Category Archives: Outdoor

Minimalist Designs For A Relaxing Garden

small-gardenMinimalism is perhaps the most definitive design style and philosophy of the last 25 years. The fact that it has endured so long is remarkable considering the extraordinary pace with which fashions, styles and trends have come and gone in the same period.

There is something about minimalism that is profoundly beautiful and captivating; in your garden, a minimalist design can make a very strong statement and leave a lasting impression.

So, I’ll just plant one tree then

No. Well, yes… sort of. Not one tree, one theme. A good design conveys serenity and arranging your garden so that things everywhere aren’t jumping out at you, competing for your attention.

If, for example you have a row along a fence line, try to imagine just one species of bush repeated in a geometrical pattern (zig-zag, diamond, etc.) along the entire line. Each bush or hedge should be spaced so that it has its own empty space around it, promoting contemplation and appreciation of each single plant for what it is. Each plant should, of course, be similarly sized and shaped to its neighbour.

A central relaxation area

There’s no point in creating an environment if you can’t enjoy it. A central deck on a low wooden or stone base is the obvious choice for arranging suitably simple, monotone outdoor furniture. Nothing wrought or elaborate, just simple comfortable furniture arranged around a low rectangular wood or stone table where you can imagine yourself lazing away on a sunny afternoon.

If you’re building a path from the deck to your home, use the same material that you used for the deck and refrain from adding fancy linings and whatnot. Your path does not have to be dull, however; you could add interest by adding square or rectangular ponds beside or under the path along the route to your home.

Other plants and trees

Large, rectangular areas of tall, swaying grass species are very good additions to a simple, harmonious garden style. They will occupy your line of sight when lying or sitting on your sun lounger, and there’s that soft rustling sound that emanates in the wind that is music to the busy, embattled city soul. Grasses are not necessarily spectacular in themselves, but they do provide sweeping areas of uniform colours that evolve with the seasons and when they flower, so the overall effect is by no means static.

Low, deciduous trees that are not overbearing can provide that touch of contrast and irregularity of nature in your otherwise neatly tamed garden. Perhaps a dogwood species with lovely red and golden autumn leaves repeated two or three times around your garden can give you that one final dimension that you can add in order to bestow it with instant appeal and lasting charm.

There’s really no need for little more beyond these simple ideas and techniques to create an ambience that is decidedly unique, and thoroughly refined and enjoyable. There are other takes on the minimalist style, naturally, but the underlying principles are always the same: monotones, regular geometry, repetition and harmony.

Dave Bower is an avid gardener and his love of plants is only matched by his love of writing about his passion and helping people pursue their love of gardening. Whether he’s building a fire pit or buying new swing seat cushions he’s always in his element.

Tricks to Steal From the World’s Most Beautiful Gardens

Now that summer is here, many of us are headed outdoors, armed with shovels and gardening gloves, ready to start coaxing plants and flowers from the earth. If you don’t quite have a green thumb and need a few tips to turn your yard space around, why not take your advice from some of the most beautiful gardens in the world? You may not have the budget to re-create the Ciudad Jardin in Gran Canaria (which you can see here), the Alhambra Gardens in Spain or the Ethnobotanic Garden of Oaxaca in Mexico (photos of the garden are at this site), but you can still create an amazing outdoor space if you follow some of the advice that top gardeners use:

1) Be willing to break the rules.

Have you ever seen the profusion of tulips outside the Library of Congress? The trick there is that gardeners break the rules. Read any bulb instructions or ask any nursery, and they will tell you to space the bulbs apart. The gardeners at the Library of Congress, however, over-plant tulips, putting several bulbs where most gardeners would put one. The result? A lush field of color. Your garden should be a place to try new things and to break a few rules. Experiment a little and don’t worry about following a specific guide.

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2) Pay attention to shapes and patterns.

Some of the most beautiful gardens in the world don’t even have a huge profusion of flowers and plants. What they do have is structure. The top gardeners in the world use hedges, bridges, and other structures to create shapes and create visual interest. The Het Loo garden in the Netherlands, for example, uses intricate hedges and garden paths to create geometric shapes. The garden of Powis Castle in Wales is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and it uses carefully trimmed and shaped plants as well as ornate statues and terraces to create a beautiful tableau. Zen gardens often use precise gravel paths to lend shape and visual interest to a space.

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To recreate this same attention to structure in your own garden, start by taking photos of the space you have. Look for naturally occurring shapes and plants; consider ways you can incorporate them into a tidy whole. Use gardening software or a piece of paper and pen to make a plan for your garden.

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3) Choose one idea.

The most beautiful gardens in the world include fairyland-like elaborate forests, zen gardens, and everything in between. Take a look at garden styles and choose one that appeals to you. That said, avoid trying lots of different styles in one small space. If you opt for a country-feel herb garden, stick with that style rather than also trying to have a Japanese-style minimalist space.

