Category Archives: Outdoor Decorating

When it comes to a home away from home, there’s nothing better than your own back yard. Outdoor decorating can be tricky because there’s a lot to consider, including sun damage, severe weather, infestations and your own comfort. Love Your Yard looks at all these issues with every entry.

Weather Vane

All About Weather Vanes

While doubling as common garden and yard décor, weather or wind vanes have been purposeful spanning back to Ancient Greece. To honor the Greek god Triton, the very first weather vane was placed atop the Tower of the Winds in Athens to show the direction of the wind. The ancients believed in the divine powers of the wind and the earliest weather vanes portrayed various gods as they adorned the homes of wealthy landowners. Bronze weather vanes have also been discovered on Viking ships and Scandinavian churches from the ninth century.

In ninth century A.D., the pope ordered every church in Europe to show a cock on its dome or steeple as a reflection of Jesus’ prophecy of St. Peter’s fall. Since then, “weather cocks” have been a common part of church architecture in both Europe and the United States. Patriotic weather vanes became popular in America during the early 1800s. Later, vanes modeled after famous racehorses gave way to the mass production of many different designs.

The most common type of weather vane is an arrow attached a rotating upright rod. The arrow spins freely when weight is equally distributed on both sides of the rotation axis. This allows the arrow to point into the direction of the wind, with the cardinal points of a compass typically shown on traditional vanes.

Weather vanes should be placed in a high position where trees, buildings or other objects won’t interfere. You will usually find them at the top of towers, roofs or poles. Some gardeners are able to use wind vanes to make simple weather forecasts, but if a modern wind vane doesn’t have the correct weight balance, it does not show and accurate wind direction. Because of this, vanes with complicated or intricate designs are often simply used for decoration.

Deck with Flower Baskets

Creating Curb Appeal

When it comes to décor, the exterior of your home is just as important as the interior. Make a lasting impression by adding curb appeal with these quick yardscaping tips:

1. Outdoor lighting

Highlight the features of your yard with landscape lighting. Try using them in trees or to illuminate a walking path. Solar fixtures are an alternative option if you’re not able to use wiring.

2. Container gardens

Don’t have time to plant an entire garden in the ground? Container gardens are just as welcoming and eye-catching. Get started with containers and your favorite plants. Arrange containers asymmetrically and on plant stands to create a dynamic effect.

3. Update garden beds

Get your garden beds back in order by pruning, weeding, planting flowers and adding new mulch. Clean up the border of your garden and reset anything that winter may have knocked out of place.

4. Outdoor art

Complete the look of your yard by adding weather-resistant artwork like bird baths, bird feeders, sculptures and wind art. If you have the space and resources, water sculptures or fountains create a soothing atmosphere on hot summer days.

5. Flower overload

Draw in eyes by spreading vibrant flowers throughout your entire front yard. Use containers, window boxes and flower beds. Choose a color scheme to complement the shade of your house and other décor.

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Attract Birds with Hanging Baskets

Themed gardens are a popular among gardeners. There are tons of themes that can be put to use, but one of the most common is a garden to attract birds. A hanging basket garden designed to do so will allow you an up close and personal look at your feathered friends.

A few plants to include in your basket are:

  • Zinnias – birds appreciate the seeds from this bright purple flower
  • Bee Balm – hummingbirds appreciate these purple pom pom shaped blooms
  • Aster – any variety of this common flower will beautify your baskets
  • Cornflower – enjoy a gorgeous pop of color with this bright blue flower
  • Coral Bells – a gorgeous flowing pink plant that will add texture and length to your baskets

It is important to make sure your hanging basket is located in a place where birds will not feel threatened. For instance, if you have cats at your house you shouldn’t place a bird-friendly basket in a location where cats can’t bat at birds or attempt to jump at them. Birds will not visit the basket if they feel that their safety may be compromised.

Which plants will you use to create your bird themed basket? Share with our community by commenting on this post or visiting our Facebook wall!


Suggested Vines and Flowers for your Hanging Baskets

There are tons of options for filling your hanging baskets, whether it is herbs, or grasses, or flowers. The most common types of plants that are used in hanging basket gardens are flowers and vines, as they are well liked by most people are generally easy to care for.

