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Sod Prices per Square Foot – The Cost for an Instant Lawn

14 Mar

Whether you’ve just purchased a new home or have areas in your yard that you want to improve and make greener, you may want to consider sod prices per square foot as opposed to the price of seeding the lawn yourself.  It’s a matter of time and convenience in both cases.  On the one hand, sod is more expensive than seeding, but you get to look at an instant lawn as soon as it has been put in place.  While the instant lawn may be convenient, it can be costly, running anywhere between $0.50 – $1.00 per square foot and you then have to pay for the installation.  You have to consider that in both cases, the ground needs to be prepared so that it is level and rock and weed free.

Sod versus Seed

Sod can’t just be installed and left to fend for itself.  You need to water it constantly and keep an eye on it for the growth of fungus (evidenced by dead circular patches).  When purchasing sod, ensure that it is fresh.  It is best to have sod installed within a day of being harvested to ensure that it will root well.  While it is relatively easy for a homeowner to seed their own lawn, it’s best to have your sod installed by someone who offers professional gardening services.  Ironically, sod prefers areas with cold winters/hot summers or mild winters/hot summers.

Installation and Care

Installation of a sod lawn to enhance your garden decor can run into the hundreds of dollars, so when comparing that cost plus the cost of the sod itself to the price of seeding your own lawn, there is a lot to consider.  Seeding your own lawn will be less expensive, but will require the same amount of preparation and a lot of care and attention once the seed is sown.  A seeded lawn needs regular watering, but even with the best of care, can turn out patchy and you may not be satisfied.  Seed can be spread with special spreaders or through a hose that contains a special agent that helps keep the seed in place (protected from the elements like the wind).

Professional seeding (as opposed to DIY) is much less expensive than using a professional sod installation company.  One thing that is convenient about sod is that you can cut the pieces of sod to fit around things like your walkways, trees, garden fencing or flower beds.  When considering sod prices per square foot versus the cost of seeding your own lawn, you’ll also need to consider the convenience, simplicity and the time you have available to dedicate to the project.

Sod Prices per Square Foot

photo by reinvented

Garden Netting Can Give Lustre to Your Garden

1 Feb

Garden Netting Can Give Lustre to Your Garden

Garden Netting

Garden netting, and fencing in general, came to life centuries ago when people living in fiefs were forced to separate their properties from the adjacent estates. It was also the wall adding defensive functions to the house surroundings and gardens were a privilege enjoyed by handful of people in mansions fenced with stones. Today’s houses, thanks God, do not need stone walls to protect us from covetous neighbours and barbarian tribes and garden fencing is largely a decorative attribute of a place to enjoy our deserved respite.

The Garden Is a Special Place

Garden Netting 2

photo by SylviavBruggen

Most famous architects liked to design garden decor for gardens are special places within a real estate. And while patio paving and invariable garden pond remained relatively unchanged during the ages, garden netting evolved in form and shape while new materials and types of fencing appeared.

Presumably, you will never use barbed wire fence to fence in your garden with impenetrable enclosure. You will eventually need a pool fence circling your garden pond but you can hardly create cactus fence in the rainy British climate. Concrete fences, for their part, are extremely durable and replaced the ancient stone walls while a good designer can give them shapes and forms unimaginable to create using stone. Concrete also replaced stones as a material for patio paving allowing house owners to create flowing pathways.

Green is Always in Fashion

Garden Netting 4

photo by PinkMoose

Green fence is among the inherited British traditions that make houses and gardens in the United Kingdom so unique. We can add that traditional hedge-row has much to do with fox hunting but that is another story. A green garden fencing is always a good idea and even synthetic materials can add unique charm to the garden you designed with all your love.

Picket fences are also popular among people living in the countryside, especially if the garden paling is painted in fresh and bright colours (remember Tom Sawyer). It is always a better idea to design your garden decor with green in mind rather than raise six feet concrete or stone fencing.

Green is always in fashion while live fencing will transform your garden netting into a natural extension of the garden.

You can express your soul in a live garden netting and let your inner man select live woody species that reflect your true character. Evergreen oak or chestnut, elm-tree or poplar, they all can add to your peace of mind being part of a live green garden fencing.

Garden Netting 6

photo by yewenyi

Outdoor Kitchens to Enjoy Nature with Comfort and Style

7 Nov

Outdoor Kitchens to Enjoy Nature with Comfort and Style

Cooking outdoors is a lot of fun as it provides entertainment for the whole family and friends, which is why outdoor kitchens are becoming such a rage! An outside cooking area can be as complex or as simple as you desire. Of course, it also depends on what one is willing to spend. If the budget is limited, you can opt for modular outdoor kitchens and continue adding more pieces as the budget allows. These units allow one to custom build a cooking area outside according to the individual needs and include everything from appliances and cabinets to outdoor grills and outdoor fireplaces or fire pits.
Besides the entertainment value, cooking outdoors has several benefits. One of the major benefits is that the air conditioning bill goes down. Cooking indoors makes the rooms hot, thereby forcing the air conditioning to work more and increase the bill. Also, there is less noise and chaos inside when the cooking is done outdoors. Finally, a well planned kitchen outside can even increase the value of a property, this is something we should be thinking about, especially if we are planning on selling in the future.

**Comfort Outdoors: the romantic style – Photo by the trial

outdoor kitchen

Kitchen Blueprints

There are many outdoor kitchen ideas available which can be suitable for people with different needs. There are outdoor kitchens with trendy cooking surfaces, storage areas, refrigerators, sinks – even bars are possible. More and more people are taking their cooking outside as it gives them the opportunity to experience nature more closely, while enjoying cooking at the same time. Outdoor kitchen designs that blend in with the exterior of the house give the house a more spacious look and their easy maintenance makes them very appealing. An architect can help draw up the outdoor kitchen plans, or the main ideas can be searched for online.

Outdoor Kitchen with a Patio Garden

Cooking outdoors next to a well designed patio where everyone can sit to enjoy their meals, can enhance the outdoor eating experience even more. This is especially true when the garden decor is pleasing to look at. In the summer evenings, outdoor cooking brings the family together and provides some quality time while they are unwinding from the day’s happenings.

