After months of limited use and less than accommodating weather, it’s time to get your outdoor entertaining area ready for primetime.
By Darcel Rockett
Remember that place in the rear of your house? It goes by the name of patio, and it has been feeling abandoned during the winter months, but that’s all about to change now that spring has sprung. Soon family gatherings, after dinner drinks, and grilling will ensue on this extension of the home, so you must prepare. Here are tips for sprucing up your patio:
Depending on how you left your patio last season, there may be some cleaning involved to make your patio pop. Donna Smallin, author of “The One-Minute Cleaner Plain and Simple” (Storey, 2007) recommends cleaning patio furniture with a garden hose and sprayer attachment. “You can double the life of your furniture, be it vinyl, plastic or metal,” she says. To clean wicker furniture, wet a cloth with a mixture of half a cup of wood oil soap in one gallon of warm water and gently wipe one small section at a time. Use a toothbrush to clean between the weave. Rinse with a hose, and turn the piece upside down so the water can run off. Wipe with a dry cloth and allow 48 hours to dry.
Tackling that outdoor grill that was left unclean at the last cookout will require baking soda, water, a wire brush and elbow grease, according to Michael de Jong, author of “Clean: The Humble Art of Zen Cleansing” (Sterling, 2007). And for those rust stains on the patio, take a scrub brush and pat warm water onto the spot. Sprinkle with lemonade powdered drink mix. Then, cover with a piece of plastic wrap (weighted down by a rock) and let it soak for 15 minutes. Remoisten your brush and scrub it off, and then rinse with a hose.
Now that cleanliness is achieved, focus on beautifying the space. It goes without saying the greenery around your patio will need to be punched up. A patio shining with beautiful hardscape is wonderful, but dull without plants to balance it out – a trip to your local nursery for some greenery is a must. The National Gardening Association in South Burlington, Vt. recommends medium- to low-growing perennials for the border of a patio. Asters, Border Dahlia, Dianthus, Phlox, Ranunculus, Veronica, Armeria, Aubrieta, Heuchera (Coral Bells), Primrose, Sazifrage and Lewisa are some varieties that will come up every year. Down the road they will also provide flowers for a tabletop bouquet, indoors or out. Make sure to have some white vinegar at the ready for any unwanted grasses or weeds creeping through the crevices and patio bricks. If there’s limited space to plant, window boxes brimming with trailing foliage or flowers, topiaries and multi-hued plants in ceramic pots will go a long way in providing atmosphere, too. Go even further by accessorizing the perimeter of the patio with lanterns or pathway lighting to enable you to see in style.
“Invest in lower wattage bulbs; they create more of a soft glow,” says Kelly Edwards from HGTV’s “Design on a Dime.” “After all, you can have the best looking furniture in town, but without the right lighting, it can look out of place.”
If you’ve got an eye toward personalization and entertainment, sound systems, sculptures, and intricate fencing that can withstand the elements will also ensure your beautiful décor doesn’t end at the door.