Author Archives: Flow Wall

Host your own outdoor movie night

You are a big fan of going to the movies, but you want to get out and enjoy the pleasant weather that won't be around much longer. Instead of sitting in a dark, possibly crowded movie theater, take just a little time and set yourself up to host a movie night in your own backyard. You get to watch the film you've been itching to see, enjoy the outdoors and, best of all, it's in your own backyard. Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you prepare your home cinema:

Seating arrangements
You're going to have to plan this based on the number of guests you are expecting. If you're hosting your own version of date night, your seating needs will be much different than if you are inviting a few friends over. Either way, chaise lounges are comfortable options for your guests. Lounge chairs are excellent options for your outdoor movie seating because they give you the freedom to sit upright or sprawl out if you're so inclined. Make sure you set up your seating close enough to see everything happening in the film.

Projector and screen
The easiest way to bring a movie outside without bothering with the electrical setup that goes along with an entire television set is to utilize a projector. Even if you don't have one, they aren't terribly difficult to find. If you want to purchase one, head to your local electronics store or check online for cheaper options. Don't want to buy it? There are usually projector rental services available, sometimes even for free at your local library. For a screen, use a white bed sheet (with no wrinkles!) or a canvas painter's drop cloth. Hang it wherever it makes sense in your backyard, as long as there's a support or frame behind it. Against the house or against the fence are great choices.

Extra layers
Now that you've successfully made it outside to watch a movie, you're going to have to contend with the elements for the night. Bring extra jackets, hoodies and sweatshirts for starters. It's always a good idea to have a few blankets around in case it gets cold or windy.

Snacks!
Don't miss out on all of the tasty treats you usually get when you go to the theater. Pop some popcorn, grab your favorite candy and pour a tasty soda to go along with your flick.

3 fall backyard decoration ideas

Now's the time to start doing a little fall decorating around the house and in the backyard. The season offers a new color palette, theme and inspiration for outdoor decorations. Show off your appreciation for autumn this year with these fall backyard decor ideas:

1. Fire fixtures
Firepits are wonderful during fall because they create warmth for the chilly evenings spent outside. It's entertaining to sit around the fire at night and share ghost stories while roasting marshmallows over the open flame. Help spruce up this space a little bit by incorporating fall adornments. For example, set a bowl of cinnamon sticks and pinecones on a nearby table to burn. These will release an autumnal smell while you're outside and provide a quaint decoration for the side table.

Outdoor fireplaces are another fixture that should be used to create attractive fall arrangements. Use the mantle to lay out a variety of small gourds and pumpkins with a garland woven among them. Other objects that would go well with the season include Indian corn, pinecones, acorns and vintage candle holders.

2. Dining space
Having meals outside is always enjoyable, but give your guests a sense of the season by adding a fall-inspired centerpiece to your outdoor dining set. Find a short, rustic vase and fill it with fall flowers. Sprinkle a few acorns or cinnamon sticks around the base of the container for a little extra flare.

Fall-themed candle holders are another good centerpiece option. For this idea, either use some old candle holders of get about three glass containers. Place a pillar candle inside the container, and then fill it halfway with corn kernels. Again, add some embellishments around the bottom of the containers by strewing walnuts or leaves across the table.

3. Furniture cushions
Cover your patio dining chairs and other outdoor furniture in autumn colors by switching out the covers or replacing the cushions. The new wraps will go well with the table centerpiece and other fall decor you have in the backyard. Sitting in vibrant autumn colors like Cadmium Orange, Marsala and Oak Buff will make you want to snuggle into your outdoor rocker with a warm mug of cocoa or coffee and a good book.

Along with decorating the backyard areas mentioned above, make sure you top off the look by hanging a fall wreath on your back door. With all these decorations in place, you'll be ready to host any outdoor event this season.

Outdoor fireplace safety tips

Outdoor fireplaces are great additions to backyard settings, but although these fixtures create cozy environments, you still need to be careful when using them. Practicing fire safety is essential in any home that sports a fire pit or fireplace. Here are a few tips to follow for keeping you and your family safe:

1. Keep it small
Bonfires are fun to create, but they also increase the possibility of embers getting away from you. Keeping the fire pit materials low is important for this reason, but the same goes for the fireplace. If you have too many logs on the grate, one could accidentally roll off when the bottom ones start to break down. It's also more difficult to get these fires out at the end of the night because there is more material you have to disburse.

2. Clean the surrounding area
Your fireplace is outside, which means leaves and other debris are going to blow into the patio area where it sits. Before you light the fire, make sure you've swept all of these items away from the hearth. Leaving dry, flammable materials near the fireplace, like old leaves, creates an unnecessary fire risk. So, before you have a get together, take a broom to the area and thoroughly sweep it out.

