Designing usable spaces outdoors can be challenging, since you’re often starting with a blank slate! But never fear; our experts have some suggestions.

Richard Poynter, Poynter Landscape & Construction

•  Creating cozy living areas goes along with good outdoor design. Often people have an abundance of space, and the goal is to transform it into intimate areas.

•  Many mistakes are made in patio design because the furniture wasn’t considered in the plan. Lay everything out on paper first to ensure the patio’s finished size is appropriate.

•  Use features with multiple functions. A retaining wall typically is required when leveling a space, so create a ‘seat wall’ that provides additional seating, which comes in handy when entertaining.

•  In most cases, it’s not necessary to have decking 360 degrees around a pool, where 60 to 70 percent coverage is more than adequate. Plantings can be brought up to the water’s edge, creating a more intimate atmosphere.

Jennifer Schamber, Greenscape Gardens & Gifts

•  The theme this year seems to be plants with a purpose, they can’t be only pretty but have to be useful in some way. Incorporate edibles, whether in containers or out in the landscape. And indigenous plants, like echinacea and penstemon, are now more readily available and attract butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds.

•  A hummingbird feeder or water feature adds another appealing aspect to the garden.

•  Repurposing items from inside your home also provides new interest outside. A little accent table can be placed on a patio and used as a plant stand.

•  Rain gardens are for those areas that always seem to be wet, making it difficult to mow the lawn. Plants that have deep root systems absorb excess water and reduce the moisture. And collect rain water for drier spaces.

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