**Enjoying the view: the arquitectonic style – Photo by stirlingstoneworks

outdoor kitchen2

When thinking about designing the patio, a good idea is to ask the opinions of family members. When family members get to participate in coming up with patio ideas then they usually enjoy using it more. It’s good to know that there are many choices available when deciding what kind of garden furniture would be more suitable. There is resin patio furniture or outdoor wicker furniture; having both will allow each person to choose what they find most comfortable. Adding roll up awnings to a patio design means cooking can be done outside under shade during the day also. This extends the amount of time the family can spend outdoors, while keeping the indoors clean and tidy. Adding some strategic garden lighting can provide a more formal dining experience.

Cooking outdoors on a regular basis is becoming more and more common because it suits everyone’s needs. Whether it is a family spending time together, or a romantic evening under the stars with that special someone, or just hanging out with friends it provides the ideal environment. So, choose from the many outdoor kitchens designs, and get cooking!

Great Garden Retaining Wall Ideas to Try Outdoors

10 Sep

Great Garden Retaining Wall Ideas to Try Outdoors

When one has a garden which is elevated or inclined, garden retaining wall ideas are a great way to keep it in place. In using a wall-ideas of what materials to use are varied. The main principles behind a retaining wall are the following: it should be strong and durable to withstand gravity and it should allow the outflow of water which collects in the garden.

There are different ideas for retaining wall and these all hold merit. However, one’s outdoor setting also has to be considered when envisioning building walls in the garden. Easy retaining wall ideas can be implemented if the homeowner is inspired enough to beautify and maximize his/her property.

Materials One Can Use

Stone and concrete are most commonly used for building walls. Construction of a retaining wall using these materials usually involves mortar. However, short landscaping walls may not have mortar. They may be made of concrete blocks or masonry units instead. There are many modern styles of these units which are often preformed for the ease of building and designing.

Wood is not the preferred material because it is prone to damage upon water exposure. It can also serve as the home for insects like termites or become the source of food for fungi. This makes it unable to withstand time. While it cannot be used as the wall’s basic material,  it can be used for decorating the wall.

Designs and Ideas

Building a wall which matches the garden decor is best for ensuring the unity of the wall with the rest of the garden. Retaining wall design ideas are varied. One such idea is to build the wall in tiers or steps. This design evens out the pressure on the wall and helps to make it more durable in the long-run. These tiers can then be used as raised flower beds, giving a natural feel to these garden additions.

An outdoor patio can also be built over land levelled by a retaining wall. A pavers ideas can be used to lay out a floor plan which is compatible and connected with the other parts of the house. With a good patio design, what is usually considered as an unusable space becomes optimised and adds value to one’s home.

When a retaining wall is used as garden fencing, its aesthetic value and functionality can be enhanced by outlaying it with bricks and adding engravings, wall plaques and signs.  This idea is often used in countries where hills and mountains are predominant. Additionally, multiple wall systems are used in the neighborhoods in these places to strengthen the structure of the people’s homes and prevent soil erosion and landslides.

These inexpensive retaining wall ideas can be used by the homeowner to enhance the structure of his/her property, maximize elevated spaces and add to the beauty of the home. In general, one can research on how to build a retaining wall in the internet or can refer to the local engineer or architect. The cost depends on the area which needs to be walled in, the material that is going to be used and the manual labor required. With a definite plan and a sufficient budget, a retaining wall can be built properly.

Photo bluekdesign **Courtesy of

Undulating Retaining Wall

Using Gardening Services to Improve the Look of your Garden

17 Jun

Using Gardening Services to Improve the Look of your Garden

Despite having done all the necessary reading and having watched all the TV programes on how to revamp and care for your garden decor, you will probably be looking through the yellow pages to find out what gardening services are available to you. We all want to bring the outside in and enjoy what nature has to offer and the rise of the TV gardener has upped our expectations and interest in our outside space. Low maintenance gardens can be constructed and obviously a small garden is much more manageable than a large rambling area however generally gardens do not care for themselves and will need a fair amount of input if they are inherited.

Research Locally

Research all gardening services to see what is on offer locally; it could be you require a specialist area such as a tree surgeon, or the local retired man who is a self taught gardener could be the solution you require to make sure your garden is well taken care of. The rewards of planting your seeds and going through the stages of transplanting seedlings and nurturing your garden to reap the harvest are many, but results take time. Patience and trial and error are more than often the best ways to learn so don’t be afraid to ask neighbours and friends for useful tips to get you going.

You will have ideas about what areas of your garden you can manage and what you feel you need a gardening service for, it could just be want the best organic fertilisers and weed and pest control for your vegetable patch and need advice and information.


A great book for any organic gardener is Gwydion’s Moon Planting Guide. It is a fascinating and useful read for the organic gardener; showing how to plant and sow at the right time in the lunar cycle by making use of light and other factors to maximise effects for all crops and other plants. The book teaches a genuine and ancient skill that has a scientific basis.


It could be you require garden services for landscaping this is an area often best left to the professional landscaper. Remember when planning your garden design that you need to consider lots of things, light and shade being crucial to your planting strategy. Ongoing garden maintenance is an important factor, it may be worth spending a little more on the initial outlay to ensure that your garden is manageable once it is completed. Also don’t forget gardening products from compost or fertilisers to peat, you will need to feed and plant your garden if you want the best results. All these aspects of you garden should all be considered by garden service suppliers so do not be afraid to ask questions.

Lawn care in itself can be a whole area that requires VIP status, so when considering a large lawn area factor in prices for all the tools you require. It could be you are planning to treat yourself to a ride on mower, check out second hand versions as this may be a more affordable approach. You can also get grass cutting as part of the gardening services, particularly useful if you have a paddock or a wild overgrown lawn or meadow that is out of hand or has been neglected.

Photo by Randy Son Of Robert**Cortesy of – Creative Commons


Taking Care of Your Garden Decor

14 Jun

Taking Care of Your Garden Decor

Gardens ARE extensions of our homes. We must take care of our garden decor at all times as gardens have become over the decades an important part of our homes. There are all sorts of garden decorations for you to take into account; the best way is to create a theme and add accordingly – birdhouses, garden wall decor, benches, ponds, statues, etc – and yes, even one little flower in the corner of your lawn counts for that ultimate great look!! You must take care of your lawn as it should always look neat and tidy. If you own a large garden, why not try a ride on mower? A John Deere ride on lawn mower is one worth checking out.

