Cost Effective Ways to Create an Attractive Patio and Garden for Springtime

“Life begins the day you start a garden”

Chinese Proverb

Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels

Last week I set the tone for preparing your backyard, patios and other outdoor spaces for the advent of spring. Here in southern California we are in full spring bloom, and now it’s time to share helpful techniques for beautifying your outdoor lifestyle.  And why not, it is a wonderful extension to your indoor living, and what a great way to increase your total living space even if it’s seasonal.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” 

Audrey Hepburn

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels

Having benefited from years of being an interior designer, I now have extended my reach to add value to your outdoor spaces, and trust me, there are many vignettes where you can touch with plantings, vivid colors, and comfortable seating.  It seems like we’re finally approaching the time when we can get back to enjoying life by entertaining family, friends and neighbors, and with that I want to prep you on how to spruce up your porches, patios, gardens, walkways, etc.  Inasmuch as I have been involved with many high-end projects over my career, I always trend toward the most cost-effective solutions because that’s how I like to control costs when it comes to my own design.

To begin, this is my first, in a series of budget friendly ideas to enhance your outdoor comfort and style:

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels
  • How about umbrellas.  Talk about fast inventory—I recommend purchasing before the season is fully upon us or the stores will only have limited choices of colors and styles.  For example, you might want a tilt umbrella and can’t find one because they get snapped up right away.  Overall, umbrellas make your outdoors feel instantly chic.  So many choices out there right now.  
  • Try an oversized ottoman in front of an outdoor sofa or chair.  A larger ottoman isn’t just great for serving drinks and appetizers, it can also function as extra seating when needed.
When choosing your plantings, be sure to select those most appropriate to your growing and sun zone. Photo by Cottonbro on Pexels
  • The more plants and greenery the better.  Breathe new life into your patio with potted plants.  I love pots in neutral colors, but I actually prefer the pops of color in blue and teal.  In the heat of summer, those colors will visibly cool the temperature.  Think of the summer heat, I know we’re not there yet.  Think of nature for your inspiration, blues, lime greens, and teals can guide you into a pleasing palette.  If you get the chance during the summer months, drive around and look at outdoor spaces that have warm colors (reds) versus cool colors (blues and teals) and you’ll see the difference immediately.  Warm colors are great for fall and winter, but those cool colors are the best for the spring and summer months.
  • Preppy trends are back.  If you have cottage or country style, embrace your preppy side by opting for gingham cushions to brighten up your furniture.  What I’m seeing as a trend for the gingham patterns is a more muted palette.  Accent with throw pillows in the same color hues but different patterns to give it some interest.
Paper lanterns come in all sizes and shapes, so find the ones that best suit your purpose, and some are even waterproof. Photo by Griffin Wooldridge on Pexels
  • Hang paper lanterns.  Enjoy an evening outdoors by illuminating your space with paper lanterns—the absolute rage right now.  Layer them with candles on your outdoor dining table to make your patio an oasis.  Remember to take them in if the weather turns.
Butterfly wall art I ordered from Amazon
  • Find some outdoor accessories.  Yes, that’s right.  There is wonderful wall-art, garden stacking, lanterns, and even fountains.  They will give your outdoor living space more layers. 
  • Use a patterned stool.  A garden stool can be used to rest drinks or double as extra seating in a pinch.  I have used garden stools for years and every color and pattern can be found.
Your patio or porch should be a useful extension of your indoor living space. Photo by Marta Wave on Pexels
  • Purchase and maintain an all-weather patio set.  Durable furniture (think wicker) will carry you through season after season, especially if you live in rainy areas.  We had two lovely sets on our front porch at our home in Portland, Oregon.  Very easy to take care of, and for added enjoyment, you can change out the cushions and pillows for each season.  Make sure your fabric is weather-proof especially during the winter months.  
  • Add a flower box to a fence or railing.  There are wonderful choices at your local garden store and online.  If you’ve had it with the drab fence or railing, turn them into something special with an inexpensive flower box.
  • Go big with pillows—oversized pillows can hide any unforgiving marks or nicks in your outdoor furniture, and they are ever so comfortable.  Remember when placing outdoor pillows, you’ll likely want them to be in the same shades and/or patterns to bring the space together.  First pattern and color of your pillows is easy, coordinating many pillows is a little trickier.  Try different sizes and complimenting patterns and colors, takes a little bit more work and thought and maybe some returns to get it right, but you’ll be pleased with the outcome.  
  • Stick with a theme—it can be whatever you desire and take the cues from the interior of your home, then carry it outdoors.  You’ll want to create a comfortable, seamless and cohesive space.

