COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER: Celebrate summer, add an outdoor room

The middle of July means you should celebrate summer by moving to the fresh air and adding an outdoor room. You don’t need a building permit, contractor or big budget. Adding an outdoor room is as simple as choosing a theme and furnishing with the new products, new plants and new ideas that will turn your outdoors into living space.

New fabrics,

furnishings and

products that take

the weather

Start with the waterproof fabrics that can turn even old patio furniture into a comfy and colorful outdoor lounge. Cushions, table cloths and umbrellas made from Sunbrella outdoor fabric won’t mold, mildew or hold moisture after a rain. Giant market umbrellas protect large outdoor spaces from too much sun but in our climate they also protect from too much rain.

New products:

Fire is so cool,

water features hot

Nothing draws a group like the warm glow of a fire and the latest fire pits are not only economical but ecological as well. Even the smallest patio or deck can fit a tiny but toasty fit pit and summer nights were made for drinking wine, roasting marshmallows or telling ghost stories – all inspired by the flick of a gas switch. Turn off the computers and turn on the fire. Your outdoor family room will be hosting plenty of warm memories. Water features have also become more efficient and easier to add to your outdoor space. From tabletop fountains to ponds-in-a-pot, the sound and sight of water will calm even the most savage week as you relax and unwind in your soothing outdoor room.

Living walls – lacey curtains

Creating the walls of your outdoor room is what brings privacy, peace and plants to the outdoor space. For large rooms using evergreens like Italian cypress, tall and narrow junipers and even fast-growing hedges can provide almost instant screening. But for smaller-scale environments look to the creative use of vines and potted plants.

One of my favorite ways to build a living wall is to think of adding flowering vines as a gardener’s version of lace curtains. Building a pergola or support system alongside a patio or deck for a clematis or akebia vine provides shade and privacy in the summer, but allows for the rays of the winter sun to warm the outdoor living space.

Any plant that loses foliage during the winter months is called “deciduous” and in our climate these leafless winter plants are especially practical. Small leaf Japanese maples come in hundreds of varieties and do well in pots you can arrange along the outer edges of you outdoor room. I’ll be showing my favorite maple, the Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’ or coral bark maple, as a living screen for any outdoor room. The rich, coral bark makes this maple a winter standout, but pot up this colorful maple into a shiny, chocolate-colored container and you have a perfectly-behaved garden diva that demands the spotlight without demanding maintenance. I can’t think of a better accent for an outdoor garden room – unless you prefer a more Zen experience and go with bamboo, or want a traditional English Garden look and choose clipped boxwood. Your plant choice should reflect the style of your garden room. Sounds like it’s time to choose an outdoor theme:

Decorating Themes for Your Outdoor Room: From Old World

to New Age

Classic Style

If your home is traditional or you dream of English country gardens or warm Tuscan villas, then choosing a more classic style will be the way to feather your outdoor nest. Use outdoor artwork with an aviary theme like bird prints, solid or striped fabrics and accents of iron or Old World character. Using tidy, sheared or compact plant material like boxwood complements the classic garden style. For a more English or country look use potted roses, mixed perennials in containers and drifts of flowering vines.

New World Zen

If contemporary is your crush then cool down with the soothing sounds and colors of a more Eastern influence. Bamboo in pots for garden walls, soothing mats underfoot and furniture with clean lines and a minimalist open feeling will lend to your inner zen. Use uplighting at the base of nearby trees and floating lights in your water garden and for the ultimate in outdoor safety, go with battery-powered candles.

Creating an outdoor room can be a fun summer project and one that can add a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site,

Copyright for this

column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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