Let’s have a look at some of the most popular themes:

English Garden

My favorite is the English Garden Rose. It has become increasingly popular in the last few years. The British style gives your outdoor garden decor a definitely panache; it has a very elegant style but is also extremely simple to create (as long as you take good care of the flowers which can be very time consuming). Even though roses are my all time favorite, we can’t forget how the Brits mix them nicely with potentillas, geraniums, daisies, dandelions, daffodils, heather, lupin, pansies and primulas.

If you are looking for a cheap garden decor an English garden might be the answer for you. Still, you will have to spend quite a lot of time taking care of these beautiful flowers whether you opt for a rose garden or a mix of different ones.

Japanese Garden

Yes, I know, very elegant, beautiful, simple, eye-catching, and… not that easy to create! Some refer to it as a type of whimsical garden decor. It is fascinating spending time creating a delightful Japanese Garden, and certain features are a must, like bamboo fountains, a tea house, beautiful stone lanterns and moss. These particular outdoor garden decorations will add nicely to your Japanese theme.

Mediterranean Garden

I’m thinking tomatoes, peppers, aromatic herbs, olive trees, lots of vibrant colors, and of course Spain and Italy! The Mediterranean garden is indeed a very beautiful one. If you live in a hot area this type of garden will “take good care of itself” For your outdoor garden decor you will need nice colorful pottery (majolican pots works really, really well), a nice garden statue, a couple of benches and lots of beautiful “helechos” (fern)

Ever thought of a “Junk Garden” theme?

Yep, you guessed it; this is the type of home and garden decor for someone who really can’t afford to spend a lot of money. It works wonderfully well, as you “design as you go”, adding bits and pieces using your creativity and imagination. Also you can look at it as a way of “recycling” different objects by placing them scattered around your garden or patio. What I like the most about these so called “junk gardens” is the element of surprise! Remember you can be as free, bold and unique as you like when it comes to your garden décor.

Whatever your choice, from the lovely warm and romantic English rose garden to the more intrinsic Japanese one, you will become a garden designer from the very first moment you decide to work on your garden decor. And if you find it too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to hire a professional. They will help you out assessing the possibilities and make it a lot easier for you!

Photo by Martin_Heigan **Cortesy of – Creative Commons


Photo by Gavin Anderson **Cortesy of – Creative Commons

garden statue

Your Garden Pond

3 Feb

For your garden decor you must consider a beautiful garden pond. They are very attractive and can also be very original; artificial ponds are a very nice way to fill up spaces around your outdoor areas that have no specific utility.  Make sure before installing garden ponds that the area where you are going to construct it will not be used in the future for anything else, and preplan the whole operation using a rope around the area in order to visualize measurements, etc.

There are many different types of garden ponds and basically what you want to look for is the shape in order to measure depth and overall decor.

Where and which one?

It is a good idea to place your pond where the sun shines for at least for to six hours a day. Something people usually forget is not to place it near a tree as the leaves will fall onto the water and that can be quite a source for lots of infections. Protect it with a fence if there are going to be children playing around the area.

It is very easy to find preformed plastic garden ponds and many gardening centers, but the shape and size are not always adapted to the needs of your particular garden so you might want to create your own one from scratch. This is a more difficult option and it might be particularly useful to get a professional to do it if your budget can afford it.

There are many ways to decorate your pond and make it really beautiful; try to divide the space into two different areas. One would be for marsh plants and the other for the fish and any aquatic plants you want to add. What about tiling around it? You could also place nice pebbles around the area or just stones.

To give it originality and beauty you can add waterfalls, which apart from being really ornamental they provide oxygen to the water. The installation should be quite simple and can be done by placing some type of natural or artificial stone and then with the use of garden pond pumps you can create the illusion of a natural waterfall. An essential part of your pond would be the plants that you choose to decorate it. They are also very useful and essential for fish life as they supply oxygen. There are many species that can be used for the decoration of your garden pond like lilies, irises, flags, fairy moss and marsh plants such as bullrushes.

Garden fish ponds are very beautiful and the pond should contain a mixture of different fish species which are compatible with each other. They do play a very important role in the natural life of the cycle of your garden pond.

Your new beautiful garden pond should contain a mixture of different fish species which are compatible with each other. To maintain them in good health it is necessary to provide them with adequate food, mainly nutritional. Make sure to take good care of them as they play a very important role in the natural life of the cycle of your garden pond and ultimately the overall look of your outdoor area.

garden pond

photo credit: Murdo McDermid – Cortesy of

How to Enclose a Patio

11 Dec

Many people ask themselves how to enclose a patio and which is the best way to go around it. To enclose a patio you first need to sketch out your ideas through several designs according to the existing structure and also what is the preferred outcome in terms of look and style. When it comes to thinking about different ideas for enclosing a patio, it is important to point out that the design and overall result should match that of your garden decor or/and the actual look of your house. Is the wood the predominant element? Brick? Concrete? What do you want to enclose a patio with: glass? walls? screen? plastic?

The next thing you have to ask yourself is if there is a need to add a roof. This should be fairly easy to decide upon; first and foremost think why are you enclosing a patio in the first place. There is no doubt that it would protect you from the weather and add an important touch of privacy (especially if you already have a garden for outdoor enjoyment); at the end of the day you do spend quite a lot of time in the patio and/or outdoors during the spring, summer and fall. If the main reason for undergoing such a task is so you can elongate these periods of time during the winter, you should contemplate the idea of roofing your patio as well. There are ups and downs with this option; you will close in your patio area a lot more than if you were just to build walls or add screens around it and you will less light througout the whole year even if you add windows. If you are adding a roof to your patio the best thing would be to think of glass when it comes to the walls, a bit like the British conservatories or at least similar to the style. These conservatories are usually surrounded by glass (the English weather is renouned for being very cold in the winter) and supported by metalic frames. Some of them have the lower half built with bricks as it offers more security and privacy. You should design your roof first and then the framing structure.

The next thing to consider is the cost to enclose a patio. After you finish your design (you should have quite a few sketches so it will be easier to choose the design that fits best) it is important to set yourself a budget and take it from there. Are you going to enclose the patio yourself or are you going to pay for professional help? Surely professionals will be able to do a good job but it will come at a price. You should definitely go for it if your pocket allows. Next you should budget for the right materials and the ones you chose on your sketch. Some are more expensive than others and some are easier to work with especially if you are doing it yourself. Maybe you should compromise here by choosing certain materials  that are cheaper in order to be able to afford others that need to be sound and solid when it comes to quality. Enclosing a patio is not the same as building a house: you don’t need to be so worried about a perfect finish, but building with good materials is always a plus.

