From beekeeping and planting by app to faux timber floorboards and bright new bricks…check out these great outdoor living area ideas

Jody Rigby has some great ideas to spruce up your outdoor living areas

Hi-tech tiles

You could be forgiven for thinking that the stylish new Atelier flooring from Amber looks like timber floorboards. Although the detailed grain and even the lengths (225mm x 900mm) look just like timber they are Italian porcelain tiles. The Atelier collection is suitable for inside and outdoors and available in a choice of five natural shades and much easier to maintain. You could even lay them in different patterns for a parquetry effect. Clever. From RRP$97 per square metre. See www.ambertiles.com.au for more information or call 1300 362 241.

 

Cyber planting

There is now an app for just about everything, even one that keeps your plants alive. Koubachi is an interactive app that works in conjunction with a Wi-Fi sensor to take the guesswork out of looking after plants. Koubachi is able to determine the needs of every species, taking into consideration current season and climate zone, and tailored to your plant’s water usage rate, light intensity and temperature. If you move your plant the sensor will even re-calculate. Notifications, advice and alarms are sent directly to your iPhone or via the web. RRP$149.95 at www.mastergardens.com.au.

 

Befriend bees

One of the hottest trends outdoors is the rise of GYO or ‘grow your own’ with even small spaces being creatively used for herbs and veggie patches. But why stop there? The book A World without Bees might just inspire you to become an amateur apiarist (or ‘beekeeper’).

In case you didn’t know it, the book reveals that a third of what we eat and most of what we wear relies on pollination by honeybees – problem is, they are a dying breed. While authors and amateur apiarists Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum explore ways we might be able to protect the future of honeybees, the number of beekeepers in Brisbane is on the rise and most backyards could accommodate at least one hive.

Top Bar Bee Hives are easy to install and keep, and they can produce up to 100kg of honey and 5kg of beeswax a year (depending on conditions). Tim Auld at All You Can Eat Gardens even offers beekeeping coaching to take the sting out of raising bees!

It can cost a little over $1000 to set up a Top Bar Bee Hive but the honey tastes better, you’ll be able to make your own beeswax candles and you will be doing your bit to help pollination in the garden and in the neighbourhood.

Beehives need to be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (with an annual fee of $13.80) and be sure to check out their guidelines for keeping bees in suburbia.

 

Native hedge

When choosing a hedging plant for a garden there are usually only a handful on the market, especially if you’re trying to achieve an all-native garden, but one native that I have always loved has a new variety. Austraflora has bred Banksia ‘Sentinel’ which grows to a height of about two metres but has a more bushy spread than the usual leggy Banksia integrifolias to only about a metre, making it suitable for more narrow spots along walls or fencelines and perfect for windbreaks or screening. It can be clipped as a neat hedge and birds will be attracted to its flowers. They are best in a sunny spot with good drainage. See www.austraflora.com for more information.

 

Go for brights

It’s not too late to plant kangaroo paw ‘Ruby Slippers’ for an end-of-winter floral display that will inject some serious red into the garden. The compact strappy foliage is under 50cm and, once established, these pretty natives are quite low-maintenance. They look good in a native garden or rockery, of course, but you could incorporate them happily into a cottage garden. Find out more about this plant at www.austraflora.com.

 

Wall of colour

We’re pretty conservative when it comes to brick homes and even walls but PGH Bricks and Pavers are trying their best to brighten our way of thinking with the Vibrant range of glazed bricks in brilliant colours including Cosmic (plum), Fizz (yellow), Paris (pink), Wasabi (green), Rhapsody (blue) and Tango (orange). They can be used inside or out for feature walls, retaining walls or even a nice strip of intersecting lines through paving laid on edge. Priced at around $5 each they are a bit pricier than regular bricks but what a colour splash they make.

 

Organic pest control

One of the products I’ve been using for years is eco-oil by organic product specialists Organic Crop Protectants. It controls nasties like scale, two-spotted mite, whitefly and citrus leafminer but the formula has been enhanced as a result of a three-year research project with Charles Sturt University.

Without getting into the technical details, the new eco-oil mimics a plant’s natural defence mechanism to attract beneficial insects like bees and ladybeetles while it kills the baddies. Better still, you can spray vegies and still eat them on the same day. See www.ecoorganicgarden.com.au.

 

As seen in bmag issue 256