You may plant a basket with one type of flower, one color scheme, or a variety of both. The floral you choose will make a difference in the look of the basket and overall feel of the décor. Combining a mixture of heights and brights will add interest to your hanging basket and make it a work of art. Some flowers to consider including are:

• Waterfall Blue (Lobelia) – a gorgeous purple-blue flower that overflows elegantly
• Marigold (Tagetes ‘Lemon Gem’) – this flower’s bright yellow hue will attract the eye, and butterflies!
• Bacopa (Sutera ‘Snowstorm’) – a heavenly pale pink/white flowing plant that will reach towards the ground as it grows
• Wax begonia (Begonia ‘Prelude Red’) – red flowers against bright green leaves provide a brilliant color contrast and unexpected fiery pop

Generally we appreciate that plants grow towards the sky, but there are some that grow out, or down. Vines are fun to grow, but can be problematic when placed in a garden where they take over the flowerbed. Hanging baskets are the perfect solution as they allow vines to grow down and create a gorgeous hanging canopy of flowers and foliage. A few vines to try include:

• Ivy (Hedera helix) – This dark green leafy vine is a staple in many hanging baskets
• Sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas ‘Margarita’) – A bright green, large leafed vine that will brighten up your hanging basket
• Licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’) – Tiny lime green colored leaves will grow on vines that curve down and back up
• Vinca ‘Variegata’ – A twiggy, sparsely leafed vine will create texture

If you’re a beginner to hanging baskets it will be wise to try a hanging vine and flower design. The easy care options, and easy to design abilities they possess, will help you understand how hanging baskets work. After heading to our Hanging Basket Shop head to your local garden center to stock up on plants that will burst with color and hang with style!


Why Line Your Hanging Baskets?

Hanging baskets are just that – a type of basket. The use of baskets provides lots of open space for adequate air circulation and sets the stage for proper drainage. With that in mind, it is important to line your hanging basket with materials that will help keep the soil, plants, and roots protected, in addition to keeping water from just pouring through.

There are a few options that work well for lining your baskets. Some gardeners use moss to line their hanging baskets. Other gardeners turn to coco and pre-manufactured liners that are made to fit a certain size basket.

Coco liners have a long and interesting history. They are fabricated from the shell, or outer covering of a coconut, hence the name coco liner. The first steps of the coco liner’s production are primarily done in Sri Lanka and Indonesia where the hull is shredded into fibers and baled. These bales are shipped to China where they are dried, sprayed with pesticides and latex, and then cut into squares for easy handling so they can be molded into the shape of baskets.  The molding process also involves additional latex spraying. It is a highly manual process involving unnecessary chemicals.

Until recently, these textured and messy liners were the only option available on the market. The EcoLiner™ has changed the hanging basket liner landscape with its durability, performance, and eco-friendly construction.

What is EcoLiner™:

CobraCo® has developed a solution that dramatically outperforms the coco liner. Meet EcoLiner. EcoLiner is a paper mache liner; fabricated from recycled corrugate. The benefits of using EcoLiner in your hanging baskets include:

  • Biodegradable materials; without the chemicals used in coco liner production
  • Twice the moisture retaining capability of a coco liner
  • Reduced effort required to maintain plants – less watering on your part
  • Resists fading caused by sunlight due to natural colorfast pigment dye

EcoLiner is truly better for your plant, better for you, and better for the earth. Made with a paper mache material that starts with recycled cardboard to create a slurry, EcoLiner®’s material is not the art class paper mache you’re familiar with. This mixture is made with biodegradable ingredients necessary to create durability and moisture retaining features of EcoLiner. With this proprietary formula, EcoLiner can be made in just about any shape or color you can imagine!

Using a liner for your basket will save you time and water and will help the longevity and health of your plants. CobraCo® plant liners are available at your local garden center or can be purchased online in our Plant Liner Shop!

Garden Mulch

Mulching 101

When we think of the word mulch we tend to envision brown, bark-like material applied to a flowerbed, but did you know mulch exists in many forms? Let’s explore why mulch benefits your gardens and what options are available for your home and budget.

Applying mulch to your garden reduces weed growth, which will have a beneficial impact on your plants. Weeds deplete soil of nutrients and moisture when they grow and therefore limit the supply to the plants you want in your garden. They also have the ability to choke the root systems of your plants and cause them to die.

Water evaporation is slowed significantly from soil when mulch is applied. Watering a flowerbed that is mulched will result in up to 50% less evaporation than one that is uncovered. Mulch that is applied shortly after new plantings can increase the ground’s moisture and promote healthier root growth.

Various types of mulch are available for your garden. You may be familiar with:

  • Shredded bark mulch – an inexpensive and easy-to-find option
  • Pine bark nuggets – does not break down as easily as other mulches, but also don’t stay in place as well
  • Wood chips – often a free option from local tree trimmers. Be sure to find out if the source tree had poison ivy to prevent infecting your garden.
  • Cocoa hull mulch – A fine texture and rich color make this non-fading mulch a favorite for gardeners, although it is one of the most expensive
  • Did you also know you can use alternative natural materials as mulch? Consider using:
  • Grass clippings – a cheap and readily available material
  • Decaying leaves – helps to retain more moisture than average mulch
  • Compost – a material that will supply your garden with an abundance of healthy nutrients as it breaks down
  • Hay – although cheap and easy to apply, it is less ornamental than other mulch options
  • Rubber (shredded reusable materials) – extremely long lasting but does not provide any nutrients to the soil
  • Decorative Stone – a very long-lasting option that also holds heat or stays cold much longer than alternative mulch materials

Whether you use a traditional or nonconventional material for mulching your garden, your plants will appreciate you taking steps to keep them well-watered. With benefits like less weeds and a more uniformed looking garden, what are you waiting for? Get started this weekend!