The actual enclosure can be done in different ways but the easiest by far is by using screens. They are cheap and very simple to set up. Although not as strong as brick or steel, they will definitely do a good job for many years to come if fitted properly. The other advantage is that they do let a lot of light through which is an important factor when it comes to gardens and patios (or any outdoor area in general). You might want to think about proper patio lighting for the evening and night times and also to enhance the decor of the new enclosed area.

Think of style and design of the windows if you are opting for brick walls, and, again, if you are enclosing it yourself windows might be a bit more complicated than just enclosing with screens. Do you want to add window sills? Are they going to be double windows? What about light coming through the roof? Think of all the electric appliances that need fitting when doing your designs, and of any central heaters that need to be placed.

If you live in a flat and you want to enclose a patio you should first ask your neighbours to see how they feel about it. Also make sure you get planning permissions if needed (whether you live in a flat or in a house in the countryside). Some places consider enclosing a patio building an extension to the house (especially if you are enclosing with brick and adding a roof).

If you are going to spend a good amount of time in your new enclosed patio during the winter you should think of insulating the floor. This can be done easily if there is already concrete and it just against the ground, but it becomes more of a difficult task if the patio is suspended above the ground level (as it happens with garden decking) and you need to do a thorough plan.

Some people wonder how to enclose a covered patio as their property was sold to them with a roofed outdoor area. These situations take place when site developers roof an outdoor structure with the idea of owners wanting to enclose it at some point in the future. Sliding doors are a good, simple and inexpensive solution if this is the case.

How to enclose a patio is down to you in the end, but the most important step that people should not take for granted is designing sketches on paper first to avoid unnecessary problems that might arise later on.

A Water Scarecrow Helps Preserve Your Garden Decor

8 Dec

Contech Electronics CRO101 Scarecrow Motion-Activated SprinklerHave you ever thought about adding a water scarecrow to your garden? This scarecrow is a nifty little system that keeps the birds away from gardens and pools. It consists of a sprinkler that squirts water for a few seconds and it is activated only when motion is detected. The scarecrow water sprinkler will cover an area of around 10m (wide) by 14m (length) and operates on a 9 volt battery capable of supplying up to three thousand shots and uses very little water in each shot, and it will not affect at all any of the watering methods you use in your garden.

It also will not affect your garden decor, as it is quite small and not very noticeable. Some people use the scarecrow water sprayer for their pools or outdoor water fountains (so pigeons and other birds don’t rest on the borders messing them up). It will shoot water at them when it detects motion without any damage (it is harmless) so your pool can stay nice and clean throughout the summer period or while your are using it.

For best brand jet water spray deterrent check out what your pocket can afford. Contech is probably the most popular one, while Havahart also offers a scarecrow yard sprayer at an affordable price with good consumer reviews. They’re both popular brands with similar prices, Contech’s scarecrow looks more like.. well, a scarecrow.

**If you are in the UK, click HERE for best Amazon Sprayers**


Here are the 3 Contech options we’ve chosen:

And here’s the Havahart 5265 Spray Away Motion-Activated Water Repellent:


Our last option is a cheap “scarecrow” by Laguna (Laguna Blue Heron), which can also help the look of your garden decor:

List Price: ($44.99)
Sale Price: ($59.00)
Availability: (Usually ships in 1-2 business days)


Water scarecrows are being used as a method for conservation in gardens but it is advisable that you do not leave outside during the winter. The water will freeze and damage the scarecrow, so store it inside the shed or somewhere indoors. This device can set you back from $40 to around $100 depending on the specific brand. The beauty is that it doesn’t use any chemicals and it is not complicated to set up as well as being very inexpensive to run. The sprayer shoots water unexpectedly which works extremely efficiently when it comes to scaring off any animals that could damage your garden and keeping the decor at its best. It is also environmentally friendly.

So there is no need for you to be thinking of traps or electric fences which can be quite inhumane to animals. A scarecrow water jet pack and its motion activated sprinkler is a very innovative way for you to take care of your flowers and vegetables and also will “add” to your decor in the sense that you will not have to opt for ugly fences or any other sort of unappealing methods.

When the water is shot, the scarecrow makes a loud noise which also helps to scare the animals away. An added bonus is that the animals associates this experience to the area so they are not likely to return.

A water scarecrow is really easy to set up, and with the best brand jet water spray deterrent listed above you can’t really go wrong. They are very economical to run and will help keep your garden decor at its best!

In Action:

**See also fox deterrents for gardens

How to Grow a Garden at Home

7 Dec

If you are wondering how to grow a garden at home, you should plan first a general design before embarking in any hands-on job. Do sketches on paper first. They will help you enormously along the way.

Study the ground. It is advisable to conduct a soil survey to determine its characteristics and adept to these when growing your chosen plants. In case there was a garden before and you want to improve it or change it completely, you should take into account all the plants, flowers and trees and also the general structure of the garden: it is all about maximizing all the possible elements within the already established garden.

Don’t go over-budget. Set yourself a budget that will be realistic; think of general subsequent maintenance that your garden will need. We have to consider  factors such as the presence of children, any spring allergies and also pets in the house. When planning we have to look at elements in our garden like the pool, pond, garden arch, garden decking, ornamental statues or any other decorative item that might add to our existing garden decor.

Is the garden or patio area part of a house that has not been built yet? Ask the architect or designer to develop a joint home-garden, so that the views from the home fall into your outdoor area. The next step would be for the ground to be leveled with that one of the house. If the land is away from the house it is possible to plant trees just before the finishing edges to create a sort of “garden fencing” with them and at the same time allow them to adapt to the terrain. Also, we do not want the bigger trees near the house as eventually we would run into problems when the roots grow too far in.

Grass is probably the most essential element as the most prominent feature in any garden is the lawn. It will take it 12 to 18 months for it to be fully grown and it is not easy to grow it nearer the trees but gravel can be used for ease of growth. Furthermore, it should be noted that in the lowlands gardens can suffer from flooding making it convenient to “terrace the plants” so they can develop roots above the water. Also, soil aeration is important in case of soil that has been compacted by heavy machinery or trampling roots.

In case of an existing garden that only needs a bit of improvement, the elements and other materials have already been established. Make sure that plants always compliment them as you don’t want to have different elements that don’t blend in.

The right plant selection if of utmost importance: check general light conditions, soil, temperature and humidity and choose the plans accordingly, plants that will be integrated with ease taking into consideration all these factors.

