Plan your alfresco space with interesting texture in mind

Plan your alfresco space with interesting texture in mind

Life & Style
Different textures add interest to the floor of this attractive courtyard at Rob and Edwina Foster's home near Perthville.

Different textures add interest to the floor of this attractive courtyard at Rob and Edwina Foster's home near Perthville.

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A shady area adjoining the house isn't a luxury in a hot, sunny climate, it's an essential, one we can enjoy for many months of the year.

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A longed-for shower has miraculously revived my poor stressed-out garden. Only 10 millimetres, but after several dry weeks and stratospheric temperatures, it was enough to produce green shoots on apparently dead shrubs and bring my lovely Darling lily (Crinum flaccid) into bloom.

Darling lily is a native Australian species from winter rainfall regions so I never understand why mine only flowers after a summer shower, but there it is, there's nothing like nature for catching you unawares.

After admiring the Darling lily and wishing it would multiply so I had enough to pick for indoors, I noticed the rain had sent several creepers rocketing into growth.

February is the best month for removing long canes of wisteria, wonga wonga vine (Pandorea pandorana) which bears masses of creamy bells in spring, and my favourite jasmine, the fragrant pink and white J. polyanthum that I grow on a sheltered wall as it's slightly frost tender.

Coastal gardeners sniffily regard it as a weed but I love it.

English lavender (L. angustifolia) can be pruned now. Lavender becomes hard and woody after a few years of constant pruning. Semi-ripe cuttings taken now should root in a couple of weeks and quickly make new plants.

Geraniums (Pelargoniums, as opposed to hardy perennial Geranium species) are surprisingly drought hardy when you consider the size and appearance of their large, soft-looking leaves. Cut back now to keep them flowering until the first frost. Like lavender, a few cuttings never go astray.

February is when outdoor eating comes into its own. A shady area adjoining the house isn't a luxury in a hot, sunny climate, it's an essential, one we can enjoy for many months of the year. - Fiona Ogilvie

Large flowered indoor cyclamen are dormant in summer and February is an excellent time to repot them. Cyclamen tubers slowly increase in size so need repotting in a slightly bigger pot every two years. It's a nice easy job for a cool morning.

Lift the tubers from their pot, brush off old soil, re-fill the pot with new potting mix and replant the tuber with its nose just above the surface. Keep in a shady spot in the garden until April, when you can bring it inside and start watering it to flower in July.

February is when outdoor eating comes into its own. A shady area adjoining the house isn't a luxury in a hot, sunny climate, it's an essential, one we can enjoy for many months of the year.

Flooring is as important as shade when planning an outdoor eating area. You need a hard surface for tables and chairs but a large stretch of one paver can look dull.

A couple of pavers combined with the different texture of gravel adds interest to the space and makes it seem bigger.

If you love growing and eating chillies, check out this year's Herb & Chilli Festival (www.herbchillifestival.com.au/). There will be a huge range of herbs for sale including 40 chilli varieties; food court; cooking demonstrations, music and entertainment for all age groups.

Entry $26, concession $20, family (2 adults, 2 children), $69, under 14 free.

Entry includes Herb and Chilli Festival book and program and a free plant. 125 Quayle Road, Wandin, 3139 (half an hour drive from Melbourne).

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