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gardening: Paved perfection; Work now will transform your patio into a haven.

Byline: Edited by Steve Riches

THERE are only two sorts of patios - the ones that add hugely to the overall look and enjoyment of a garden and the ones that make the whole place look like a landfill site.

Assuming you're more attracted to the former option, late winter is a great time to act.

Either create a new patio, or else get rid of the cracked pots, bike frame, random lumps of wood, rusting chairs and empty Stella bottles and get the existing one in order.

A few pointers may be helpful... Whatever size your garden, you can create a patio out of concrete, paving stones, wood or gravel.

You'll want to site it where the sun can get at it, but maybe where's there's a little shade, too.

Best keep it simple. A small paved area tagged on to the house is ideal and inexpensive. If you can't manage it yourself, get someone to do it.

Decide well in advance what it's for.

For most people, it's for fun - eating on, sitting on, lying on, cooking on, in which case you'll need to buy a table and chairs, loungers and a barbecue.

Buy them now while shops are keen to get rid of 2008 stock before the new stuff arrives on a slow boat from China.

Just make sure nothing's too big. You can't relax if you're squashed against a wall or your feet are dangling over the flower borders.

You may instead want to restrict the patio occupants to plants in pots, and it's here that planning is just as vital.

Decide first which plants you want to grow, then buy suitable containers.

There's nothing worse than a patio pot the size of an Ali Baba washing basket with a few pansies peering over the rim.

Well, actually there is - a pot the s i z e o f a guzunder with a rhododendron screaming to get out.

Which sort of pots you choose is another minefield. A multi-coloured ceramic display can look Del Boy tacky, an all-terracotta line-up Dad's Army dull. They should complement each other.

What you grow is up to you, but our patio includes dwarf fruit trees, herbs (near the kitchen door), lilies, azaleas and Mrs R's favourite fuchsias.

It looks all right to me. Just a shame it's a bit too chilly to get the lounger out for the moment.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Feb 15, 2009
Words:403
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