The final results will mostly depend on the height of the plants you are planning to grow, volume, structure, colors and flowers. Furthermore, there are many ways to “present” this collection. Plants can be arranged in sections or scattered around separately. Analyze in your sketch how you want to grow these sections so you can see an overall shape before starting to grow a garden.

Plants in general are very useful for creating fantastic areas within your garden and at the same time create different types of moods and feelings in the designated areas. For example, protected areas that have been fenced in should really stand out for their particular ornamental features. Contrary to what people may think, you should not select plants based on the beauty of its flowers but for shape, volume, size and texture instead. The most important factor is that the general conditions are favorable for their survival.

Finally, and in relation to plants, we must make an effort to avoid growing excessive varieties within the same area, a very common mistake. It is advisable to grow a garden that shows simple and uncluttered plants; for example, choose a dominant color and group all the different varieties very carefully.

Trees also provide a wide range of options and can play different roles within your garden. One of the main objectives is to create shaded areas and the other is to do with the design and attractive focal points. So, trees have both a useful and ornamental functions. The top of the trees vary from spherical, umbrella-shape, fan-shaped and column-shape. These different shapes will create various effects and types of shades. Please, take also into account the growth rate of each and every tree in order to avoid “space” problems or the overall development of the tree. Other tree qualities that should be considered is if they are evergreen or not, color, foliage texture, brightness of the leaves, its flowers and consequent fruits. Evergreen trees (the leaves do not fall) are very useful as windbreaks and also to keep your garden looking green during the winter. Deciduous trees will lose their leaves in the autumn season, can provide shade during the summer and allow passage of light through their naked branches during the winter period.

Make sure you take all these factors into account. The secret of how to grow a garden successfully will depend on your determination, patience and how faithfully you follow your sketch designs and choice of the right plants.

Use Garden Yard Lights to Enhance Particular Areas

26 Nov

Outdoor landscape looks great when you add lights to it. Yard lights serve not only to light up gardens and patios, but also any outdoor area you need to beautify or bring to attention. They add functionality when placed near your home or areas where you need to be able to see at night in your garden. When placed with thought and care, they can make your outdoor areas look really stunning.

The most common choice of yard lighting nowadays is with the use of solar lights. They are the option to go for if you want to save money as led lighting costs a bit more. In a similar way to solar tiki torches, solar lights can provide you with light during the night with the convenience of no switches that have to be turned on and off, no bulbs to replace and no electricity bill. The sensors tell the lights when is dusk or dawn so they can either take energy from the natural light or glow by themselves.

Garden yard lights are useful to beautify certain spots - courtesy of

Garden yard lights are useful to beautify certain spots – courtesy of

Some people prefer to adorn their garden with low voltage yard lights to create a particular landscape lighting effect; they also don’t cost much in terms of electricity consumption and do the job as well. Another way to enhance your outdoor area with light is by the use of Christmas lights. Even though they are particularly manufactured for that time of the year, some people opt to have them on display all year round as they can look really beautiful. The thing to do if you want to keep your Christmas yard lights for longer period than the festive season, is to make sure you keep the amount of lights to a minimum and only light up the areas you want to enhance. Take the colored ones out and keep white as the choice of lighting.

With the use of the right yard lights you can enjoy your garden or patio area for a lot longer than usual. If you are looking into saving money as well as helping the environment, you can also consider installing solar patio lighting. For extra effect, add a couple of garden mirrors and succumb at the wonderful spectacle of illusion that will be created around you. And don’t forget that in the winter months it can get really dark during the day and you will probably be deprived of the use of most outdoor areas in general. The right garden lights can solve this problem easily and also add beauty to your favorite spots. The key is to get the ones that would both match and enhance your garden decor and to place them accordingly: you could add some of the yard lights around your swimming pool or pond, or around your garden decking, rock garden, surrounding the flowerbeds, underneath a statue or garden arch.

Change the mood and color according to the time of year or add glamour to any evening party. The yard lights will make it easy for your guests to enjoy the beauty of your garden at night.

Add Garden Fencing for Privacy and Security

26 Nov

By adding garden fencing to your outdoor areas you will not only get extra security but also improve the general aesthetic of your garden or patio. You can use the garden fence to separate spots where you grow certain vegetables or flowers, also protecting them from natural elements like wind. Gardens need structure; it is only natural that a garden will have different areas (or “rooms”) where all the different things are supposed to happen. There is the private corner where you like to seat and have tea or coffee, the bench under a garden arch for general viewing, the area which has been designed for walking and enjoying the flowerbeds and different plants, where any garden mirrors might have been placed, etc. Garden fences can help you divide all these interesting corners and bring certain spots to life while at the same time protecting others.


The most popular materials for building a garden fence would be wood, chain-link or wrought iron. When thinking of which material is the right for you and your garden decor, the best thing is to decide what is the purpose of your garden fencing. Is it for protection or just for decorative purposes. Maybe be you just want to divide the area between your garden or front/backyard from sidewalks and pavement. Chan link is helpful in terms of keeping your pets away from the area. They serve to “separate” one area from another, acting as an effective delimiter.

Garden Fence courtesy of

Garden Fence courtesy of

Wood is the perfect choice if you want added security. You can add your personal touch by painting the wood so it matches the surroundings. It looks good and blends in nicely with nature. Wooden fencing looks great with your outdoor wicker furniture. Create a wooden fence with a garden arch as the main door for the extra touch. Vinyl is also a popular choice and great if you are thinking of low-maintenance garden fencing. They are very easy to clean and do not fade or rust through time.

Wrought iron garden fencing can give you a lovely vintage you as well as the security needed. You can match it with iron benches and other metal furniture. For a great finish add a metal garden arch as the main door or an arbor gate combination. Why not also have a metal outdoor gazebo to match the look? There are lots of different types of metal garden fencing, mainly to do with the look of the metal ends. Choose something that blends both in height and style with your outdoor area.

When purchasing your materials ask the professionals for help if you find that setting up the fence yourself will be too tedious or difficult. Once they see the designated areas they can give you the best advice on how to set up and maintain your garden fence.

Get Durable Resin Patio Furniture for Your Outdoors Areas

26 Nov

Outdoor garden and patio furniture comes in different materials: rattan, wood, fabric, aluminum, wrought iron, steel and resin. Resin patio furniture is inexpensive, very practical and comes in a great variety of models. From Italian origin, this particular type of furniture does not need any proper maintenance and you can find anything from tables, chairs (stacking and folding – check out resin Adirondack chairs for ultimate quality and style), sofas, strollers, swings and many other items.