3. Be prepared
You might be practicing safe fire tips like creating small fires and keeping the surroundings clean, but fire is unpredictable, so always be prepared. This means you'll want to keep a bucket of water or sand nearby in case an ember gets away from you. It also wouldn't hurt to have a fire extinguisher next to the patio space in case of emergencies.

4. Extinguish before leaving
When you're done outside, it's vital you make sure your fire is completely out before heading in for the night. Now, this doesn't mean dumping a little water onto the ashes and calling it good. Reduce the risk of uncontained fires by first spreading out the ashes, and then carefully pour some water over all of it. However, your job doesn't stop here. You'll want to monitor the fire for a few minutes to make sure there aren't any hot spots left. If there are, add a little more water. Make sure you're pouring the water slowly over the fire. Splashing it inside the grate will not only make a mess, but could potentially spray you with hot, muddy ash.

3 ways to beat the heat in your backyard

Summer isn't over yet – There's still plenty of time for backyard barbecues and pool parties. While the season's warm weather opens the door for tons of fun outdoor activities, that doesn't mean you need to embrace every aspect of it. After all, that afternoon sun can get pretty hot, and being constantly exposed to ultraviolet rays can be uncomfortable and harmful to your skin. Be sure to furnish your backyard with the right shading equipment so the heat doesn't stop you from enjoying these last few weeks of summer.

Patio umbrellas
Umbrellas designed to beat the heat come in all sizes, colors and styles, meaning you can effortlessly find one to fit the look of your backyard. If you're searching for a shady setting while you eat dinner, opt for an umbrella that slides right into the center of your outdoor dining sets. For more versatile coverage, go with a patio umbrella, which uses a weighted base to secure the umbrella on the ground. The larger canopy of this style umbrella provides a wide area of shade, perfect for poolside lounging or just comfortably enjoying your backyard.

Pergola
The structured archway of a pergola doesn't provide a lot of shade on its own (the space between the beams lets in a lot of sunlight), but you can easily dress it up to provide shelter over your backyard patio in style. For example, create a romantic, Italian vineyard look in your backyard by covering your pergola with ivy, such as the Virginia creeper. Add a starry-night touch with twinkling string lights. Or, set up an intimate, island escape by weaving white curtains through the archway. When you want to let in more sun, simply bunch the curtains together with seaside-esque rope.

Canopy
If you're planning on inviting a few friends over in your backyard or having a full-blown barbecue extravaganza, a canopy may be your solution for keeping everyone protected from the sun. Supported by stilts with a canopy overlay, this shade tool can be propped up right on your patio over some of your furniture. Not only does this method provide shelter over a commonly used area, but it also creates a more intimate setting. Or, if you're hosting a party, you may benefit from setting up a larger canopy in your backyard over the dining furniture and food. This way, guests will stay comfortable and cool while they eat dinner.

Don't let the summer heat stop you from enjoying your beautiful backyard. Use these shade tools to keep the party going all day long.

How to attract hummingbirds to your backyard

Many people stop dead in their tracks when they see a hummingbird fluttering in the backyard, and it's no surprise. These teeny, tiny birds are elegant, quiet and whimsical, and spotting one is usually a rare occurrence. It doesn't always have to be the case, though – many folks have hummingbirds flitting through their backyards all season long.They live all over the Western Hemisphere, and their requirements are simple: They just want somewhere they can eat, drink and hang out. The one caveat: They tend to form feeding (and resting) patterns, so it's a good idea to start now – before the warm season has really begun. Here's how to do it: 

Plants 

To attract hummingbirds organically (see what we did there?), opt for nectar-rich flowers. Tubular flowers technically hold the most nectar, but there are many great options: 

  • Honeysuckles
  • Bleeding hearts
  • Petunias
  • Bee balm 

To up the ante even more, opt for flowers in red – hummingbirds find the color attractive. One important thing to note: Planning for a continuous blooming schedule means that these guys will always want to spend time in your backyard. Some flowers come ready to hang, while others take time to grow. Picking a mixture of both is your best bet. 

You can also add in a few vines to help expedite the process. A few examples:

  • Morning glory
  • Coral honeysuckle 
  • Scarlet runner bean 

Fun fact: Hummingbirds have no sense of smell, so they rely on sight to tell how nectar-laden a flower is. 

Feeders

And then comes the more obvious tactic: feeders. They're usually filled with some sort of nectar mix, though you can fill them with your own, as well. Whichever kind of mixture you use, it's best to go all-natural so as not to harm the birds. Here's a helpful recipe:

  1. Mix one part sugar with four parts water
  2. Boil for 60 seconds
  3. Cool the liquid
  4. Voila!

That's it – just make sure you always keep the feeder halfway full so it doesn't mold. Spacing a few feeders out in your yard will help make sure the birds don't fight for food. 

