succulent plants for something a bit more permanent.
"Don't underestimate the importance of foliage. Some flowers such as Hemerrocallis, the Day Lily, last only a day, while evergreens provide attractive foliage year-round.
"Vinca 'Illumination' produces mauve/blue flowers but has lovely golden leaves on long twining and spreading stems. It's a vigorous plant so be careful where you plant it - the edge of a raised bed or draping down the sides of the bed or container is best.
"Hebe 'Mint Chocolate' is a brand new introduction from Irish plant breeders Tully Nurseries, and has beautiful chocolate brown foliage with purple flowers later in the summer.
"Vegetables and edible plants in a window box with different coloured lettuces and 'Tumbling Tom' Tomatoes are not only a beautiful addition to the garden, it will also provide you with free, healthy salads," he says.
Roisin Murphy, architect from RTE's Home Rescue, says the multi-functionality of a garden means a little planning will reap rewards especially if you are brave with design.
"Place tables and chairs where you are likely to capture the light for the day. Paint your shed in a bright, breezy non "preservative" style finish - there's a great variety of colours available. Always paint your walls.
"The garden is generally conceived as an oasis from busy life so a painted wall is like going on holidays as it also serves to reflect colour or contrast the plant life. Consider burnt orange with a beautiful black stemmed clematis and you've a living wall paper! Or a striking outdoor tile; imagine a lovely Moroccan themed wall tile to transport you.
"Mirrors on outdoor walls are brilliant for gardens with difficult light aspects and for smaller gardens, particularly if bamboo is planted in front of them, as it creates a great illusion of space and light.
"Night time lighting is also a simple, wonderful addition for gardens all year round and solar powered too. Big carnival lights are very popular and brightly covered paper lanterns give a party mood and the feeling of being at a fete.
"A hammock or hanging feature, again all in a bright pop of colour, suggests holiday if you have the space, while outdoor candles and hanging Moroccan lanterns on a mature tree are divine.
"If you're lucky enough to have rear access it can be one of the best things to add a wee bit to, treat your side gate like a front door or find a brilliant salvage piece to add great visual romance. Or an easy exit!"