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Gardening – Outdoor Rooms

Cary, NC – The height of Summer is a good time to rethink your outdoor rooms.

At midsummer, the garden is in its glory. Summer crops such as beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash are ripening everyday for ready harvest. The early dawn and long evenings provide an abundance of time for us to enjoy our own private outdoor spaces.

But a garden is more than a walk-through experience. It needs to have places to settle and enjoy the quiet calm of flowers waving in the breeze and birds flitting about for food.

The best of these outdoor spaces have the aspect of an enclosure; an outdoor room.

Finding Your Outdoor Rooms

To find the outdoor rooms in your garden, stand back and take in the whole property. Ask yourself three questions:

1. Where’s the shade?

If you want to use your outdoor rooms in the Summer, it’s good to find some shade. The north side of your house, or beneath the overhang of a tree, might offer a good spot.

2. Is it near the door?

The closer your spot is to the door, the more you will use it. Front door, side door, back door or garage door, it doesn’t matter. The closer to the house, the more frequently you will use it.

3. Does it offer a measure of privacy?

A cozy outdoor room should offer a measure of privacy, not be fully exposed to view from the street. While the most obvious choice here is your backyard, any area that’s screened by a few shrubs or low-hanging tree branches can be suitable.

Small is the New Big

You don’t need a full outdoor kitchen and dining room for eight to create a charming outdoor space. All you really need is a table and two chairs.

You just need a place to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. You could be alone, or you could invite someone to share your space. That’s all you need.

Small is the new big.

A Little Something Extra

A table and chairs is a good start. But the number one amenity to make your spot a more commodious outdoor room:

1. Pavers or gravel

Give your outdoor room a good floor. Cast concrete pavers, flat rock (e.g., flagstone), bricks or just a couple of bags of gravel are all you need. Give it a neat edge to enhance the room-like appearance.

2. Flowers

If your outdoor spot is not near a flower bed, add some colorful plants in big pots, half-barrels or a raised bed. Even in a shady spot, you can grow hostas, ivy, impatiens, coleus and many other colorful things.

3. Bird Bath

When experts say “water feature,” most of us usually imagine a fountain. But a bird bath is a water feature. In addition to providing a valuable service to the avian population, a bird bath reflects the sky into the garden, creating a focal point for the eye that is both restful and calm.


Story and photos by Hal Goodtree. The gardening column on CaryCitizen is sponsored by Garden Supply Co. on Old Apex Road in Cary.