Cleaning Your Outdoor Surfaces

When prepping your garden for winter you will also want to give attention to your outdoor living  spaces. Winter moisture and wear and tear can leave your deck, sidewalks, and patio furniture looking worn. Algae and moss can take residence on your surfaces creating a green tint and film.

Safer® Brand Moss and Algae Killer is an effective and environmentally friendly product that will help you get the job done. This all-natural moss killer utilizes the natural effectiveness of potassium salts to rid your deck, roof, siding, walkways, lawn and more of algae and moss. This product is USDA National Organic Program compliant for use in organic gardening.

Repainting or re-staining outdoor furniture, patio surfaces, and decks is also ideal in early spring. Use environmentally friendly materials to ensure you won’t be adding chemicals and substances that may cause adverse effects for the plants surrounding your deck. You may also want to apply rust-resisting spray to any sculptures or metal décor that you keep outdoors.

Cleaning your birdhouses, birdfeeders and birdbaths that have been stowed away for winter months is crucial, too. Using a mild soap and warm water, thoroughly clean all components of your bird-friendly equipment and towel dry. Birds will benefit from regularly cleaning these throughout spring and summer.

Taking time to clean up and restore your outdoor entertaining space and its furniture will improve the longevity of the materials and save you the hassle and time of replacing them. Not only will you appreciate a clean and beautiful outdoor space but your guests will, too!


Fall Flower Boxes

Enhance your fall outdoor decorating and extend your gardening season with fall flower boxes and hanging planters.

The first brisk fall evenings crash through summer’s warmth and abruptly awaken our senses to the season’s arrival. It seems like one day we are enjoying long days and cookouts, and the next day it’s football and early morning frost. Those crisp nights also tend to foretell the end of our gardening season.

Fall mumsThe thought of all your hard work disappearing steadily with each falling leaf, though inevitable, is a disappointing end to the summer. So don’t let it be the end of your garden season! Take back the fall with your flower boxes and hanging baskets, because they are a great way to extend your gardening season past Halloween and even continue to have garden color into Thanksgiving. Once your summer annuals are done blooming, its time to start to research some plants and flowers that will last a little longer in your hardiness zone. Don’t forget that there are some plants that will look great in your flower boxes even after the first frosts, and will provide color late into the year.  Less hardy plants start to wither up and die and your garden starts to turn brown.

Chrysanthemums, or mums, are a very common and colorful fall flower. There are many different variety’s available to today’s gardener, including some very hard plants that can be perennials all the way in to Zone 5! Mums also make excellent container plants, and will work superbly for a flower box. Select 2-3 different colors to provide a nice, diverse showing. If you prefer, use a palette of fall colors like orange, yellow, and dark-red. They match up superbly with your traditional Halloween and Thanksgiving decorating.


Pansies are an excellent way to add some vibrant color to your fall flower boxes. While pansies are not hardy enough to last as perennials in winter zones, they thrive in the cooler weather that fall provides, with some varieties even being able to survive light snow. The incredible color variety that is available with pansies make them a great option for filling in empty spaces in your flower boxes or hanging baskets.

Ornamental cabbages and kales provide nice leafy centerpieces to build your fall flower boxes and hanging baskets around. There are a handful of different varieties, all with different shapes and sizes. As the weather gets colder the color in the center of these plants become brighter and really provide a nice base of color for fall flower boxes and hanging baskets.

Don’t let fall be the end of your beautiful gardens. With a little research, and a little extra care, you can have flower boxes and hanging baskets that will extend your growing season, and give your outdoor decorating an extra touch of color and beauty at a time of the year when most people have given up.


Video of the Month: How To Decorate A Patio

Are you wondering how you are going to decorate your patio this year? Wonder no more… AvantGarden® has all the answers! Watch our video to find out great expert tips and advice.

Suggested Plantings for Sun and Shade

Typically, when most of us think about gardening, we’re thinking about plants and flowers planted, cultivated and grown in full sunlight. But there are abundant opportunities that can produce pleasant results when we expand our planting to partial sun and shade.

Some definitions: Full Sun means at least 6 full hours of direct sunlight. Partial Sun / Partial Shade are used interchangeably to mean 3 – 6 hours of sun each day, usually better in the  morning and early afternoon.  Partial Shade means the plant need some relief from intense late afternoon sun. Dappled Sun is similar to partial shade but sunlight is filtered through the branches of a deciduous tree.  Examples are some Continue reading