Never before has our outdoor living space been more important to us

Never before has our outdoor living space been more important to us
The style and feel of your garden should marry the style of your interior to really accentuate that "outdoor room" experience. Picture: iStock

Garden centres and hardware stores are allowed to re-open next week provided they can allow for correct physical distancing. Peter Dowdall has advice on what to look out for

May can still throw us a few chilly surprises and frosty mornings and the old saying “Ne’er cast a clout 'til May be out” reminds us not to be too quick to pack away the winter clothes and head for the shorts and T-shirts.

Now, whilst this doesn’t have much of an impact on my wardrobe as, my summer attire seems to be as constant as my winter look, I do pay attention for my plants and seedlings and they are moved outside carefully and gradually.

We are now halfway through May and heading into what will surely be a long hot summer. We can begin to look to the garden proper and in particular its role as an outdoor room. As we are all confined to the home so much more than most years, never before has this outdoor living space become so important.

Study after study has shown the importance of access to green space and a garden to our mental health. That doesn’t mean that we have to be gardeners and getting down n dirty with the soil to benefit. Simply being in the outside, amongst nature and the fresh air has positive effects on all of us.

How do you maximise your garden space as a living area?

Well, look at your garden as you would any room in the house, and think about what you want from it; how will it flow, what style are you after, will it be for dining alfresco, a play area, a place for studying outdoors perhaps. Much of the living that is done indoors for most of the year can be done outside during the summer months.

Instead of waiting until the heatwave comes and rushing to the garden centre then to come home with the last set of furniture that was available and has three rickety legs and won't withstand wind and rain, make like a boy scout this year and “be prepared”.

Garden centres and hardware stores are allowed to re-open this week provided they can allow for correct physical distancing. My advice is to get down there as soon as you can to see the complete selection of outdoor living products.

Kitting out the garden with some outdoor furniture, a good barbecue, a parasol or two to provide shade and some well-positioned garden lights can utterly transform that outdoor patch and let's face it, very few, if any of us will be going on the foreign holiday this year so why not make the most out of where we are.

Starting off with the style that you are trying to create, again think about indoors. If your house is contemporary or traditional then what you do outside the home should marry in with that.

An uber-modern house will not sit well in amongst a traditional country cottage style garden. One of the ways that you will maintain this continuity between indoors and outdoors is by using similar materials.

If your kitchen flows directly out onto your outdoor seating area then try and keep the transition between the two as seamless as possible. You can do this by making sure there is no level change as you step outside and using the same surface on the floor throughout. Now, maintaining the same level is not always possible, however, the material underfoot is in your control.

Hard landscaping elements such as patios and seating areas should really be the first part of the garden to be constructed but if you haven’t got yours done yet or you are thinking of changing what you have then, I would put it off for now as the chances of a good landscaper being available immediately are nearly zero. Better to put some time and planning into that aspect.

Once you have created that seating area or even once you know what you want to create then you can go in search of furniture and other features to match.

The advantage of going to the local garden centre now, is that you have the choice and this year, you won’t be the person bringing home the leftovers.

Your Questions Answered

Q. I want to do my bit for bumblebees and other wild bees. Could you recommend a low-maintenance, medium-sized shrub or bush? I'd want it as a standalone at the moment but may incorporate some into my hedge next year.

A.There are loads from which to choose. In general look for native plants with as simple a flower as possible.

Double flowers with many ruffled petals which keep the nectar and pollen out of reach of bees aren’t good choices. Instead look for a plant like the beautiful red coloured, ornamental currant, Ribes sanguineum ‘King Edward’. This will work equally as well individually or as part of a hedgerow.

Got a garden question? Email gardenqestions@examiner.ie

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