I awoke this morning to a very unusual sight...blue sky and sunshine. Is it really here? Dare we believe that this is the start of our elusive British summer?
I'm going with the optimistic view that yes, it's here and it's planning on sticking around for a while. But my back garden in Croydon looks dull, dull, dull. With the exception of a freakishly hot two weeks in March, my little patch of green has been battered, blown and soaked to within an inch of its life and the elements have taken their toll. The spring blooms that poked their heads up early have mostly been drowned since, and those that have survived look weary and battle worn. The decking and patio are grimy and weatherbeaten, and the shed and fencing are crying out for some TLC.
I suspect this is the case in hundreds of gardens, both in Croydon and up and down the country... time to get to work injecting some colour and life into our outdoor living space.
Tackling fences and sheds is a lot quicker than it used to be with the advent of affordable spray treatments. Woodstains come in a fantastic array of colours these days which means you can be as adventurous or as traditional as you like. If you think a lilac fence and purple shed might be a bit too adventurous, start with a predominantly 'safe' green or mahogany shade, but add interest with contrasting or complimentary colours for the shed door, fence posts or garden gate.
Metal garden furniture or features such as posts or lanterns, even BBQ's, can be transformed with a couple of cans of Hammerite, or Plastikote for plastic furniture and plain, dull plant pots. With a choice of literally dozens of shades you can be as discreetly artistic or as wild and whacky as your imagination permits. Brickwork can also now be pretty much any colour you choose. Depending on the position and purpose of a wall you can use a darker shade to help it recede into the background, or a white or cream finish to open up the space and offer a clear backdrop for wall mounted baskets, or to try some wall art on. You can buy specialist outdoor canvasses, or why not pick up a selection of mirrors from charity shops, car boots etc and make a feature of them. The metal wall art that has adorned my living room wall for the past couple of years has had it's day inside now, but will definitely be getting a new lease of life on an outside wall.
Gravelled areas will be looking a bit grim right now. For smallish areas, old gravel can be scooped up and washed. Try mixing some coloured glass gravel with plain white for a stunning, sparkling effect when the sun hits it. Or continue your scheme with coloured slate, pebbles or gravel. Garden centres have a huge range these days, although if you have a large area to cover then it would probably be more cost effective to go to a specialist aggregates supplier.
Dry stone walls, patios, drives and even window sills will benefit from a good blast from a pressure washer. Smaller models can be bought quite reasonably but if you have large or heavily soiled areas it may be worth hiring a high powered machine to really get down to business!
Cleaning up your garden furniture can be as simple as a bowl of soapy water and some elbow grease. Wooden furniture can be sanded and stained or painted. Invest in some new seat cushions, or recover your existing ones. Hang bunting from pergolas, walls or gazebos to brighten up dull areas. You can buy this but it is so simple to make you really don't need to. Simply cut diamond shapes out of old clothes, fabrics, sheets etc. (pinking shears give a great finish) then just fold them over ribbon or bias binding tape and staple in place. For a more weatherproof version invest in a few brightly coloured plastic tablecloths and cut your shapes from these.
Outdoor lighting now comes in all shapes and sizes and can turn your garden into a wonderland on late summer evenings. Stake solar lights into the ground, drape outdoor fairy lights around sheds or parasols, or hang a variety of jars (baby food ones are good) with tea lights in from trees.
And of course you can pay a visit to the garden centre and pick up some instant colour by way of hanging baskets and bedding plants. Get some plant food to make sure they thrive all summer long. Then, pour yourself a long, cool drink, sink back into your sun lounger and enjoy!
If you're lacking the time, skill or inclination to get down to it yourself, Plews Garden Design can bring your ideas to life with their experience and expertise.
Smaller jobs you can't tackle yourself? Covering Croydon and beyond, Man About the House and Garden offers a full maintenance service or just a 'spring clean' after the winter months have taken their toll.