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Creating an outdoor oasis on the cheap

Kathleen Wilson is the author of "Quick Decorating Ideas Under $20: The Budget Decorator's Bible" and editor of the popular ezine, The Budget Decorator. For more free ideas, visit her at TheBudgetDecorator.com.

An outdoor haven

We all should have a haven in the outdoors -- it is soothing to the soul! It can be done with little money, little space, and just a bit of creativity! Check out these five great ideas for creating your own private hideaway.

Create some space

Cozy patio/porch

Carve out a space -- an outdoor room, if you will! It can be a large patio or deck, a corner of the lawn, even a small porch or balcony. If you look hard enough, you can almost always locate a place to make your special room!

Then you need to treat your room as just that -- a room! Create walls, seating area and floor. No, I don't mean a visit to the home improvement center. Just place objects to suggest these boundaries. It offers the emotional comfort and security of a real room.

Suggestions? Place planters to create walls, paint on your porch floor a faux rug, outline your area with found stones or brick form construction sites (always ask first!), pick up yard furniture from yard sales, create benches from a piece of lumber laid over concrete blocks, hang plants to offer partial privacy to your space. Use your imagination, and think as you would decorating an indoor space!

>> Inexpensive ways to decorate your patio

Add container plants

As mentioned before, container plants can add structure to your outdoor room, but also add accent color, texture, scent and charm. Buy inexpensive terracotta pots at your local discount store, and paint them to add your distinctive touch. Using ordinary craft paint or leftover house paint, you can sponge, stamp, or stencil any design you like!

Try choosing pot and paint colors that will compliment your flowers. Or, to pull together a "room" full of unlike planters and furniture, choose one beautiful color and paint all your items with that.

My favorite colors to use are a vibrant periwinkle blue or a pale lime green, but hunter green, terra cotta, and earth tones all look very natural in a planted setting. Also look for unusual containers at garage sales to add whimsy to your room -- old cast iron pots (spray with a sealer to prevent rust), wooden boxes and even old boots can be converted to new plant homes.

>> Edible landscaping: Beautiful, fresh and delicious plants from your backyard

Plant it up

Plants themselves can be quite costly, so here are a few ideas to fill those containers!

1. Divide and cut
Divisions or cuttings can propagate many plants quite easily. (Most perennials actually prefer to be divided every few years.) Ask your gardening friends if they have any divisions they might like to share with you -- most gardeners love to pass on their passion! You might even have some in your own yard ready for dividing. Two great sites to learn more about plant propagation on the web are Can You Dig It and gardenweb.com -- or you can check out great books from your local library for free.

>> 9 Easiest plants for your backyard

2. Seed it
Seeds are very economical. Many dwarf varieties of your old favorites are available for pots, and some good choices might include zinnias, alyssum, marigolds, dwarf cosmos, basil (I love the purple varieties, very ornamental), nasturtiums and dwarf sunflowers.

>> How to order from seed catalogs

3. Get your annuals
When you buy annual flowers, always buy them in the smallest possible size. They are much cheaper, and they grow so fast that a month after you buy them you wouldn't know the difference between those bought in tiny pony packs, or those you paid extra for in big gallon containers -- except the extra money in your bank account!

>> Know your annuals from your perennials

Garden living

Finally, use your space! Have your dessert there, read a book there, drink lemonade, play a board hame. Or better yet, sneak out when the kids or hubby are occupied and spend a few minutes just remembering what a great gift the great outdoors is to us all.


More about garden and backyard living

>> Get more ideas! Live large, but spend small

Live large... but spend small. Read more!

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