Summer is in full bloom, but are you able to really enjoy the great outdoors? Have you created a haven amidst nature’s bounty to stop and smell the roses? Are you afraid of gardening and sure whatever you try will die? Well take heart, this former black thumb knows a green thing or two!
Decide what you want! Are you wanting to host dinner parties for 6-16? Do you prefer an intimate affair for just two? Or do you want the option of both and have the space to use? The living is up to you; it doesn’t matter what anyone else has or does, but what will suit you. I have a friend who throws cookouts for a handful of us at the complete spur of the moment. I, on the other hand, have about 4-6 parties a year, with a fair amount of planning and usually 20-30 guests. But I also want a place in a garden just for me or me and a friend to sit and talk, watch the sunset, and be.
Figure out your furniture! Do you want wrought iron, all- weather wicker, extruded aluminum, plastic, what appeals? Be sure to get cushions in all- weather fabric; it is a real chore to bring them in and out of the elements. There is a wealth of product on the market today to suit every style and fashion, have some fun with this. Do make it comfortable. I recently sat in an incredible chair at market (I almost didn’t get out of it!) and plan to order four for my patio with an umbrella. The umbrella is a stop gap until I can break loose the investment for a proper wood trellis work with grape vines and jasmine. I don’t want a table out there as I don’t plan to have sit- down dinners.
Ask the pros! I always go to Pikes because I know the folks there are really experts and give me terrific advice. The theory that they are more expensive is generally, I have found, untrue. The fact is you often get healthier plants that will fare better than a rescue from a bargain source. Of course, I can spend days wandering around a nursery, asking questions and finding out how I can incorporate some new beauty into my landscaping. And, if you don’t want to do it yourself, there is a lot of cash- hungry help easily available, from college students on vacation to day laborers waiting for an opportunity. Just ask.
Get creative! While I did have a professional plan done recently, very nominal fee, I am finding that I am only using it as a launch pad, and enjoy making my decisions spur of the moment, incorporating some rare and interesting blooms just seen instead of tried and true. If it dies, then it wasn’t happy and I’ll get something else. No, I don’t do this with investment plants, like Japanese maples! And I do prune and trim dead things out and away, they are not inviting. I find gardening generally relaxing, even weeding (uh oh this may strike some as really whacky.) The idea that I, a former black thumb and killer of even cactus, can actually plant something and be rewarded by its growth is phenomenal.
Be daring! News flash, roses aren’t hard. I swear it. If you go with nearly wild, knockouts, or carpet roses, feed quarterly, spray about the same, and just deadhead (that’s clipping the dead blooms off), you can have brilliant profusions all summer. It is very cool! Don’t be daunted by a plant’s reputation, instead give it a try. Many are easier than you’d ever imagine, requiring a minimum of water and sun and blooming wildly.
Celebrate! Whether it is Mint Juleps in June, or Margaritas in May, or A Wine Tasting in August, the point is to create occasions to share your newfound outdoor paradise with friends, associates, even neighbors. If you provide a theme drink, let everyone else bring a dish to contribute and enjoy.