Transform Your Garden for Blissful Outdoor Living and Entertaining

Transform Your Garden for Blissful Outdoor Living and Entertaining hero image
June is here, so it’s time to get your gardens looking gorgeous. We spoke to the experts for inspiration, trends and tips

Finally, it is June: time for outdoor living under the bright blue skies. Even though summer isn't officially here until June 21, we are already thinking about those lazy, warm nights of casual entertaining gathered around the grill or the fire pit.

At this time of year, many home owners will shift their attention to their outdoor gardens. As part of’s 2015 essential home tasks calendar, we dug up some great tips that will help you reinvent your outdoor space in ways you might never imagined possible. spoke to Mike Howell, owner of Terra Luma Design, and Kendall Ansell, principal Kendall Ansell Interiors, for ways to get your backyard party ready.

As a veteran landscape architect with nearly two decades in the industry, Howell says first off, take a hard cold look at your lawn. That is the first thing your guests will notice.

“Address any problems such as weeds, yellow patches or bald spots,” he says. “If you lawn is more than 50 per cent dead, it’s easier to remove the grass and start over with fresh seed.”

Howell went on to say cozy retreats don't have to break the bank. “Have a design; a good designer more than pays for himself,” he adds. “Avoid impulse garden centre purchases, and get the right plant in the right place. Many of my clients roll-up their sleeves and perform some of the grunt work – this saves on labour costs.”

Meanwhile, Ansell is all about cushy, comfy, romantic looks for a “nesting appearance in your gardens.”

“Choose your essential pieces – table, chairs and sofas – in monochromatic colours, such as white or soft grey, and then accessorize with a bright summery colour palette,” she says. “If you are on budget, buy your outdoor furniture at places such as Sears, Home Depot or Canadian Tire and then splurge on your cushions and other accessories.”

Mike Howell’s Top Garden Trends

  • This summer is about vertical gardens and green roofs. Both indoors and outdoors, walls and fences are being covered with lush foliage to create a sense of privacy and natural beauty.
  • Outdoor kitchens, wood-fired pizza ovens, built-in BBQs, smokers and griddles are all extremely trendy and offer the perfect outdoor entertainment focal point.
  • Fire pits and fireplaces are still hot and getting even hotter. Available in a wide selection of styles and price points, fire pits or fireplaces provide a magical gathering place for family and friends.
  • The sound of water calms and relaxes us. Celebrate your outdoor space with the addition of water features, such as ponds, pools, and water gardens. Ranging from simple, inexpensive fountains that you can purchased at most hardware stores, to more elaborate waterfalls and ponds, water features create a sense of tranquility, instantly transforming the yard into a Zen oasis. Smaller water fountains are great for those DIYers out there; what about a deck-top pond, a pond in a bucket, or a rock pond? The Internet offers a number of sites that will help you build your own. There are even those small enough to fit on a balcony, porch or condominium garden.
  • If you are tired of staining your wood patio furniture every year, consider concrete; it is showing up in all kinds of furniture – tables, benches, loungers, side tables, and even picnic tables. “We are working with Victoria-based Szolyd Development in a collaborative approach that uses Ductal, an ultra-high-performance concrete,” says Howell. “Szolyd’s Landscape Furnishings collaborates with local designers, architects and industrial designers to create trend-setting, mixed-material site furnishings.”
  • Update your patio, deck or backyard with the latest in LED lighting.

Kendall Ansell’s Outdoor Décor Tips

  • Think soft greys, bright blues, turquoise, lime green and yellows with accent patterns or modern prints such as stripes or eye catching florals for cushions.
  • You can make your own side tables with cedar boxes or wine barrels cut in half, then top with cushions.
  • Wire spools, which you can purchase from a wholesale electrical company, make attention-grabbing side tables.
  • High-impact lighting, whether grand or whimsical “creates the mood,” says Ansell. “Hang Chinese lanterns or little lights in your trees or deck, or place lamps or chandeliers to make for impressive settings.”
  • Add a little drama to your décor by draping a white sheet/fabric above your table (either hang it from a covered patio or with wood spokes) for an instant canopy.
  • Dress up your outdoors with all-weather carpets or rugs … in any shape, colour or style that suits your décor.
  • Unveil your most beautiful shabby chic table setting with candles and flowers in Mason jars.
  • “Also, use your indoor dishes, not plastic ones, for a special garden party,” adds Ansell, adding that it’s a great idea to mix and match your dishes with complementary colours or styles. “In addition, use colourful cloth napkins as opposed to paper.”
  • Create little vignettes throughout your gardens: a well-placed seat here, a lovely planted archway there.
  • Lawn games aren’t just for kids’ parties – think Bocce ball or a giant Jenga game.

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