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12 tips to bring the outdoors in

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5. Install planters. If you have a patio or deck, an in-ground planter bordering your patio or deck will give you flowers and greenery, along with a lot more room, says Gillingham-Ryan. Plus, the plants will be more protected in the cooler months.

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His advice: Select plants native to your area. They tend to be hardier and require less care.

6. Look for versatility. Summer standards like impatiens, geraniums and hydrangeas will bloom constantly throughout the summer months with minimum care, says Gillingham-Ryan. Put them in pots, planters or right into the ground. They make great-looking bouquets when you want to add a taste of the outdoors to a dinner party or your desk.

7. Follow your nose. "Scent is the strongest emotional trigger," says Hanby-Robie. Some nice choices if you want to bathe outdoor spaces with a wonderful fragrance or be able to enjoy them from inside just by opening a window: peonies, verbena, lavender and Chinese cherry trees. If you have a cat, consider a small patch of catnip, she says.

8. Use containers. For large or small spaces, container gardens are great. When you put them on the deck or patio, include plants and pots of different sizes and heights to add interest, says Gillingham-Ryan.

For a kitchen garden, pots of herbs are handy for cooking and give off a wonderful aroma.

9. Hit the lights. Just because you're outside, "don't forget about the lighting," says Hanby-Robie. Use a combination of lighting sources to add ambient light for outdoor activities or to spotlight points of interest like an architectural feature or tree. It adds great atmosphere, and you've also increased the amount of time you can use the area and boosted your security.

10. Create a sanctuary. To enjoy song birds or show your kids the beauty of butterflies, design a space that's friendly to the natural creatures. Forgo the pesticides and herbicides in your yard. Use trees and plant varieties that attract the animals you want to see. A gardening book or your local library or bird supply store can help you.

For birds, you can install a bird bath and a feeder or two, stocked with quality wild bird mix. Hanby-Robie prefers safflower seeds. "The crows are too lazy to open them, but I get all the song birds," she says. Hanby-Robie logged 23 species in one day alone, "and the sound is fabulous," she says.

11. Think about the view. What do you see when you sit on your patio or deck? If the answer is your neighbor's garbage, use plants, trees and architectural features to improve your sight line.

If you live in an apartment or condo building and want to give your patio a little privacy, consider a trellis with fast-growing ivy or a lovely scented morning glory, says Gillingham-Ryan. Or opt for fast-growing grasses. "They grow straight up and create a little bit of a screen," he says.

You can also hang rattan blinds or shades from the patio ceiling for privacy or to camouflage an ugly wall.

If the patio material itself is ugly, and you can't (or don't want to) redo it, throw down some colorful indoor/outdoor carpeting, says Hanby-Robie.

12. Use bright colors and favorite themes. For one tiny patio, Gillingham-Ryan bypassed the French cafe table and chairs and went with Mexican furniture.

"Think of outdoor space as another room in your house," he says. "But think of it as a summer room, regardless of what month it is."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: June 21, 2007
 
 
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