How to choose your garden furniture and make it last

How to choose your garden furniture and make it last

Garden furniture is now a fashion item as the patio and garden increasingly become an additional functional space to the home.

Before you buy any garden furniture it is strongly recommended that you do some research. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of buying garden furniture that is right for you and will last you a long time. Following are some important tips you need to consider before you buy.

Firstly decide whether you want stackable or foldaway furniture that will be put away in the shed or garage in winter or if you want permanent solid garden furniture that remains in situ all year round. If you want your garden furniture to be a permanent part of your garden for esthetic reasons then it is recommended that you go for heavy furniture made from hardwood, aluminum or wrought iron with rust proofing. It is well worth spending the money on the heavier more durable materials as this will be much more cost effective in the long run.

Choosing the right type of material and construction is paramount. Decide what kind of material for your garden furniture would best compliment your patio or garden. Select a material that will stay in balance with your garden.

Wood is the best all round as it is lightweight, esthetically pleasing and comfortable but requires some maintenance. Choose a tropical hardwood which is high in natural oil content like teak, iroko or courbaril. These woods are weather resistant and can be left outside throughout the year.

Make sure that mortice and tenon joints are used for your teak garden furniture and not bolts which corrode. If any metal fittings are used in the construction make sure they are made from brass, stainless steel or aluminum which are corrosion resistant.

Make sure the construction is only premium grade teak for our garden furniture, so any knots, cracks and other defects are eliminated before the timber is used to build the furniture. Additionally, Make sure your teak garden furniture is kiln dried to optimise moisture content and ensure shape is maintained and cracks are eliminated.

Teak garden furniture that is assembled using epoxy based glues tend to have the best performance and durability of all the types of joints as the epoxy resin used will not be affected by rain or frost.

If your teak garden furniture becomes dirty it is easy to clean with warm soapy water and a scrubbing brush which will enable you to restore the beautiful silver grey weathered look. If required a pressure hose can be used at 60-80 bar [900-1200psi] at a distance of no less than 30cm.

Once your teak garden furniture has weathered the colour will be enhanced by an annual scrub. A small amount of bleach added to the water will suppress any algae growth.

Any stains and grease spots can be immediately removed by washing down using a light detergent then rinsing off with clean water as soon as they occur. However, this is not essential as nature will take its course over time.

In dry weather small cracks will appear in the end of the grain timbers. This is natural and no action needs to be taken as when the moisture in the atmosphere increases the timber will return to its original condition.

It is not necessary to use teak oil or varnish as these will not extend the life of your garden furniture and are purely cosmetic. However, if you wish to preserve the as new appearance of your teak garden furniture the application of teak oil when the furniture is new will give a more lustre finish than leaving untouched. Please ensure you follow the manufacturers instructions as usually this is a three stage process. Make sure the timber is completely dry when you apply the teak oil, otherwise the furniture will blacken.

Wrought iron garden furniture generally looks the best as it is usually hand crafted to give a unique look. The disadvantages of wrought iron furniture is that it is not as comfortable as wood and heavier to move around. Additionally, iron rusts so wrought iron garden furniture has to be especially coated to prevent it from rusting so make sure the supplier gives you at least a one year warranty against rust.

Finally, if you can, it is recommended that you invest in a cover for your garden furniture. Covers now come in all shapes and sizes and are well worth the money as they add years to the life of your garden furniture. Simply place the cover on your garden furniture every evening or when it rains, you will see the benefits in the long term.

Garden Design Planning

Garden Design Planning

Good garden design starts with thinking before digging.

Garden design takes time. It’s too late to plan your garden when you are standing in the nursery eyeing every new plant that tempts you. Spend some time looking at your garden site, either during the off season, when you can really view it objectively or during the growing season, when your successes and failures make themselves known.

Once you have an idea of how you are going to use your garden, come back to reality and take an objective look at the site before you come up with your garden design. This is of utmost importance in determining which plants and trees you use to achieve the desired effect.

Monitor it during different times of the day and year:

1. How many hours of sun does the site receive?

2. What times of day is it sunny?

3. Does sun exposure change with the seasons? Do trees allow sun in the spring and shade during summer?

4. How is the soil, as far as pH and texture?

5. Are there structures or large trees that will affect plant growth and selection?

6. Are there structures nearby that you would like to camouflage?

7. What plants are already growing there?

You know what you want to use your garden for, what you are working with and what resources you can devote to it. Now, what do you want it to look like?

Formal or informal? Wild?

Should it complement your house?

Do you want it to flow with the natural landscape?

Do you favor soft pastels or bold tropicals?

All these things might seem overwhelming, but you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time and a considerable amount of money if you take this advice and you’ll find that each step gets easier and more fun. Plant selection should be one of the last things you consider, or you may be overwhelmed trying to create a garden design to accommodate the dozens (or hundreds or even thousands) of plants you crave.

Know your planting zone

Before you buy that first plant, you have to know what your planting zone is. Without that knowledge, you can end up ordering all sorts of wonderful looking plants and shrubs only to find that they are not suitable for your planting zone and they will die. You will have spent time and money needlessly. If you’re buying by catalog or online, every plant and seed catalog or online merchant should show a planting zone map and each plant depicted should have an indication of the zones in which that particular plant (or tree, etc.) will thrive. You can also contact your local garden clubs or your county’s Agriculture Extension Bureau with your questions regarding the suitability and care of plants for your particular area. This knowledge is of critical importance, particularly if you have moved from one zone to another. Not only will you save money, but you will avoid countless hours of frustrating work in your garden.

Keep in mind what your garden will be used for and when. This is important in your plant consideration. If you plan to entertain a lot and don’t want to spend all summer on chores, look for lower maintenance plants that don’t require constant deadheading and staking to look good and, if you are planting for small children, choose plants that will bloom at their eye level, with interesting textures and scents and non-poisonous flowers and seeds.

Make a list of the plants you like and group them by color, texture and form – the garden design triumvirate. Also chart them by season of bloom and/or interest. Consider both flowers and foliage. There are more and more plants being bred with colorful foliage that will provide interest in the garden all season.

Be sure to include some large anchor plants that will look good all year. These are usually shrubs and often evergreens. Most small to average gardens can only accommodate 1 or 2 trees or shrubs, but they are important for providing the good bones of the garden and you want to choose wisely at the beginning. Trees and shrubs can be very difficult and heavy to move around.

Planting bulbs for added beauty

A wonderful way to use bulbs effectively is to naturalize daffodils in a wooded area or group them for colorful accent around evergreen shrubs. High quality Dutch flower bulbs can be ordered online from reputable catalogers and merchants who will advise you as to what’s appropriate for your zone.

Plan ahead when planting bulbs; i.e., for spring flowering you plant in the Fall. Follow directions accompanying your bulbs regarding depth (usually six inches) and fertilizer (there are special bulb fertilizers that should be put in the planting holes). An important reminder – again: Know your planting zone before ordering any bulbs. They all look so beautiful in the catalogs,but what grows well in the midwest, in most instances, will not grow in South Florida! Special tools for planting bulbs are also available online. They make digging holdes so much easier than using a simple trowel. Check them out.