Mini Makeovers & 8 Outdoor Products

Projects any space can take.

Projects any space can take.

By Jennifer Shapira

Home in Bethesda designed by Jennifer Horn of Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture LLC. / Courtesy of Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture

If an improved backyard is the goal, but keeping costs down is the priority, there are a number of small, inexpensive upgrades that can provide impact. Allen D. Ford, install sales coordinator at Lowe’s of Alexandria, has a number of suggestions to save some green, while incorporating style and personality to an outdoor space.

Spruce up any patio with updated furniture; shop around for a bistro set that is a step up from the traditional color palette. Cheer up the space and go bolder with a pop of rich color. Try your hand at growing your own edibles; plant your favorite herbs and vegetables and practice in small pots that sit on the steps of your deck.

You want your outdoor space to feel secluded, private, your own. Creative landscaping can be the key to providing that kind of escapist feel. Put in a simple waterfall to add interest, and in any desired look—go natural, modern, classic, formal or Asian-inspired. The bubbling sound of a water feature can do double duty: It can bring a relaxing vibe to any backyard area, while masking the hum of traffic from a nearby busy thoroughfare.

“Defining areas is a big thing,” says Ford, but it doesn’t have to be a big job.

Increase a home’s curb appeal with neatly trimmed lawn edges, and create a hardscaped zone with interlocking pavers abundantly available in sizes, shapes and colors to complement your home’s style.

Consider adding an inviting bench to a favorite garden area. “It would draw more people out into your yard to get a closer look at the landscaping you’ve done,” says Ford. “You’d see the butterflies that it draws, the hummingbirds that it draws. It’s just a way to get people out there and look around more at the yard and flowering trees.”

Another low-cost tip: Showcase a particular tree or garden feature with a low-voltage spotlight. Point the beam up or down to kick up a little DIY garden drama. For instant ambience, place a number of lights low to the ground to illuminate a stone pathway, or go even simpler with string lights threaded through a gazebo or pergola.

Harley, who lives in a forested area, has spotlights trained on favorite trees: a hemlock, oak and beech. “It makes something ordinary look extraordinary at night,” says Harley. “I really like what that does for a place.”


8 Outdoor Products


1. MoMA Store Bistro Set
Give your patio or garden area an instantly stylish update with MoMA’s zippy bistro set. Constructed from sturdy steel, the bright orange table and chairs offer an inventive take on the Parisian classic, providing the perfect outdoor perch for a morning coffee or an early evening cocktail.
Bistro Table, $246 and Bistro Chair, $99;


2. Felco Pruners
For the more-than-casual DIY gardener, a pair of red-handled Felco professional-grade pruners are a must, says landscape architect Jennifer Horn. The strong blades make clean cuts instead of pinching or tugging branches, which can cause damage. But, she cautions, “You can get tired from using them,” so expect a workout.
Felco pruners, $49.99 and up; available at Merrifield Garden Center and


3. Color-changing Waterproof LED Light Patio/Bistro Set
These geometric remote-controlled color-changing LED-lit patio pieces add a sci-fi flair to any outdoor area. Translucent white when powered “off,” the rechargeable pod-like mod seating provides a vibrant, warm glow at night, turning any backyard into a party zone.
Color Changing Waterproof LED Light Cube, $129.99;
Ibiza chair, $229.99;


4. Garlic Juice
Everyone in this area knows mosquitoes can ruin any outdoor gathering in the summer months. Landscape architect Jennifer Horn suggests spraying organic garlic juice which plants absorb, so there’s no lasting pungent garlic smell in your garden. “If you have a large, substantial, garden space, that’s a great way to help keep mosquitoes at bay,” she says.
Mosquito Barrier, $29.95 per quart; and


5. Rain Barrel
Hook up a rain barrel kit to a downspout outside your home, and let the rain fall from your roof into the airtight cistern where the water will stay until you’re ready to use it. Most barrels hold upwards of 50 gallons of water, so you’ll save some green on costs associated with watering your plants, and feel good about reusing natural resources.
Rain Wizard 50-Gallon Black Recycled Plastic Rain Barrel with Spigot, $137.80;


6. Trellis
If an outdoor space is at a premium or the backyard is the size of a postage stamp, add visual interest with a simple trellis that you can easily push right into the ground, says Allen D. Ford, install sales coordinator at Alexandria’s Lowe’s. Create a sort of vertical garden with a pretty climbing vine such as clematis or a perfume-scented rose.
Garden Treasures 24”W x 72”H Zen Garden Trellis, $39.97;


7. Spotlight
Add a stylish update to any garden space with an easy-to-install spotlight. Accentuate the positive: Illuminate a favorite tree or shrub or water feature. Whether you’re hosting a gathering, or enjoying a quiet evening, the light creates ambiance and “makes something ordinary look extraordinary,” says landscape designer Tom Harley.
Portfolio Black Low-Voltage Halogen Flood Light, $18.98;


8. Bench
Enjoy the fruits of your backyard labors from a bench-style perch. Choose a classic park-style bench, or a concrete version and place it squarely in your garden among the blooms, or make it a destination at the end of a stone walkway. It will serve as the perfect spot to relax and take in your surroundings—the happy results of hard work.
Garden Treasures 50-1/2-in. L Patio Bench, $118;


Photos: Courtesy of Garlic Research Labs, Inc. (Mosquito Barrier); Courtesy of PYGAR USA Inc (Felco pruners); Courtesy of Lowe’s (trellis, bench, spotlight, rain barrel); Courtesy of Main Access (LED light patio); courtesy of MoMA Design Store (Bistro set)


(May 2013)