Going Beyond Gardening Trends

Tips for creating a comfortable outdoor space that doesn't need a lot of updating.

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Guessing what's hot and what's not in gardening trends is about as predictable as the weather. So before you put your money where your mulch is, head to your favorite yard-ware store with one goal in mind: "You want to create an outdoor space that doesn't require a lot of updating," says garden writer Julie Chai. Boutique garden centers are chock-full of take-and-make design ideas. Rather than a row of pots and a row of plants, they create vignettes to show you color combinations that can be duplicated in just about any backyard.

Less care, more comfort. One trend that's fast becoming a tradition among gardeners is that people want comfortable yards that require less care. That applies to everything from the blooms to the bistro table. Think about creating outdoor spaces in the same way you're creating indoor spaces: Select outdoor furniture and accessories that will last a long time and allow their colors and textures to coordinate. "You're selecting those things as a group just like you would a room inside your home," Julie says.

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Those bright new colors complement the accessories you'll find at garden centers. "Accessories are a great way to personalize your space and add that final finishing touch. So whether there is a tabletop item or something hanging, it really does give it a finished look," says Julie. Art, in the form of sculpture or mosaics for example, can add personality and flair to a space just as well as a plant. Just make sure it can stand up to the elements.

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Living in the great outdoors. There's a lot more blurring of the lines between indoors and out. Many things you find that are meant for interiors are perfectly fine to use outdoors and vice versa. Outdoor furniture is getting a lot more exciting. You can find big showcase pieces like concrete lounge chairs and those made of recycled or sustainable materials. Add dramatic interest with a contemporary twist on traditional furniture; now you can enjoy familiar shapes but in a selection of bright colors.

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Right plant, right location. One thing that has never gone out of style — and never will — is choosing the right plant for a particular site. Consider plants for their texture, foliage color, general toughness (think native), then match the plant with the soil, water and light conditions it needs.

Although you can always get color from flowers, think out of the box and add more interest to your garden with colorful foliage. Foliage that goes beyong the usual greens, such as solid silvers to variegated green-and-white, offer an opportunity to add additional contrast and texture to your design scheme.

You don't need many plants to make a big impact, but you do need to shop wisely. In general, if you shop at a reputable nursery, they will carry plants that do well in your area. However, you always want to do your homework. Learn about the shade or sun exposure and soil type of your various garden beds so you'll know the plants you buy are going to do well in your garden.

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Containers add interest and color. Pots are hot: You can put almost anything in a container. Plus they're portable, and they give you plenty of new planting opportunities. By adding containers on porches, patios or decks, you add another layer to the landscape. If you've got only a deck or a patio and no in-ground planting space, containers are a great way to give yourself a place to garden.

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Cool tools
Check out the hardware section at the yard-ware store. There are new colors not just in your furniture and accessories but also in your garden tools. Brightly colored trowels, hoses, watering cans and other tools can actually coordinate with whatever color scheme you have going in the garden.

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