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Perking up your patio; gardening GET YOUR GARDEN READY FOR AL FRESCO PARTY SEASON.

WARM summer evenings are an ideal time to have a few friends round, light the barbecue and do some socialising, especially if your annuals are in full bloom and the garden is a riot of colour.

But how do you perk up your patio for a social occasion? It's amazing how, with a little forethought, you can have your garden looking even better, and with clever lighting and carefully-placed pots you can create a warm, inviting and sweet-smelling atmosphere.

Have a look around your beds and borders and fill gaps with summer bedding already in bloom when you buy it. Check out your indoor plants which can also add drama if you bring them outside. Pot chrysanthemums, spider plants and kangaroo vines will provide interest and colour.

Create scented corners in seating areas - pots of stocks, nicotiana and lavender will provide delicious scents in the evening, as will sweetpeas climbing up wigwams. If your sweetpeas aren't near your patio, cut as many as you can and put them in a vase in the middle of your patio table, where guests can enjoy the colour and scent.

If you have a low wall where people may sit, plant some species with scented leaves - good choices include scented-leaved pelargoniums, lemon-scented verbena, thyme, pineapple sage and eau de Cologne mint.

Lighting can also make all the difference to the look of a patio and garden. After dark, it can create shadows, highlight interesting architectural plants such as cordylines and Japanese maples and bringing the garden to life for dining and entertaining.

If you have a small space, invest in a low-voltage garden lighting kit which operates several lights off one transformer. Solar lighting is okay for providing subtle light to mark a path or steps but it won't light up your garden.

If you have a fairly small area, large lanterns, citronella candles to keep the bugs away and nightlights in a variety of outdoor casings can create an intimate mood. If you need more light, switch your inside lights on, which will illuminate the exterior and make the house look warm and inviting.

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WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK ...

Plant out vegetables including runner beans, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kale and sprouting broccoli

Deadhead plants in baskets, containers and borders every few days to keep them tidy and productive.

Take soft and semi-ripe cuttings using non-flowering shoots of shrubs including cotinus, hydrangea, spiraea, weigela, honeysuckle, pyracantha and philadelphus, as well as hedging plants

Sow courgettes, marrows, pumpkins and squashes directly into their growing position

Lift and dry Japanese onions

Remove rose suckers growing on standard roses with a knife

Water early potatoes thoroughly once a week to ensure good yields

Sow cyclamen persicum for flowering in 15-18 months

Select strong healthy strawberry runners for propagation
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jun 30, 2007
Words:489
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