Garden furniture: How to mix and match

Make the most of the sunshine by transforming your outdoor space with funky furniture and perfect plants, says Kate Watson-Smyth
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The Independent Online

The forecasters have promised us a long hot summer of sun and, as many of us will be holidaying at home this year – thanks to the recession – it looks like it might be time to sort out the garden so that it's ready for fun as soon as the sun pokes out from behind the clouds.

You don't have to spend a fortune calling in builders and hiring skips; a couple of days clearing the weeds, doing some planting and spending carefully on furniture and accessories should transform even the smallest and grottiest of gardens into a space you can be happy to holiday in.

Lawns tend to look rubbish after a few weeks of sun and football, so if you are wedded to the idea of a patch of green, then it might be time to start thinking about fake grass. Obviously it needs no watering (so no worries about a hosepipe ban), it can withstand children, and their footballs, and will keep its colour all year round. Lazy Lawn ( lazylawn.co.uk ) has ten types to choose from, starting at less than £18 a metre and rising to £63 including fitting.

So, that's the groundwork done – literally. A quick trip to the garden centre should provide a few exotic plants – try a Fatsia japonica, which has large luscious jungly leaves and seems to thrive in the hot/cold/wet/dry mix that is the British summer. Add in a few large pots and planters and it's looking more inviting already.

If you have walls around the garden, then think about painting them in a bright summery colour – pink looks great with plants in front of it; and white, as long as you keep it clean in winter, might even transport you to the Mediterranean if you half close your eyes.

Now for the furniture. This season it's all about mixing and matching the colours rather than sticking to one palette and B&Q has a great range of polypropelene (that means weatherproof to you and me) chairs in red, green, orange and black that would look great around a plain table and cost a touch under £50 from diy.com. If lounging is more your thing – and if you're pretending to be on a beach then it probably is – there are some fabulous products around. Fermob ( www.worm.co.uk ; 0845 605 2505) has furniture in almost every colour imaginable, as does Indian Ocean ( www.indian-ocean.co.uk ; 020 8675 4808)

No real holiday is complete without a hammock for lazy afternoons and the Hammock chair (£49.95) from the Handpickedcollection.co m (0845 6023578) is the perfect solution for anyone who doesn't have two trees to sling one from. They also have a great range of deckchairs with quirky prints for £109.95.

And finally, there's no point decorating your garden and arranging yourself artfully on a lounger if there's no one to bring you a grilled sausage and a glass of something chilled.

This season M&S has brought out a rather stylish barbecue as part of its cappuccino range. It costs £99 and comes in orange, yellow and grey. Stock up on brightly coloured melamine or acrylic glasses and plates from John Lewis or Habitat, take a quick look at thegardengame.co.uk for a range of giant chess games, sandpits and skittles for the finishing touches and you're all set for summer.

You see – who needs a holiday? Now if you can just teach the children to mix the perfect Pimms, and bring it to you and keep the glass filled, you may never need to go away again.

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