It's an inconvenient truth that, price-wise, the best time of year to buy garden furniture is right now. Even if your new acquisition will spend its first six months under cover, losing the best of its showroom shine, the massive savings on summer price tags are very tempting.
For much of 2014, I've been eyeing up a French bench on crocus.co.uk. It has lovely curling metal arms painted in a sort of faded, scumbly green, and long, silvery slats made of a forestry-certified wood called Shorea, taken from sustainably managed forests. Its name is Montpellier, which has a nice ring of the South of France. In fact, the only downside of the dream bench has been the price: a penny shy of £350 seems kind of a lot for something you can only sit on from March to September. Only now it's down to £279.99, which suddenly seems much more manageable, despite the fact that it will be half a year before I get to really use it. Cue an hour-long ponder of the odd economic logic of all of this.
Of course retailers know our arms can be twisted with a money-off bargain, or they wouldn't bother doing it. Other retailers currently tempting us with clearance offers on garden furniture range from Tesco to Argos to John Lewis, and it's likely that local garden centres will have offers on display ranges, too.
Having the right furniture is the key to being able to use your garden properly, so it is worth thinking it through (though perhaps taking the whole year, in my case, has been a bit much). Consider where the sunshine warms a cosy spot, out of the reach of the wind, or mark out where the lunchtime rays reach. Here's the perfect corner for that French bench, or maybe just a stylish chair. Even if it's just a moment grabbed at 11am to drink a cup of tea next to an opening bowl of daffodils, it's something.
Outdoor eating is a bigger proposition, but a substantial table may keep you running outside with a bowl of lunchtime pasta for a few weeks yet. A huge Spanish oak refectory table with two benches at Crocus has an even bigger discount: it's dropped from £999 to £499.99. Made from Spanish oak, it will age in a similar way to teak, silvering with age – though you'll need to self-assemble it after arrival.
Of course, it does occasionally happen that you fall in love with a particular thing and find it isn't in the sale. At the moment, you'll find smaller sets such as French slatted bistro tables on special offer as retailers scale down for winter, but the real thing is the French brand Fermob, which rarely discounts. These are sold online in the UK through connectionsathome.co.uk, starting at £56.40 for a single folding chair, in a choice of 24 extremely continental bright colours. My obsession is the Fermob stacking chair, the Luxembourg; familiar from the Paris gardens of the same name, it comes in at a cool £169.50, again in the same massive colour range.
With these, as with any garden furniture, it makes sense to also think about shelling out for some protection. As Crocus puts it, "the ideal scenario is to cover the items up with a waterproof cover or sheet if you are going to leave it outdoors over the winter months". Opt for its steamer chair cover, currently £29.99 down from £49.99, and then you can pop over to Argos and use the money you've saved to buy a barbecue protector into the bargain. A heavy-duty medium BBQ cover currently has a third off, at £9.99. And besides, if the balminess of September picks up again (pause for downpour), maybe I can even sit on my new bench and watch the leaves fall.
Four more of the best deals
Green easy chair
This cool green steel-mesh chair has a comfy bucket shape and rail legs that prevent it from sinking into lawn or gravel. £149.99 down to £129.99, crocus.co.uk
Everyday good value from Ikea; £80 gets you a stylish 1970s-influenced cradle in black or white plastic rattan. A matching footstool is £20.
Fiam Samba sunlounger
Lightweight aluminium frame with a taut polyester cover in jade green, for those who need very gentle relaxation. £89 down to £43, johnlewis.com
Jessica outdoor lantern
Another John Lewis bargain; keep candles in this flickering, gently curved cage, for beautiful outdoor effect. £15 down to £7.50, johnlewis.comReuse content