Outdoor kitchens: The appeal of hard-to-light and highly unpredictable charcoal barbecues is waning. Anyone who has visited friends and family Down Under will tell you that most Aussies use gas “barbies”.
The built-in gas barbecue is an integral part of an outdoor kitchen, which comes complete with cupboards, worktops, oven, sink, fridge and sockets. Once a multi-millionaire must-have, they are becoming more mainstream. Developers in London are now putting them in more modest properties. Are they worth the investment? Probably not given the British weather.
*Pizza ovens: Margo Leadbetter and Hyacinth Bucket would be first in the queue for a super-size, brick-built wood-fired pizza oven in a bid to push themselves up the social ladder. They cost from £2,000. You can buy cheaper metal versions from £150. Fad or fancy, they make a pleasant change from the aforementioned barbecue.
*Outdoor lounge: Sunken rooms with built-in fires or fire pits, herringbone tiled floors warmed by underfloor heating, hot tubs, outdoor televisions, chiller cabinets and sound systems are the optimum in luxury outdoor living but you can create a cut-price version by zoning a section of garden with low walls and paving. Put a fire pit in the middle, add some seating and oversized lanterns and hook some speakers up to the wi-fi. Radio 6 Music is the cool channel of choice
*Furniture: The best-selling outdoor seating at the moment is grey, which is fine as it doesn’t show the dirt and you can add colour and warmth with blankets and cushions. Benches are also a great investment as they can be used as seating or as a plinth for a display of plant pots. If you want wow factor then invest in a hanging chair. Made.com at Redbrick Mill, Batley, has a Copa hanging chair on a stand for £449.
Lighting: Outdoor lighting systems are becoming ever more sophisticated but it’s hard to beat candlelight and twinkling fairy lights for parties or those summer nights a deux. Yorkshire-based Lights4fun.co.uk has a great selection of solar and battery-powered outdoor lights. If you fancy splashing out on a design classic, Anglepoise has manufactured a giant outdoor version of its iconic Original 1227 lamp, which costs £3,750.
*Faking it: Artificial grass and plants, along with living walls/vertical gardens of climbing plastic foliage and flowers, are becoming more popular, especially on apartment balconies where lawnmowers aren’t practical. Carpetright’s Northumberland at £14.99 per sq metre looks convincing. However, fake grass and flowers in a conventional garden look distinctly naff and they are not eco-friendly. Instead, invest in a garden designer to give you tips on layout, bee, butterfly and bird-friendly plants and vertical gardens. Gardening brings you closer to nature and is therapeutic. Even weeds are better than a dusty, plastic desert.
Water features: The look and sound of flowing water is said to improve mental and physical health, which is why water features are gaining popularity. They cost from about £80 upwards. Garden centres are good hunting grounds or if your budget can stretch to £2,000-plus check out solusdecor.co.uk
Tiering: Adding different levels to a garden, even a small one, makes it instantly more interesting. If you can’t manage to build a terrace, add height to the space with tall planters. Mia Fleur has a gorgeous selection of zinc planters.
Gimme Shelter: Given our unpredictable, often wet summers, it pays to create some shelter. There is a variety of options here ranging from the cheap and cheerful but flimsy polyester gazebos to the substantial investment that is a summer house or posh shed. The latter are usually a good investment and are likely to increase the saleability of your home. Slowly making their way back into fashion are awnings, which were popular in the 1960s and 70s. There are some attractive, contemporary versions and the traditional cafe styles all shade you from the sun and the worst of the rain.
They are, in effect, a giant roller blind fastened to the wall that can be pulled out across the patio to make a little roof for your seating area.
The most expensive are remote controlled with wind and rain sensors and can cost about £3,000. The less expensive ones are operated by a hand crank and chain. They cost from £100. Manomano.co.uk has a good selection and it also sells retractable side screen awnings from £72. For a bespoke, wooden gazebo with a tiled roof, check out Harrogate-based Simon Bowler, simon-bowler.co.uk, who makes them from £895 and can add in everything from outdoor lighting to heaters and log burners.
Or, if you have space to store it in the colder months, buy a canvas bell tent. It’s a perfect escape for children and grown-ups. You can find them for £400 from boutiquecamping.com
*Gardening classes: Getting the right plants and flowers in your garden can make a world of difference to how it looks and how you feel about it.
Many of us don’t know a hosta from a verbena, never mind what to put where and that can be frustrating and disappointing.
The answer is to book on a gardening course. RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate has courses and workshops. Visit rhs.org.uk. Jo Banks also runs a garden and flower school in Harrogate. They are informal and lots of fun and you can learn the basics of horticulture along with practical skills. Jo also gives advice what gardening jobs you need to tackle in the month ahead. Visit jobanksflowers.co.uk