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Top Ten Outdoor Living Tips

Design and create an outdoor living space that complements your home and lifestyle.
Design and create an outdoor living space that complements your home and lifestyle.
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Harmonize with your house. The style for your outdoor living spaces and garden design must work with the architectural style of your house. Re-create your favorite architectural details in the garden spaces. Consider the smallest details, such as furniture, containers, and the colors of the surface and of the plants. Materials and styles should flow and harmonize together.

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Stick to a continuity of theme, and do not mix and match too much. For example if you are selecting garden furnishings with a certain personality, keep in mind how they with blend with the other features of your outdoor spaces.

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Plan -- look at books and visit gardens to get ideas. Cut out favorite photographs from magazines that show your preferences. Write down your favorite plants, colors and combinations.

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Study your site for sun, shade and soil conditions. Begin with the most functional outdoor spaces near the house, such as areas for eating, cooking, sitting and reading. Think carefully about where you will want/need to have walkways. Ideally, your garden should be an oasis you can walk through for its full enjoyment. Determine where the hot and sunny spaces are and where soil is dry or moist. Plan on improving the soil by adding compost, material to enhance draining, and or adjusting the pH as needed. Be certain that the garden grading is completed prior to any planting.

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View, views, views. It is all about views. If you do not have any, then create them. For example, if you have a long view be sure to accentuate it by not blocking it and by ensuring that your eye travels to it. If you do not have views, they can be created by designing with a sense of depth or even constructing a miniature mountain scene with a dry streambed and small plants with moss and rock.

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When planning paved surfaces, it is a good idea to work the patterns out to scale first to see if there are any obstacles. If using brick, the basket-weave pattern is relatively simple. The slightly more difficult herringbone pattern is also lovely.

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Select plants that grow well in your region, either well-adapted plants or natives. Consider native plants that often thrive in their area of origin. Native plants also tend to be excellent for attracting birds, butterflies, and other beneficial and beautiful pollinators. In addition, most native plants are accustomed to growing in the area and require less irrigation. Avoid plants that become weedy over time.

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Consider incorporating water into your garden. There are many ways for water to add dramatic effects, even to a small space. Water movement is constantly interesting, and water can act as a mirror, reflecting the sky above as well as beautiful aspects of your garden.

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Consider all the five senses in planning your outdoor living spaces. Vision has dominated our sense of the garden, but by adding elements of sound, touch, taste and smell, you will create an even more vivid garden experience. Place herbs near the kitchen for ease of harvesting. Create special outdoor spaces for children so they can use their imagination and discover the wonders of nature. Design places for shady repose as well as secret places for discovery.

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Gardens not only add beauty to their immediate surroundings, they also evoke a sense of belonging. When designing your garden, keep in mind the natural landscape of the area. Sensitivity to region will create a style that reflects a sense of place. Gardening is also an expression of our personality and what we love. It should be fun, yet personal.

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