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4) Pay attention to your house and surroundings.

They are part of your garden, too. Do you see the city in the distance from your yard? You need to consider how to make that view part of your garden (or how to shield it from view using a privacy screen). Is your house white or brick? If so, you can add vines or plenty of greenery by the house to play up the color.

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5) Use color and light.

When you decorate the interior of your home, you can use lighting and color to transform a simple room into something really special, and the same is true of your outdoor space. Many of the most beautiful gardens in the world make use of beautiful color to contrast with the green of hedges and grasses. The Portland Japanese Garden in Washington Park, for example, makes use of vivid reds and overhanging gnarled trees that provide shade. The result is an unearthly fairyland-like atmosphere. Central Park in New York City has overhanging trees along walking paths. In the autumn, these trees turn beautiful yellows and reds and visitors can sit under the trees to view the colors.

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You can create some of the same effect in your own garden by choosing colorful plants. If you have a small garden, consider a modest palette of one or two colors – these can create a bigger and more dramatic impact than a confusion of colors. Don’t forget to consider autumn colors, as well. A tree that turns a vibrant shade in the fall will help you enjoy your outdoor space for an extra season.
For lighting, consider a shady tree or an umbrella to create some shadows. You can also buy some garden lights to make your space look beautiful in the evenings. HGTV has a handy guide to choosing the right garden lighting.
Are you inspired yet? If not, check out some of the most beautiful gardens in the world here or at this site. You may just find a few more ideas you can bring into your own green space.

7 Cool Things You Can Move Indoors if You Live in an Apartment or Condo

Now that beautiful weather has arrived, homeowners are out in droves, working on their gardens and enjoying their yards. So what’s an urban renter to do? Believe it or not, there are some great ways to bring the coolest parts of the outdoors inside:

1) Garden

Many indoor gardens are a little sad, with a few scattered pots placed here and there in spots of sun. It doesn’t have to be that way. The best indoor gardens are designed with innovative containers and plenty of space. Need some inspiration? Check out the awe-inspiring indoor gardens here and here to get some ideas for your own green space. The most gorgeous indoor gardens have a few things in common: they are bold and create a sizeable green area. Rather than having a few smaller plants around, consider dedicating an entire space to your garden. If you live in a small space consider a wall garden, which allows you to transform a sunny wall area into a living work of art. You can find more inspiration here.

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2) Compost

You don’t have to have a green space to go green. Indoor composting has come a long way and today you can opt for special containers that trap odors and prevent flies. You can also choose vermicomposting. In this type of composting, red wiggler earthworms break down kitchen scraps faster, further eliminating the possibility of odor or pests. To find out more, check out the HGTV guide to indoor composting here.

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3) Playhouses and tents

Kids love them, but you don’t need a rolling green to set them up. Many small sheds, playhouses, tents, playground equipment and other fun playthings for the great outdoors can be set up inside as well. Just be sure to read the set-up instructions to ensure that the item is safe to set up inside. If you need some ideas, this Pinterest user has tons of cool indoor tent ideas to browse. Look for non-toxic paints and materials when choosing your playhouses and playground equipment. Some companies make outdoor play equipment and playhouses just for indoor use, so the process of finding safe products is easier. For example, check out the selection at Cedar Works here . You can even build tree houses indoors. Browse the cool indoor tree house ideas at the Kidsomania blog.

4) Grill

An outdoor grill is amazing for making veggies and just about any food taste better, but you don’t need a patio or yard to grill. Of course, outdoor grills cannot be used indoors – they are a fire hazard and produce dangerous toxins. However, there are a number of indoor grilling options that can help you make those great summery BBQ dishes you love. There are contact grills as well as freestanding or open grills that sit on your countertop and more closely mimic the feel of traditional grilling. If you really love grilling year-round there are cooktops that come with built-in grilling surfaces. There are also kitchen appliances that act as smokers and rotisseries and can mimic the food you get from a barbecue. If you don’t want to invest a lot, your oven’s broiler setting and a good grill pan can help you cook your favorite outdoor dishes inside.

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5) Garden furniture

Outdoor furniture indoors? It’s actually a well-kept interior designer secret. Patio furniture is a fraction of the price of a sofa or couch, is easy to move around for cleaning, and is practically indestructible. If you have a tiny patio or balcony attached to your condo or apartment, it’s a snap to move outdoor furniture outside in the summer. Even if you don’t, outdoor furniture is a great option for anyone on a budget and for anyone who has kids and pets. Patio furniture today is often quite stylish and comfortable, so you’re not sacrificing anything. If you wait until later in the summer to buy, you’ll save even more.

