These days, more and more of us have minimal outside space. In many newer suburban houses, you might be lucky to have just a courtyard or patio and if you live in an apartment, a balcony. With a bit of creative thinking, though, we can make great use of whatever small space we have.
1 Admire your blossoms from the comfort of your garden sofa
I love movies which show outdoor porch living in America. Rocking chairs and old couches set under the shade of a covered verandah set the scene for relaxing times watching the world go by. And we can have a hint of this at home! Moving indoor furniture outside adds a hint of the bohemia to a place. So rather than doubling up on furniture, pick your comfy two-seater and move it out to the sun!
Nothing beats festoon lighting when it comes to outdoor scene setting. Perfect for use on a balcony or verandah like mine, on rooftop gardens or decorating the deck, these swags of light bulbs are durable, reliable and versatile. They will help create a tranquil or natural mood and can be left outdoors in all seasons. Draped through trees or framing entryways, these lights are perfect for weddings, birthday parties and other gatherings. Ideal for adding a cosy atmosphere or a charming and festive accent, or just illuminating that casual balcony or rooftop BBQ under the stars.
3 Homegrown flower and foliage table arrangements
It's always fun from spring to early autumn to take a trip through the beds and borders, snipping bits of foliage or stems of flowers which are looking good at that moment. Whether it's the simplest dandelion or daisy, or more dramatic foxglove, allium or ferns, a collection of homegrown botanicals set in small milk bottles or large glass jars will really set off an outdoor dining table.
4 Lay down an old Persian carpet or rug outside
A recent trend in outdoor design and garden styling has seen rugs brought from inside the house to outside, laid on wooden decking and terrace. It can create or add to a bohemian look. We have a covered deck and use some Persian rugs outdoors during the summer months.
These style of rugs were often made for nomads and often depicted garden scenes. Some existed on clay floors. So if kept out of the sun and the rain, they may transform your garden space for an event or the summer season.
New outdoor rugs in contemporary patterns are available and are constructed with a backing material of either polypropylene or another synthetic fiber which helps reduce damage from water, bugs and sunlight
5 Create a vertical garden
Where space is limited or a dramatic effect is required, create a vertical garden. These 'green walls' exist in various forms. The principle is not new and ranges from the traditional - a garden made of climbing plants such as vines, roses or clematis, which grows upward from a base in the soil using a supporting trellis or network of wires - to a more contemporary idea, which involves modular systems being planted with ornamental or edible species and being regularly watered and fed by means of an automated irrigation and feeding system.
Ladder allotments are like fold-out ladders, with each step acting as a shelf to hold plants, ideal against a sunny wall for growing herbs and salads. They work very well if you don't have much space and wish to maximise your areas to grow and display plants. And if you don't have a lot of ground space to place a ladder, why not try some garden shelving or tiered planters. Try and mount shelving to a brick wall as wooden fencing will struggle to handle the weight.
7 Bring your indoor plants outside now for a houseplant holiday
We've enjoyed great weather recently and many of us have unexpected time on our hands. The temperature outside is rapidly warming so perhaps it's time to consider moving your houseplants gradually outside for a seasonal break? Indoor plants really enjoy the fresh air, sunlight and rain of the outdoors. The weather from now through the end of August should provide optimal growing conditions. But gradually is key. Houseplants can go into shock if you suddenly move them outside. The stress of this move could potentially lead to plant death, so it's important to acclimatise them.
Start with hardening them by moving them out just during the day. And place them where they won't receive the full brunt of the sun. Too much sunlight can cause your houseplant to go into shock and the sun can burn the delicate leaves. So start your plant off in a shady spot where it gets sun, but not directly. Even light breezes will dry out your plants so you'll need to water them more often, perhaps even once a day.
Hanging baskets are a traditional suburban home decorative attachment which our near neighbours have developed into a folk art form. Throughout the UK, they feature heavily, decorating railway stations and fringing establishments. I lived for a few years on Kensington Church Street in Notting Hill and the local pub, The Churchill Arms, is the biggest tourist attraction in the area as it's decked out with dozens of these floral creations. So what are they?
Simply put, they're a wire container made to resemble a basket which hold colourful plants, hung up for decoration or for greenhouse cultivation.
9 Grow veg
Where space is limited, use hanging baskets - wonderful for trailing tomatoes such as Hundreds and Thousands and bushy tomatoes, for example, Tumbler or you could try trailing sweet peppers - all of which look ornamental and taste great. Strawberry pots allow you to stuff their pockets with plantlets which will give juicy fruits later in the summer. Even a strip of guttering will host shallow growing plants such as lettuce.
What's suitable for the small patio or balcony? If you are very restricted in space, stick to smaller, more manageable crops such as herbs, salad leaves, spring onions, radishes or very compact tomatoes, such as Red Robin. Some veg that you would think are too big for small spaces are available in compact sizes, specially bred for container growing.
Aubergines such as Ophelia and Baby Belle are dwarf versions that give you tasty baby sized fruit. Similarly, there are dwarf varieties for courgettes, cucumbers, French beans, broad beans, even squash. And there's nothing to stop you from having fruit trees either - as long as you have a good sunny and preferably sheltered spot, you can grow dwarf self-fertile apples, cherries, peaches and pears.
10 Fold-away furniture
Many contemporary townhouses and apartments don't enjoy much storage space, so begin to think about your outdoor furnishings as temporary features and plan a set-up as if you were arranging a beach trip. Begin to consider fold-away furniture. If you want to be able to sit out in your garden and have room for entertaining guests, fold-away furniture is a good idea - it helps reduce clutter and it's handy for storing away through our chillier months.