The furniture that combine aluminum with resin is also usually of Italian origin, with aluminum pipe structure (anodized or painted) and seat-back plastic resin. The finish used is resin made of wood and metal. Models are usually the folding or stackable type, which makes them very popular for bars and terraces in Mediterranean countries.

By investing in this type of furniture you will not have to spend money every year due to damage caused by the weather. It is comfortable, made for tough use and resistant to the effects of nitrate and chlorine (or just the everyday splashes from regular or inflatable pools). With proper care and cleaning, you can enjoy your resin patio furniture for many years. When you buy your furniture, it should come with maintenance instructions. Do try to follow them as thoroughly as possible, you do want your new acquisition to last as long as possible. Resin furniture not only adds to your garden decor, but it is also one of the most comfortable types, and not only they do not deteriorate easily but is also pleasant to the touch. Try to purchase good quality resin, poor quality one will scratch easily and turn yellow over time.

Resin wicker patio furniture is made of natural fibers. Wicker is more malleable, but can fray badly if it is made of bone or cane. Bamboo and rattan are stronger but more on the expensive side. The advantage is that they support many types of different finishes. Things you have to watch with resin wicker patio furniture would be moisture, fungus and obviously the sun.

The way you take care of your resin outdoor patio furniture is very simple: simply rinse with clean water and allow to dry. Use a mild abrasive product to remove any scratches on the surface. Remove mildew with a mixture of 1 cup of bleach, 2 cups of detergent and a gallon of water.

Resin wicker patio furniture can be cleaned with a hose or pressure washer. Simply remove the cushions and hose away the dirt with water pressure. If the wicker is very dirty, use a sponge, mild soap and cold water for rinsing. Allow the furniture to dry completely and then apply wax to the frame to keep it shiny and waterproof. Some types of wicker, resistant to the weather, are much easier to maintain. Keep cushions indoors during the winter seasons and cover the frames when they are not in use.

Plastic resin patio furniture is definitely the best choice for your outdoor areas if you are looking for inexpensive and durable furniture.

The Beauty of a Garden Arch

26 Nov

A garden arch is a magnificent way of displaying plants, climbers and flowers and at the same time guide the person through certain parts within your garden that you prioritize over others.

Hard structures are as much part of your garden as the rest. Although you might find yourself concentrating on the look of horizontal linings, your hard structures will provide your garden with a certain personality and design. Consider statues or garden fencing for example. Many owners have made really big efforts making a fence look great as well as it being functional, and it is for certain that it adds great structure to your garden.

The Secret Garden – Wooden Garden Arches

If you want to add to your garden decor that “casual” look and feel, or you are into bringing to life corners that might not usually seem that appealing, consider building a wooden garden arch. It

The Beauty of a Garden Arch

The Beauty of a Garden Arch

doesn’t have to be a main focal point in the garden; the beauty of a small wooden arch is that it would enhance that “secret garden” chosen area, providing it with great contrast against the rest of the garden. Build a tiny fence around it to add to the look.

Metal Garden Arches

Huge contrast against wooden garden arches, metal might be a tad more difficult to “blend in”. Metal works really well with bricks in terms of looks and feel. As opposed to the wooden arch (which would work very well in a cottage-like home), metal garden arches can enhance an older home made with such bricks or field stones.

The garden archway will help you reveal certain areas or hide others. Sometimes it works wonders when you want to display open areas such as a wide lawns. Drama is added to the overall effect, and you should enhance that effect with the appropriate climbers. A garden arch also acts as an outdoor gazebo if you place side panels to it. There are a great selection of kits and ready-made-ones at many gardening stores. Take into account height and space, planning always against the desired results. When it comes to wooden garden arches it is important to purchase timber that has been treated. Once your climbers are all around it, it will be almost impossible to access the wood. For your metal arch look for a powder coated finish. Metal oxidizes and so when purchasing keep in mind that it will need re-painting every so often.

There is no doubt that walking through a garden arch gate is a beautiful experience when enjoying any given garden area. They add impact, texture and variety to the landscape design.

Choose the Perfect Patio Design

16 Nov

Your patio design needs to be planned like any garden design: with lots of thought and care. Designing a patio is not just about making the patio look good; you need your design to flow in terms of both the style and convenience.

When it comes to the look, we should take the trouble to pay lots of attention to detail and decoration – anything from patio slabs to planting down to the smallest corner. Patios can have roofs or be in the open like any backyard or garden and can be designed with many changes of level and decorated with fountains and statues. When it comes to convenience, a good patio design should always think of keeping the functionality and/or simplicity it needs. Let’s think of patios as your favorite outdoor rooms.

What we are saying, really, is that when it comes to designing your patio you should be considering it as much as you would your garden decor. With the patio we replace the grass for patio slabs and the plants would generally grown in confined but well thought of spaces. If we are going to make the most of our patio, we need the designs to be carefully crafted in terms of the style, comfort and convenience.

The aspect of the patio is one of the vital components to take into account when making your plans and all those patio design ideas come flooding to your head. There is no point in creating an exotic sunbathing terrace in a position that hardly ever receives the sun. Convention has it that the patio is right behind the house, but does it have to be? In a small plot, this may be the only option and, here, its aspect will, to some extent, dictate its function.

When thinking of different patio designs think carefully about access if you are going to create an outdoor room next to your living room. The wider and more accessible the doorway is, the easier it becomes to use the patio, and the easier it is to provide a harmonious link between the outdoor and indoor rooms. Obvious links, such as flooring materials or color schemes, can be supplemented by using blending or matching furnishings.

The best patio design ideas come when you draw your plans on paper before you execute any of them. Study the situation first. Is your patio going to be near the kitchen, at the front of the house or as an enclosed area within your backyard. Is it a porch styled patio or a Spanish one? Once you design everything on paper, you can start moving things around, creating the planting area here or there, adding visual elements like pots, statues or ponds.

An important point to bear in mind when studying your outdoor patio designs is to think where will you have the most privacy. Although it may not worry you that you are overlooked by neighbors, if you want to create the impression of an outdoor room, some screening will be useful. It does not have to be a solid wall; trellis or even rigid plastic netting covered with climbers gives the illusion of privacy without shutting sunlight out of the garden.

