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  • James Treble

Stepping Outdoors


As the days get longer and a little warmer, we dare to leave the windows open to allow fresh air in and the good vibes of sunny days. This winter felt colder then others I remember and maybe like me, you too are looking forward to stepping out and relaxing outdoors. Whether you have a small balcony or a large yard, this is the perfect time to prepare our outdoor areas for the warmer season: re-pot or new plants, update the garden furniture, ideas for shading...

Just a few days ago I forced myself to get a day off, it was my birthday after all, and I went for a short drive out of central Sydney. We stopped for lunch at the Newport Arms, an old haunt of mine, overlooking the beautiful waters of Pittwater inlet, and I took great inspiration from the beautiful tiered paved outdoor areas. Here are some thoughts...

The size of your outdoor area will dictate how big the plants you plan to add should be. Expert advice will direct you towards the right choice of tree, as its roots can negatively affect the surrounding area and maybe even the foundations of your home. Native trees are the strongest to thrive in our climates especially as we are going through some very dry times, however depending on its placement, a deciduous plant will provide the dual purpose of shading you from the strong sun & heat in summer but allow warmth through when the leaves fall, in winter. Medium height brushes are great for dividing a wide paved area and creating separate gathering pockets, without closing in or occluding the view, especially if this is good. Flowering plants are mostly seasonal and should be planted asap as these will bloom and expand at the first hint of springtime. For the best result layer these against green and leafy plants or add them to wall and ceiling baskets.

On paved areas, trees will benefit by large openings in the ground to allow enough water through. Edging will help keep the soil from being washed out whilst adding an aesthetic detail. Short brushes, once again will help define the areas and soften the hard appearance of paved surfaces, and don’t forget the power of mulch, it looks and smells great, it adds nutrients back into the ground, and most importantly it provides a protective layer to keep moisture in and around the plants, saving the amount of water you need to use.

Potts are the perfect way to add green areas to paved outdoor spaces and balconies. Depending on the space you have, large pots will allow for small trees, great for adding shade to sitting areas or walls; large pots look best when layered in groups with smaller ones, creating interesting layers and luscious areas. For very small areas plants in pots will help in adding a green feel when placed on shelves, tables or securely hooked on handrails, and there are many cost effective vertical garden systems that you can find in your local nursery of hardware store, and you know I LOVE supporting local businesses.

The furniture you choose for your outdoor areas has to be of a size that fits the space you have, as scale is always important, and it should be suited to the number of people you wish or need to accommodate for that celebration or simple Sunday morning brunch. You can add a few extra guests better to a round table than to a square one, however a rectangular table will pair well with a bench and allow you to squeeze in one more person more easily than squeezing in an extra chair. Armchairs, long chairs and benches can be added to create separate seating and relaxing areas to your outdoors, but refrain from adding too much furniture if this means overcrowding the space. The style of furniture you go for depends on your taste and, not lastly, on the character of your home, but don't be tempted to buy cheap as this will not last long out in the harsh Australian weather, force you too soon buy some more, wasting your valuable budget, and creating unnecessary landfill.

On hot days you'll want to go outdoors to sit in the shade and enjoy the breeze. Perfect for a relaxing snooze, reading a book or sipping a drink with friends, the canopy of a large tree will offer shade and that uplifting contact with nature. Umbrellas, sails and cane canopies are all options you should consider to achieve shade and you should look to one over another based on the style and atmosphere you want to achieve. Can you add a water feature? Not only does this help with cooling down the area, but the soothing sound of water adds another relaxing element to your outdoor experience, it brings birds, and maybe if its big enough, some fish.

If you're considering adding paving, be aware that water will accumulate there on rainy days, so its flow should be cleverly directed, and collected or disposed of, so to not damage yours or others' property. Depending on how small or large your outdoor area is, the look you can create are endless, and looking around your neighbourhood, online or in magazines will give you inspiring ideas. But whichever look you decide to go for, my foremost tips are:

  • organise and style it so it's comfortable to use, not just beautiful

  • add size appropriate furniture, do not overcrowd

  • make it feel luscious and inviting with plants of different heights

  • enjoy the sunlight, but prepare shaded areas.

James Treble is an ambassador for Planet Ark and firmly believes in sensible purchasing, recycling and creative re-purposing. James has three decades of accumulated experience in the Building Industry, Real Estate and Interior Design and regularly shares his knowledge and experience in adding value to properties through effective design & styling. Watch his free videos on YouTube, and follow him on Facebook and Instagram for more free information.

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