The Australian climate means we can garden and entertain outside virtually all year round. Sure, there is hot weather in summer and rainy weather in winter but if you have created the right space, you can enjoy most of the year outside.
In summer we want somewhere shady and cool, while in winter we want somewhere that takes advantage of the winter sun and is sheltered from the wind. These two seasonal ideals may be different areas, or they may be two versions of the same space.
Entertaining under a vine-covered pergola will always be cooler than sitting under a solid structure such as a pergola, as the leaves create a form of natural evaporative air-conditioning. If you choose a deciduous shade tree or vine, winter sun will come through and you will enjoy this space on a sunny winter or early spring day.
One ideal position for outdoor living in winter is on the north side of your house. A northside courtyard becomes a sun trap with the wall absorbing the heat. Café blinds and a heater can transform an outdoor pergola for winter use. This area covered with a deciduous tree or pergola will make it shady in summer.
To make your garden useable at night interesting garden lighting can effectively create mood and light.
Five top tips for “creating your oasis’’
Tip 1: Shade and more shade
You will need an aspect of your garden that creates shade to maximise the use of outdoor living in the summer, and by choosing deciduous trees and vines you are not forfeiting the winter sun.
Tip 2: Variety
Choose a variety of plants for their form, texture, and structure, as well as flowers and foliage, to create contrast
Tip 3: Limit some surfaces
Limit areas of hard reflective surfaces such as paving to what is necessary, as these create a heat bank in summer and increase the stormwater run off rather than allowing the rain to penetrate your soil.
Tip 4: Prepare and nurture
Prepare your soil before planting. Once you have planted, be sure to mulch thoroughly to keep your plants happy, reduce their water requirements and retain the moisture in the soil. Feed your plants with organic-based fertilisers once a season to keep them in optimal health.
Tip 5: Include a vegetable garden
If space is available grow your own vegetables, herbs, and fruit trees – this will add a further dimension to your garden.