A problem you might encounter when designing your patio is that it might offer too man possibilities for you to decide on, but if you think of it as an outdoor room, you begin to get the problem in perspective. Ideally, it should be as useful, as comfortably as any room indoors – and probably more attractive than the rooms in the house.

It is all very good that you come up with a really fascinating patio design that look amazing on paper. But it is important to point out that the most common mistake made by beginners when designing their patios is either to copy examples that don’t suite the size and style of their outdoor areas or that they try to have a little bit of everything therefore defying what could have been a unique and original style.

When it comes to patio designs – or any other design for that matter – think carefully about the function and likely use of the area and give it a style that fits into an overall theme. By following these simple rules can’t really go wrong with your patio design.

Patio Slabs are Always a Must

16 Nov

Laying patio slabs is probably one of the most important aspects in order to give your patio “the real patio look”. Patio paving slabs come in all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes; it is up to you to decide which slabs are the most appropriate; designs and style that would add to your outdoor area the touch you are looking for thus enhancing your garden decor. Also, it will probably be the most expensive element when you are building/planning your patio – or if you are remodeling.

It is very important to choose garden patio slabs that blend with the surroundings. This applies not only to the texture but to the color too. It will pay in the long run to use the best quality paving material you can afford – it is better to lay patio slabs in a small area well than a large area badly. But first make sure the site is properly prepared or you may have to deal with loose or uneven slabs later.

When planning the size of the patio, always make it a little larger than you think you will need. Ideally, aim to allow at least 3sa ft per person for the first three people and 2sq m for each additional person. For a family of four, this means a patio area of approximately 3x3m. If you are planning to have patio furniture other than seats or tables, then you will have to allocate more space. If our requirements change over the years, it should be possible to extend an existing patio and just keep adding your patio slabs as you go. The difficulties here are matching the surface levels of the original and new patio paving slabs and the color difference between the older, weathered material and the new. So, be generous to start.

If your patio butts up against an existing building, take care that the top surface of your slabs is at least 5cm below the damp-proof course. On the majority of sites this will mean excavating the existing level. You can calculate the degree of excavation necessary by adding together the depth of hardcore and bedding material and the thickness of the particular patio slabs you are intending to use, not forgetting the 5cm free space below the building’s damp-proof course.

Excavating and leveling work will depend on the condition of the original site – it may be necessary to bring in contractors or you may be able to do it yourself. Before planning anything too ambitious in cramped town conditions, consider how you are going to dispose of any soil – this is very important!!

One of the most popular patio slabs are, of course, real stone (especially York stone). It is very expensive paving material, but it has the advantages of wearing well and looking as though it has been in place for years, immediately after it has been laid. Second-hand stone paving slabs can sometimes be found but these, too, tend to be expensive and, very often imperfect. You can also use bricks to create an attractive paving slab around your chosen area. It will be a cheaper option to the York stone.

Concrete is the cheapest paving material for your patio and it can be colored using special coloring powders, or, for a textured look, watered and lightly brushed after laying so that the aggregate is exposed (then the surface tends to be less slippery under-foot). If you use concrete to create your own patio slabs, you must mark it out into squares while still wet so you can simulate the paving stones, but it will look more and more like concrete as it weathers.

Make sure you check for instructions on the internet before venturing into laying down the patio slabs yourself.

Patio Covers – Structures and Protection Outdoors

16 Nov

When we talk about patio covers we are talking about 1) patio furniture covers and 2) structures built above our patios to protect them. Lets have a look at each one of them:


If you are planning on building a structure to cover your patio area, make sure it is a solid and durable one that you can enjoy for a long time. Well, we also want it to look attractive, of course. They are good not just for your patio but also for the garden, swimming pool or any particular area you need to cover for protection and an extra “added” look.

Patio covers are great for expanding existent areas and therefore increasing their use. They provide fantastic shade and protect against any sun rays and burns (UV protection). A solid patio cover will make us use the swimming pool or designated area more frequently, they are great for hosting underneath a party or “fiesta” and they also allow children to play outdoors for longer periods of time.

And, they just look cool! Make sure to get sleek designs that enhance the look of your patio or garden decor; as it is important to beautify these areas so we can enjoy them with our friends and family even more.

When looking for at patio covers you normally have a few options: wood, steel, plastic and aluminum, and when talking about styles you can build open patio covers, roofed or enclosed. The open lattice is very popular indeed and also very beautiful. You can grow plants that create a “vineyard” type of look on the roof, which would eventually become a cover for your patio cover! Other options would be the solid lattice, screen rooms and other types of sun rooms (very popular in the UK due to the climate conditions); you can see them especially in garden centers.

Other trendy styles are pergolas, porches, canopies, gazebos and arbors (some of them are permanent, others you can move around your patio or just keep them in storage when not in use). Use your patio cover as an extension of any garden decking you might have outdoors, thus creating a type of “guide” towards certain areas of your garden or patio you want your family and guests to walk and enjoy.

Aluminum patio covers are also a very strong and solid option. Get one with a wooden “finish” so the design blends better with the rest of patio furniture, plants or trees you may have.

Patio covers offer a pleasant alternative to remodeling your home and also don’t forget will help increase the value of your property. Add patio covers in different parts of your outdoor areas to provide additional freshness to your home. Think of corridors, gardens that could almost be maintenance-free thanks to extra shade, cover any sidewalk or even your parking lot as they usually have their own poles to support the structure. As with most things regarding your patio and garden decor, you just have to be creative and willing to spend a little money on the course. You can even build a patio cover to give shade to your dog house in the garden!

Patio Furniture Covers

If we want our outdoor furniture to last, we need to protect it as much as we can. This is where a good patio furniture cover comes in handy. We can usually find these covers in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from oval or round patio table covers to grill, umbrella and patio heater covers, picnic table covers,  outdoor folding chairs, parasols, all sorts of outdoor patio furniture sets and even sofa covers!

Antique garden furniture

Use patio covers for your outdoor furniture

Creative Commons License photo credit:

Outdoor furniture has usually been designed to withstand bad weather without major problems with durable
materials that offer great resistance to the cold or intense sun. Still, most garden stores insist that you protect your furniture with outdoor furniture covers especially when the garden or patio are not being used as a living area due to the weather conditions (or if you go away for long periods of time). Well, lets also not forget you will have to clean your outdoor furniture a lot less if you use your covers pretty often.

