Gardens can be such wonderful places. Whenever I think that apartment living might be an alternative, I realise that I could never leave my garden. They are a refuge to retreat to and the perfect spot to entertain friends and family. Australia certainly has some vastly different regional temperatures and this is very evident during the winter months. Whether you are in a coastal tropical region, a more temperate sub tropical area or in a chilly inland region, don't abandon the garden during the colder months, but find ways to still use and enjoy it.
Melissa King, horticulturist, gardening presenter and author, talks top tips on fire pits and creating the ultimate outdoor entertaining space so that you can use your garden during winter.
Adding a firepit to your outdoor space will bring families and friends together year-round. It automatically transforms your garden or courtyard into a stylish entertaining area with ease. As the cooler months draw closer and the vast majority of Australians adapt to spending more time at home, the addition of a fire pit is a true investment, bound to bring hours of enjoyment for all ages.
Melissa is the brand ambassador for Northcote Pottery and has the following tips for you if you are investing in a fire pit.
Choosing the right location
When it comes to positioning your firepit in the garden, safety considerations should always go into its placement. Fire pits are a great heat source on those chilly nights when used in a safe way. However don't forget that radiant heat can cause damage to surrounding surfaces and objects, so it is important to maintain at least two-meters clearance both above and around your firepit at all times, and ensure you don’t use it underneath any outdoor structures.
Lidded fire pits, like the stylish Glow Hive Fire Pit from Northcote Pottery (from $299), are great for extra safety. It also converts into a table when not in use.
Always place your fire pit on a fireproof surface, like soil, heat-proof paving or heat-proof gravel. Dry, brown grass and wooden decking will scorch, and is highly flammable, adding unnecessary risk.
Depending on the size of your garden, create a private haven using hedges or screens to separate your fire pit area from the rest of the backyard. Achieve a campfire-feel using a style like the Glow Ironbark Fire Pit (from $129). It offers a beautiful, rustic Australiana design with decorative gum leaf detail, perfectly accentuated with deck chairs or a rock wall. Include a few cushions for a soft touch.
Alternatively create a cosy retreat with the Glow Tambo Cast Iron Fire Pit (from $69). Its compact design offers built-in log storage, too. Add a selection of armchairs or a stylish couch for a cosy, modern look, and a throw rug for ambience.
Create a winter garden of scents
Plants will create a different look and feel in your fire pit area with some strategic planting. Incorporate hedge varieties and evergreens, like Gardenias and Dwarf Lily Pillies, for a classic, formal look.
Tip: Gardenias will grow all year round in certain climates. They do like a warmer climate and they also like humidity so you should water the leaves as well as the roots. The plants should receive some direct sun for a few hours each day, although they don't like constant sun. Fertilize the gardenia at least twice a month with fertilizer. You can use any liquid or granular fertilizer that is made for blooming plants and flowers.
Alternatively, craft a natural, Australian bushland feel using native plants, like Grevilleas and Banksias.
Include fragrant plants to engage the senses, such as Daphne, Winter Sweet or Viburnums. If you enjoy burning incense or scented candles, consider adding ingredients to your fire, like cinnamon sticks for spicy warmth, rosemary for a hearty ambience or dried fruit for a tropical atmosphere.
Recycle Fire Ashes
Once the fire has died down, shovel out the cold ashes and use them on the garden. Add them to the compost bin or sprinkle them around plants. Ash is a great source of potassium and other elements. It’s also alkaline in nature, so you can use it to raise the PH of your garden beds. Just be sure not to use it around acid-loving plants, like Azaleas and Gardenias.
There’s no reason why you should let your fire pit just sit there as the weather warms up. Be creative – most fire pit bowls come with a drainage hole. If yours doesn’t, simply drill a hole in the bottom. They make great ice buckets for summer get togethers, or, alternatively, you can plant it up! The rustic designs, like the Glow Ironbark Fire Pit (from $129), look striking with ornamental grasses and succulents, or decorative foliage plants like Huaraches.
Northcote Pottery Glow Fire Pits are available from Bunnings Warehouse and selected independent hardware stores nationally.
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