“I returned to my front porch to find a place where the air smells sweeter

 and the sun feels warmer than at any other bend in life’s long road”

John Sarris

Grow your patio with pavers.  Lay stone tiles next to an existing deck or grassy area to expand more useable space.  Neutral stone pavers create the perfect canvas for all styles.  Leave them bare or cover partially with an outdoor rug.  I love outdoor rugs to give a space its own design.  I will use one or more for each designed space depending on size of your patio or deck.

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels
  • Create an herb garden in either pots, raised beds, or a wall garden (big trend for the younger crowd). Are you up for a challenge to keep up with the younger crowd?  The wall garden is a bit more labor intensive, but oh so attractive.
Wall gardens are the rage because they are such great space savers and easy to maintain. Photo by Mark Neal on Pexels
  • Put a garden bench to work.  Think of a gardening table as a multi-use station for all your backyard duties, from repotting plants to serving up food and drinks.  Paint it a bright color and add hooks for further utility.  My BoomerGuy made me such a bench when we lived in Palm Desert for all my herbs. Now we can go purchase them in kit form and they’re so easy to put together.

“Garden as though you will live forever”

William Kent

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels
  • Think of your entertaining space as an extension of your interior.  There are so many choices out there for comfortable living…outdoor sofas and love seats, chairs, tables, benches, garden stools, outdoor rugs, umbrellas and more.  You can create an outdoor space into an extension that’s party-ready within just a few hours.  In our case, it might take several weeks only because we’re getting a bit older.  Did I really say that?   Get ready for summer with some good old fashioned cook-outs.  
My BoomerGuy and I make the best grilled hamburgers using 100% grass fed beef molded with diced onions and blue cheese. Photo by Jens Mahnke on Pexels

My BoomerGuy and I are having our first cookout of the season this Saturday with family, and it will be the first official cookout since the beginning of the pandemic.  We haven’t seen our niece and her husband in over a year, and it will be wonderful to recapture that time.

Make your space “outdoor special,” make it yours, and enjoy the heck out of this upcoming spring and summer season.  We’ve all been through a lot, and we deserve to have some wonderful times this coming season.  

“Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes too.”


Special note:  Good Housekeeping supplied some of the content and tips for this blog.  Over the years, we applied many of these ideas to the homes we’ve lived in across the country with our gardens, patios, front porches and spaces in between.  Just think recycle, how you can recreate an existing space with little to no effort by repurposing many of your belongings.  Everything can use a new spin on it.  

And don’t forget those cuttings–what a great way to repurpose. Photo by Gary Barnes on Pexels

Also, be sure to shop now as most of the stores start moving garden and patio items out in the June/July timeframe to make way for their fall and winter products.  The stores in which I do my shopping have all told me they will not be getting any additional inventory, so what is on the shelf now may not be there tomorrow.   If you need inspiration, take a few moments and walk through your favorite garden center or nursery and get ready to be overwhelmed.  Some even have patio vignettes set up to help entice you to spend more money. Ha.  And if you really want to go the extra mile, visit Martha Stewart and her gardening and outdoor concepts—this will take you to a whole new level.  So go forth and be seasonally creative.

More tips will follow in our upcoming blogs, in the meantime, enjoy your spring fling.

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