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Warm Up with an Outdoor Fireplace

Now that Christmas is over, and all the outdoor decorations are put away, the patio is clean to consider new and exciting ways to use it, even in the winter. Underused in the colder months, patios are valuable space that can add outdoor square footage to the home. Why not consider adding an outdoor fireplace to an existing patio to add a winter dimension to outdoor living?

This has been an especially frigid and cold winter.  I have heard that we are experiencing some of the coldest nighttime temperatures in five years. Winter is winter, but enough is enough! We need to find a way to warm up that winter air. An outdoor fireplace it just the right thing to do that. It’s perfect for heating that outdoor room that many of us refer to as a patio. Just imagine how much fun it would be to host a sledding party (if it really does snow) and warm up around that outdoor fireplace.

The added dimension of light and heat on the patio make it a destination in winter as well as spring and fall. Evenings are cool and days are shorter during those seasons and the outdoor fireplace makes the patio a desirable place to relax and enjoy family and friends.

Container Gardens for the Winter Patio and Deck

One of the prettiest things about summer are the gigantic containers of geraniums and ferns that homeowners use to decorate their front porches, decks and patios. It’s a lot of work to empty and drag those terra cotta or stone containers under the house or in the garage once the night temperatures threaten frosts.  Consider leaving those containers outdoors and create cold hardy beautiful showy container gardens all winter long.

When I design container gardens for winter, I always start with one to three evergreens as the centerpiece, depending on the size of the container. Boxwoods, Nandina, soft Hollies are all good choices. These can either be transplanted into the landscape when spring arrives or remain in the containers as a year round centerpiece surrounded with Summer color and Winter color.  I have come to really love the constant evergreen look that I have in many of my containers so I only change the seasonal color at the base of those particular year round pots.  Small Japanese maples make beautiful container plants and it’s a great way to get a less expensive tree and use it as a decoration on the patio before moving it into the landscape as a more permanent fixture.

Once I have made my mind up about the centerpiece, I go about adding lots of pansies for winter color.  I choose light colors so that they show up during the winter when the days are so short. I also use plenty of evergreen ground covers to simulate a miniature micro garden.   English ivy, Pachysandra, and Holly fern are all good choices. Perennials that are evergreen or semi evergreen work really well in winter containers to provide contrast in texture and color variations.

Some folks might be thinking these look like another version of a Christmas tree. Well, it’s easy to put lights on these evergreens and they do look really pretty for the holidays. The added light is nice during the winter when the days are so short. Here in Middle Tennessee, as the winter solstice approaches, it is dark by 4:30pm. That is a very busy time of year, and a little light by the front door might not be a bad idea. There is no harm in letting your neighbors know that you are celebrating the holiday season.

Container gardens bring color and texture to your patios all year long.  This is great when you can spend time in your outdoor leisure spaces throughout the coldest season of the year, especially those frequent sunny warm days we have in Tennessee in the Winter.  Enjoy!


Dining on Decks

It certainly has become hot in a hurry. I am happy and thankful for the wonderful spring that we had. The spring weather was often a bit too cool by nightfall to eat outdoors when friends came over for dinner; however, now that the days are longer and warmer, dining outdoors is a great way to spend time breaking bread with friends and family.

Last Saturday we enjoyed the evening air with a nice easy dinner party on the deck. I decided to keep the menu simple so that we could all really enjoy the evening outdoors. Grilled pork loin with a spicy fruity pineapple salsa with red peppers and red pepper flakes, cucumber salad with a creamy sour cream, and a saffron rice for even more color on the plate. Candles, place settings and matching white plastic chairs made for a wonderful dining experience.  My 11 year old loves to star gaze, so his telescope and his knowledge of the night sky was the entertainment.

The candles on the table served as a soft and illuminating light source so we could see each other laugh and smile.  I just want to share that outdoor dining can be a simple stress free experience for you, your family and friends.  It really was easy peasy to pull off. We just moved the dinner from one interior room of the house to an exterior room. We were outdoors eating good food and talking story on a wonderful deckspace that has now become another room in our home. Bon appetit!