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Five ways to liven up your patio or courtyard

Rebecca Elliott / 17 July 2018

A dingy, unloved patio or courtyard can be cheered up by choosing the right plants and accessories.

Patio bench
Patches of bright colour and bold patterns can breathe life into a dull courtyard

1. Add colour

Add bursts of colour with potted annuals, colourful containers and soft furnishings. A dull concrete patio or courtyard can easily be brightened up using a waterproof outdoor rug. Try an eco-friendly Fab Hab Outdoor Rug made from recycled plastic bottles woven into a range of modern and traditional designs, from £49.95. Walls can be painted with cheerful colours, or hang colourful outdoor rugs up if you'd rather not paint over the original material. If you're nervous about using colour choose a geometric monotone print with pops of colour - the monotone will make what small amount of colour you have really pop. Or you could opt for placing a potted palm or bamboo against a dull but sunny wall to liven it up with glorious green foliage.

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.

2. Pick your own

Pick your own herbs at mealtimes by keeping fresh basil, coriander, parsley or other herbs in pots within easy reach of your table. If you buy living herbs from the supermarket be sure to split and repot them as several plants are usually crammed into one tiny pot. Separating them will increase their lifespan and save you money. Some fruit and vegetables can also be grown in pots and hanging baskets, such as strawberries, tomatoes and even a new variety of blackberry ('Black Cascade').

Find out about growing Mediterranean herbs

3. Light it up

Light up your garden with the vast range of garden lighting now available on the high street. Solar technology has improved in recent years, but cheap solar lights are still best suited to creating atmosphere due to their weak strength. They might need to be supplemented by battery-powered lights, particularly on steps and uneven surfaces. For something more robust look at a wired-in garden light system – a cable running through flower beds and under decking can be attached to a choice of lights. See Note: installing a power socket in the garden should always be done by a qualified electrician.

4. Fiery warmth

Keep warm in the evenings with a fire basket or chiminea. Some come with a grill for al fresco cooking, and some include a protective mesh cover in case you’re worried about sparks. The Bentley foldable firepit has collapsible legs for easy storage, £32.99.

Find out about choosing a chiminea or fire basket for your garden

5. Scintillating scents

Scented plants in pots around your dining area can fill the air with perfume. Opt for a range plants with evening and day scents, and have plants at a variety of heights. Surrounding walls can be used to grow scented climbers such as jasmine or honeysuckle, and small plants can sit on the table itself.

Scented container plants

1. Chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineum)
A deep red cosmos with a chocolate scent. Flowers June - September. 60cm (2ft)

2. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)
A highly scented climber that can be grown in a large pot. Grow against a south or west-facing wall. Flowers June - August. 9m (28ft)

3. Heliotrope ‘Midnight Sky’ (Heliotropium arborescens)
Delicate indigo flowers with a cherry pie scent. Flowers June - August. 30cm (11.8in)

4. Night-scented stock (Matthiola longipetala subsp. bicornis)
Strongly-scented flowers that can also be added to salad or used as a garnish for drinks and desserts. Flowers June – August. 30cm (11.8in)

5. Night phlox (zaluzianskya ovata)
A small plant with distinctive red and white flowers and an evening scent. Flowers June – August. 25cm (10in)

6. Tobacco plant (Nicotiana sylvestris)
Elegant trumpet flowers on a long stem, a statement plant for a large pot. Flowers July – September. 1.5m (4.9ft)

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.