Some of these covers come in really good quality materials, made with highly resistant plastic and looking gorgeous with all sorts of decorative patterns to “add” to your garden decor. Weather you are into “looks” or just wanted to protect your outdoor furniture as much as possible, be sure to buy patio covers for all the bits and pieces you usually keep outdoors. It will be well worth it and your furniture will look as good as when you first bought it for a long period of time.

A Patio Heater Will Change Your Outdoor Life

16 Oct

The patio heater challenge: every year we think about buying one; every year we see our friends and colleagues enjoying their benefits and every year we go through another cold winter… thinking soon enough we will be owning one or maybe even two patio heaters! Well, the time has come! Don’t put up with one more cold or rainy day. Get yourself ready, focus and read the next paragraphs to find out what you should know about patio heaters before buying your first one!

Types of Outdoor Patio Heaters:

Gas Patio Heater

The Gas Patio Heater is the most traditional one. These types of heaters are very easy to find in garden centers, and some DIY shops. It is also commonly known as a propane patio heater. The gas bottle is concealed at the base making the heater very sturdy and giving it a “lamp post” look. You can also find them in bronze and chrome color. Check out the heat output which may vary from heater to heater.

Table Top Patio Heater

Going camping and wanting to take a heater with you? This is the perfect choice, then. This small patio heater has been designed to sit on a table rather than as stand alone. Think of it as a shortened version of the gas patio heater. They are very convenient as you can move them around easily. Even though the heat output might not be as much as the gas patio heater, it might be what you are looking for if you are trying to save a bit of money.

Electric Patio Heater

This type of heater is also known as infrared patio heater. If you are not keen on using gas bottles

Table Top Patio Heater

Table Top Patio Heater

don’t even hesitate going after a traditional electric patio heater which will use electricity instead. The cool thing about this particular heater is that it heats things up rather than just the air in between. It is also very good for the environment.

Wall Mounted Patio Heater

Even though many people opt for propane patio heaters or electric stand ups, this is a an efficient little number as you can mount it on the wall without taking up necessary space. So if your patio or garden is small, if you need the space on your patio table or it is just convenient for some landscape design ideas you might have in mind, then this is the one to go for.

So, what is it gonna be, wall, table or simply free standing?

Next, lets have a look at some things you might want to know about your new patio heater:

- It is NOT the same as the ones you see in pubs and bars. Those ones don’t come in so many different styles and are more robust.

- They do produce enough heat to heat up a nice wide space. If you have a large garden or patio and want to keep it warm, consider buying more than one, though. Also, if you are looking to improve your garden decor, consider buying one that adds to your outdoor space.

- You can normally decide on the temperature level of the heat. Warm up the area first in high heat and then turn it down to save on gas or electricity.

- There are plenty of patio heater covers in the shops and you should really consider buying one for the winter period!

- For maximum durability consider a stainless steel patio heater as opposed to the traditional powder coated patio heater.

Your outdoor patio heater will be a life changing experience for you and your family as you will be able to enjoy your patio or garden even on those really cold winter days.

**You might want to also check patio umbrellas

Patio Umbrellas – Enhance Your Patio Look!

22 Sep

They are beautiful, aren’t they? If you have a patio, you MUST at least get one of the many patio umbrellas available in the market. Taking care of your patio decor is not only about what is displayed around it. You have to think about comfort as well. As I said before, they can be very beautiful but the most important thing is that they provide the necessary shade especially around the summer time. So, don’t let another summer catch up with you without having purchased your patio umbrella before those sun rays burn your skin and it’s too late!

There are lots of types of umbrellas and patio umbrella lights you might be needing. Think of your patio or garden decor before setting into the venture of buying one. Colors are very important, you want everything to match. I have seen numerous lovely patios with… ugh, an offset patio umbrella that kills the whole look. If your patio is small, don’t make the mistake many do – don’t get a huuuge rectangular umbrella that hides everything under a massive shadow with no hope for some of those lovely rays to come through. It is just so uninviting! Sure it helps on a very sunny day, but there is no need for such massive action!

Always make sure that your new outdoor patio umbrella is

- one that you really, really like
- that is also the right size
- that falls within your prize range
- and that it perfectly matches your patio decor

So, with those four things in mind, let’s have a look at the different types of patio umbrellas you will soon display in your beloved garden or patio.

Types of Patio Umbrellas

What sort of umbrella are you looking for? There are plenty of different offset patio umbrellas, or maybe you are looking for a cantilever patio umbrella? They are both similar in the sense that they have been designed with a pole on the side and the shade falls on one of the umbrella sides which is particularly useful if you don’t have a table in your patio, or one with a hole in the middle. I personally find these types of patio umbrellas to be a bit “on your face” looks-wise, but they are the choice of many, many people.

One of many beautiful patio umbrellas you could have in your garden!

One of many beautiful patio umbrellas you could have in your garden!

Another type you might want to consider is the market umbrella which has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Out of all the outdoor patio umbrellas this one is by far my favorite. The pole sits in the center and stretches itself at the top with spokes that hold the umbrella in place. They are usually made of wood which helps with your garden decor giving it a much more “natural look”.

A more expensive option but made with durable hardwood poles is the commercial patio umbrella. They are the ones used outside cafés – very, very popular in Europe – as they cater for shade on each individual table and the customers love it. If you decide to go for this type of patio table umbrella, you can also use it for your beach table – if you have one, that is!


The poles are usually made of tea oak, aluminum, metal or fiberglass, while the canopy is usually made of vinyl or canvas. As you can see, outdoor patio umbrellas come in many different materials, but, again, you want to make sure that your chosen one blends in with your motif.


Again, a wide variety. Whether you are looking for a rectangular, round, oval or square one always measure your table – if you’ve got one – before setting off to buy any of the patio umbrellas mentioned above. If you are looking for furniture to go with it, check out the splendid wicker rattan garden furniture, which is one of my favorites for outstanding garden decor. If you need the space in your garage to store your garden furniture as well as any other unused garden supplies, garage storage ceiling racks are just great.

Things to remember when shopping:

- Look for the right look and shape that matches your patio or garden.
- Have your table measurements at hand when buying your chosen one, also, check out any patio umbrella lights you might be needing for the evening and night time.
- Think of the material that best suits your needs.
- Don’t overspend! Stay within the limits of your budget.

And one last tip:
- Make sure your umbrella comes with a robust base!