Last time we took a look at all sorts of cool things you can do, as a complete beginner, to create an outdoor space you, your family and friends will love spending time in. A beautiful and practical space that looks good all year round, even when the weather’s doing its nasty wintry thing. All you need to do is add one or more of our stunning chimineas, a fire pit or even a pizza oven and hey presto, it’s party time. Here’s part two of our DIY garden decor guide.
DIY garden decor – All about arbours and arches
An arch is a pleasing shape to the eye, naturally lovely. And you can buy some amazing garden arches, some already assembled and others easy enough to put together in a few minutes. You can grow climbing plants over them to create a beautiful ‘picture frame’ for the parts of the garden beyond, and choose anything from a traditional rustic look to seriously contemporary designs, usually in either wood or metal.
Stand a garden arch with its back to a wall and you’ve effectively created a ready-made arbour, basically a covered outdoor seat or alcove with the sides and roof made from vegetation, by bushes, shrubs and climbing plants trained over the frame. All you need is abench and it’s ready for rock ‘n’ roll. Imagine an arbour smothered in fragrant climbing roses, tangy nicotina or apple-scented evergreen clematis. Or all three. Heavenly!
You can buy ready-made wooden arbours if you have the cash, a roofed wooden seat with a slatted back and sides. Bowers and arbours make magical seating areas in private, sheltered spots, and can even be arranged in a room-inspired set of four around a patio for extra alfresco entertainment potential.
Using old ‘brown’ furniture outdoors
Old ‘brown’ furniture is about as un-fashionable as it gets right now, which means it’s also really cheap. There’s no reason why you can’t use it outdoors through the summer and store it somewhere dry over winter. There are some wonderful bargains to be had, and maybe you’ll find something a lot more interesting, fun and good value than the usual modern wooden, rattan and plastic furniture sets you get in garden centres.
There’s also loads of great stuff to be found at architectural salvage yards and wood recycling outlets, often great value. How about a series of gorgeous old gnarly scaffolding boards propped up on brick towers to use as a table? Or one scaffolding board screwed onto a couple of segments of tree trunk to create a long bench?
Unusual planters made from discarded items – Re-purposing is cool!
Ceramic planters are rarely cheap, and they tend to look best displayed in groups. Rather thn buy new and potentially drop hundreds of quid in one fell swoop, use imaginative alternatives like pairs of old shoes, boots and wellies planted with annual flowers, or filled with cascades of variegated ivy. You can use old car tyres as planters too, and they look lovely painted in bright colours. Water based eggshell paint usually does the trick, or any odds and ends of old masonry paint you might have lying around.
Buy old mirrors, framed and unframed, at charity shops and hang them on your garden walls to create optical illusions of extra space, mystery and hidden vistas. You can glue unframed ones to the walls using No More Nails glue.
Christmas decorations look stunning all year round. How about decorating an evergreen shrub with silver or golden baubles? The effect isn’t actually that Christmassy when you stick to one colour and use matt rather than shiny baubles.
Why not try hanging an old car tyre off a branch with a rope, then fill it with soil and plant hanging plants in it? You could hang three in a row, at different heights, for a spectacular display. We’ve even seen an old umbrella filled with compost and planted up, hung by the hooked handle from a branch. Amazing! Nasturtiums and lobelia are both great because they flow so beautifully.
Grab an old or cheap new galvanised bucket, make a hole in the bottom and you have a gorgeous planter. The same goes for old prams and wheelbarrows, the contemporary and hugely stylish looking inner drums from washing machines, even an old chest of drawers with the drawers half open and planted with blooms.
If you live near the coast, driftwood makes wonderful garden décor. You could maybe stand three big chunks in a triangle and treat it as sculpture, or fix one chunk into the ground using ready-mix sand and cement (just add water) and stand a planted-up planter on top. The same goes for simple circular chunks of tree trunk, which can be piled on top of each other to dramatic artistic effect. Think totem pole…
Garden heating – Our chimineas and fire pits
Last but not least, how about garden heating? A chiminea or fire pit provides a reliable ways to stay warm while eating, drinking and making merry outdoors. As a general rule clay chimineas are more delicate than cast iron, and require a little more care and maintenance. They come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and designs, everything from traditional Mexican-style designs to sleek contemporary alternatives, and they’re super-simple to use as well as seriously effective.
Patio heaters are also popular, sometimes called mushroom or umbrella heaters. They generate radiant heat and usually burn liquid petroleum gas, LPG, propane or butane gas. Sometimes they run on halogen, sometimes they’re infra-red.
Short wave outdoor heaters have mirror-like reflectors to focus the heat, and short wave halogen heat lamps have a tungsten filament heated by an electric current. Short wave high intensity quartz heaters work like the sun, instantly hot the moment they’re turned on. It makes sense to remember that short wave heaters warm everything within the beam’s range, but not the air itself. And that long and medium wave heat warm the air too, but comparatively poorly.
Last but not least… the magic of colour
Boring concrete or bricks walls? Dull wooden fencing? Tatty shed? They can all be painted in jewel-like colours or subtle hertitage shades, in deepest black as a dramatic foil for your planting, in crisp white for contrast. As long as you have the right paint for the job, it’s a cheap and cheerful way to totally transform your outdoor space into something with a real hint of magic.
Scared of colour and no idea which to choose? We’ll talk about how to use colour outdoors in a future post.
What about your own DIY garden décor ideas?
Have you got any bright ideas about DIY garden décor to share with our readers? If so, let us know by email and we’ll include them.