Make the Most of Your Backyard or Patio This Winter

Written by Connie Adair Posted On Tuesday, 29 September 2020 05:00
Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so you’ll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canada’s Hot Market. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so you’ll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canada’s Hot Market.

Cooler weather ahead doesn’t mean you have to give up your precious outdoor space. In this year like no other, extra space is treasured and you need to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter.

Warm it up

In this climate, people don’t tend to use their outdoor spaces in winter, says Amedeo Barbini of Barbini Design Build in Toronto. However infrared patio heaters (free-standing floor versions or the ones that attach to a wall) can extend the season. People also like to sit in front of a fireplace, so buy an outdoor version, grab some blankets and a bottle of wine and enjoy. (If you live in a condo, check regulations first.)

A good plan

When deciding what to do with your backyard, come up with a plan. Make sure the backyard looks as good from the inside as it does outside so you’ll be motivated to go out, says Red Barrinuevo, property stylist on HGTV Canada’s Hot Market

Use it

Instead of putting it in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some cushions in colours such as yellow and orange to warm the space. For backyards, a fire pit is a must. They’re not very expensive. Some home improvement stores offer fire pits for $500 or less, Barrinuevo says.

Light it up

Barrinuevo says sometimes it seems like it is dark day and night in the winter, so additional lighting is a must. Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape. String lights with clear white LED bulbs will add a magical ambiance. Try stringing the lights on trees or put them in planters.A touch of green – Everything tends to be dull looking in winter. Greenery will add texture. Try three plants of different heights to add interest to a corner, Barrinuevo says. Boxwoods are a good choice. You can even use artificial plants.

Dress it up

Wrap your tree trunks in yarn stripes to add colour or paint part of the tree trunk with horizontal stripes. Barrinuevo says he once painted part of a tree trunk with red, blue and yellow stripes and it became a piece of art. Pick up the colours from the yarn and mimic them on the pillows to tie the space together.

Food for thought

Keep the barbecue in working order. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. Or have a winter picnic or enjoy a hot chocolate in front of the fireplace or pit.

Renovate

Instead of using a cabana for winter storage, insulate and renovate it into a games room or studio, Barbini says.

Get into hot water

Adding a hot tub is another addition that will make going to the backyard in winter worthwhile.

Back to nature

Invite birds to hang out in your backyard by adding plants that will provide shelter and food. Evergreens, such as junipers, provide shelter and berries. At the end of the growing season, don’t cut down tall perennials, such as ornamental grasses, says landscaper

Jacqueline White of Raindrop Gardening in East York, Ont. Ornamental grasses are interesting additions to a snowy backdrop and offer seeds for food and grasses for nesting, she says.

Choose plants for colour and interest. Canadian serviceberry has colourful berries. Red osier dogwood’s red branches are a pretty pop of colour against the snow. Witch hazel, with its curly branches, adds interest.

Although it may be harder to find plants at the end of the summer, try to stick with native plants, such as black-eyed susans and coneflowers.

While trading plants with neighbours may seem like a good idea, White says, “If they have lots of one kind of plant, you may not want to introduce any to your backyard because they may be invasive.” (Some invasive species include lily of the valley and Boston ivy.)

Once your potted summer plants are finished, remove the plants (keep the soil to act as an anchor) and add evergreen boughs, red osier and pine cones for a pretty arrangement.

Another nice addition is a heated birdbath. Create a safe backyard by keeping cats indoors, White says. Add a bird feeder and a squirrel or bird house or two.

Inclusive space

Those with mobility challenges will still want to get outside and enjoy a breath of winter air. But, says real estate broker Jeffrey Kerr of Re/Max Unique in Toronto, “Wintertime can be very problematic for people who use mobility devices. Ideally you want a backyard space that is easy to keep clear of snow and ice, and minimizes wet wheels coming into your home.”

Kerr, who specializes in helping clients buy and sell barrier-free, accessible houses and condominiums and is the author of Barrier Free Real Estate – Achieving Freedom at Home, recommends a low-threshold door leading to a covered patio that is sheltered from the wind as a welcome outdoor space in winter. Try to minimize the slope of your pathways and ensure the material is laid flat with a rough finish for better traction, he says.

“I’m seeing more and more homes installing heated driveways, walkways and patios to ensure there is no build-up of ice and snow.” 

Activities for the whole family – Make arrangements, paint flowerpots, paint a tree trunk or wrap something in yarn. Take up bird watching. Bundle up and have dinner outside. Make snow angels, put shrimp on the barbie and marshmallows on the fire pit.

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