UPDATED: Friday, September 21, 2012 - 1:41pm
As summer fades and the days begin to cool off, fall offers the ideal time to enjoy the outdoors. Take full advantage of this season by creating a cozy outdoor space where you can relax and take time to experience the aromas, sounds and colors of autumn.
The first thing to think about is siting. If you have an existing patio, porch or deck, you are off to a good start. If you don’t, why not add a small paved area (DIY it or call a local concrete contractor), using materials that relate to the materials your house is constructed of? We live in a granite house and added a low granite wall in our front garden which helps define the space and offers casual seating too.
Having at least a portion of your outdoor room under cover means you can get maximum use out of the space, even on cool, rainy days. An umbrella is a less expensive alternative for providing instant shelter. Unlike summer, when the need for covered areas to provide shade is critical, sunny days in autumn are much more welcome.
Perhaps you have a patio but it seems as if it was plunked down in the middle of your backyard. Surrounding it with evergreen hedges or a mixture of deciduous and evergreen plants on at least 2 sides will help create a cozy feeling. Another way to give a sense of enclosure is to use large containers of shrubs, trees and seasonal flowers to provide a screen. These can be grouped together or added in front of evergreen plantings or other structures including fences and walls.
Comfortable seating is also key and means you will be more likely to linger. Chairs with removable cushions made of fabric designed to hold up in the elements are a worthwhile investment.
A water garden, whether large or small will also add to your outdoor experience.
How about adding a removable fire pit? There are even fire pits that can be covered and used as tables when they are not in use — a perfect way to enjoy those cool fall nights.
Planting up a few containers with fall and winter annuals is an easy way to bring instant color to your outdoor space. Chrysanthemums, pansies, and snapdragons will bloom for months. Don’t forget that you can also grow a number of edibles that are also decorative in pots. These include Swiss chard, parsley, lettuces and kale.
If you plant any trees or shrubs in your garden this fall, consider those that display colorful foliage in autumn such as Japanese maples, Ginkgo and Dogwoods. For small gardens, look for dwarf cultivars that you can grow in large containers. Certain trees like Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, offer a special treat in the autumn: once their leaves begin to turn shades of yellow, apricot and even orange and fall off the tree, they emit a fragrance that is similar to cotton candy or burning sugar.