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6) Trees

Love the idea of curling up with a book under the leafy canvas of a tree? Love the look of tree-lined streets? Believe it or not, you can bring trees indoors – and not just at the end of the year, when the holidays come. Container trees look great and if you opt for citrus trees you can enjoy a great scent and even lemons for your meals. Gardenista has a great guide to indoor citrus trees here and HubPages has a list of great trees to plant indoors here.

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7) Hammocks

Can anything compare to swinging in a hammock on a summery day, a good book and a glass of lemonade by your side? You don’t have to live in a green area to enjoy this. There are plenty of hammock solutions for indoors. If you want a combination of bed and hammock, for example, the Floating Bed company has a range of products here. If you want a more traditional hammock,  you will generally need two sturdy walls to hang your hammock. You can get some ideas here.

Companies are already finding new ways to bring the outdoors in. For example, Philips has crafted an urban beehive design (seen at this site) which would potentially allow urbanites to make honey indoors. While we’re not quite there yet, there are plenty of ways to transform your space into something gorgeous – even without a yard.

The inspiration and ideas for this post is courtesy of Woollypocket.com and Sleepersinseattle.com

Protecting Your Home (and Yourself) from Accidents and Lawsuits

Your home may be your castle, but it can also be a reason for lawsuits. If a visitor – or even, in some cases, a trespasser – is injured on your property, you may end up facing a costly legal battle. In addition to the hassle and stress of the suit, you could find your insurance costs increasing. Luckily, there are several fixes that can help keep you – and your home – safer:

1) Invest in good lighting. Good lighting deters vandals, trespassers, and burglars. It also ensures that when you (or guests) are approaching your door at night, the property is lit well enough to prevent any trip and fall injuries. Outdoor lighting that is motion-sensitive is especially a good choice if you are worried about trespassers. Timers are also a great deterrent if you travel often. The DIY Network has tips on how to install lighting yourself.

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2) Keep your property clear of snow and ice. Each winter, many emergency room visits are caused by slips and falls on the ice. In addition, each year thousands of homeowners are seriously injured when trying to clear snow and ice from their properties themselves and spend a lot on grounds care companies. Increasingly, homeowners are investing in outdoor ground heating for this reason. Heated walkways and driveways clear every trace of snow and ice automatically, saving you back-breaking work and ensuring that your walkways and driveways stay clear all winter long.

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3) Keep plant life under control. Overhanging branches and tall grass are a risk for yourself and for visitors. Keep your garden trimmed back and ensure that walkways, especially, are clear of straggling plants that can trip you up.

4) Secure pool and water areas carefully. Ponds and pools are attractive to children and if a child wanders into your yard, he or she could be seriously or injured in an unsupervised pool. Pools and ponds should be surrounded by fences that have self-locking gates. For added protection, you may want to install a motion alarm that alerts you if you have an intruder in the area.

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5) Do a safety walk-through regularly. Regularly check your property for hazards that could be a risk for yourself or others. There are good online checklists that can help you notice and fix any hazards before they become a problem.

Keeping your property safer can make your home safer for your family and for anyone who visits your home. A little forethought can help prevent tragedy and costly legal action, so consider: how can you make your home a little safer today?

How to Use Your Yard Year-Round

If you’re not using your yard all year long and you live in a four-season climate, you probably are wasting some of your home’s value. The reality is, you can transform your garden into a year-round point of interest, if you:

1) Set up a cookout area that works year-round. If you love to barbeque, you don’t have to save it just for the summer months. Setting up a fire pit or a barbecue area allows you to cook outside on milder winter days. You will need to ensure that you store fuel properly and that you keep any barbecue covered so it won’t rust. Having fresh-from-the-grill meals in the dead of winter can make the little bit of effort worth it, though.

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2) Use heated walkways and driveways to keep your property safe and functional year-round. One reason why many homeowners essentially forget about their garden during the winter months is because snow removal is such a pain. You may shovel out your driveway to get the car out, but that may be it. Not only is that a terrible waste, but it is also potentially dangerous. Not removing snow and ice from all walking areas around your home can mean a nasty slip and fall accident – or an expensive lawsuit. Heated walkways and driveways are a simple solution. Underground heating ensures that every trace of snow and ice melts from your walkways and driveways, so you can easily get around your garden all winter long. Heated driveways and walkways also save you a lot of time, since they melt snow and ice automatically.

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3) Invest in accessories that are attractive year-round. Heated birth baths, bird feeders, stone statues, and interesting fences or other garden accessories can look great, even in the winter, and can make your garden more appealing.

4) When buying plants for your garden, consider how they will look during every season. Buy some trees or shrubs that turn bright colors in the autumn and look for evergreens that will add a touch of color and some shape during the dead of winter. There are plenty of websites that can give you some inspiration for a winter garden.

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Getting outdoors during the winter is important. It gives you a dose of Vitamin D and some much-needed fresh air. If you have a garden, you may as well enjoy it year-round. Even if you don’t live in a mild climate, you can get the most from your space with a little creative thinking.