Nests

Hummingbirds aren't keen on birdhouses, but they will build their own nests if you give them the right materials. Think cotton, string and plenty of shelter. The more comfortable they feel in your backyard, the better. 

Ribbons

Strange as it may seem, simply tying red or orange ribbon around the trunks of trees and bushes can be enough to catching a passing bird's eye. 

Insects

Avoiding the use of pesticides will help populate your backyard with insects – another hummingbird favorite. They particularly like spider webs, which they use to make their nests. 

A few additional things you can add to your yard to attract these tiny birds? A fresh source of water (like a fountain or a mister), and something to perch on. Things like clotheslines, plant vines and shrubs all offer them a place to hang out. Some people even plant entire hummingbird gardens that surround their feeders to maximize the effects of all these. So sit back on your outdoor sofa and watch the hummingbirds flock to your backyard! You'll have a spring show to remember. 

Swimming pools through the centuries

For many of us, swimming pools are the hallmark of our childhood summers, whether we visited the community pool each weekend or had our own in our backyard. Splashing our parents with cannon balls, eating lunches while clad in towels at picnic benches and patio tables, laying out in the sun – these all paint a picture of summer vacations and being young. Swimming is such a defining activity, in fact, that it's tough to remember that pools weren't always popular. Pools have a particularly lengthy and tumultuous history, though, and it took thousands of years for them to become what they are today. Ready to dive in? 

3000 B.C.

The settlement of Mohenjo-Daro, located in Pakistan, was home to the first pool-like water tank in the world. Technically referred to as a "great bath," it was only a couple meters deep, though it was as long and wide as a modern pool. It was difficult to make it totally water tight during this time period (before concrete mixers and modern pavers), but the citizens were able to achieve this by using gypsum plaster and natural tar. This wasn't a pool for swimming, but for religious rituals.

800 B.C. 

Pools from ancient Rome and ancient Greece are closer to the kind we know and love today. This was the first time in history that humans could afford luxury items – or had the time to dedicate to them. These pools were still frequently used for religious purposes, but they were also used for bathing and relaxing. Aesthetic appeal became important to pool owners. In most societies across the globe, primitive or modern, bodies of water are considered to be very beautiful. Some of the most wealthy Romans and Greeks had personal pools filled with live fish. 

100 B.C.

In this century, the Romans ushered in the first heated pools. Built by Gaius Marcenus, the very first of their kind brought pool building too a new level of innovation. During this time period, many Romans began to try to chemically sanitize their pools.

300 A.D.

The Romans upped the ante with one of their most famous pools in 300 A.D. It was an immense structure at 900,000 square feet, designed for the same purposes as previous pools, but there was one major difference: The pool was heated from beneath with fires. 

After the fall of the Roman Empire, swimming pools dropped from popularity. Perhaps it was that many similarly advanced civilizations didn't have the optimal weather or soil, or perhaps existing pools were constructed of other materials that degraded quickly. Regardless, it wasn't until many centuries later that swimming pools regained popularity. 

1400 B.C.

Public bathing is deemed immoral by the church. What was left of public bathing and swimming centers becomes even more rare, as modern "swimsuits" had not yet been invented. 

1800 A.D.

It wasn't until the 1800s that swimming itself became a popular activity. Swimming competitions became prevalent in Great Britain, and so the development of pools began again. The first swimming clubs were established during this century. Some were used for sport, and some public pools were once again used for bathing (clothed, this time). 

1900 A.D.

Modern water treatment begins, starting with sand filtration and chlorination. This meant that pool water could be reused, saving time, money and resources – and making usage safer for everyone. After World War II, a great deal of the U.S. population spread into suburbs, buying larger homes with more land. This is when private pool became insanely popular – and interest has only grown since. 

Today, there are thousands of pools across the U.S. alone. They're one of the most popular backyard features around. (Hey, we're not mad about it.)

How to turn your backyard into an Italian villa

With summer tapering off and fall slowly arriving, the cooler night temperatures are a perfect time to spend with friends hosting barbecues or late-night dinner parties. You have nice outdoor dining sets and outdoor furniture sets, but how do you create the perfect ambiance around these patio essentials? If you've ever pictured yourself sipping wine and eating olives in an Italian villa as the sun goes down, then here are just a few decorating suggestions to lend your patio some Old World charm:

La dolce vita
Once the sun sets you'll need the perfect style of lighting to keep the festivities going. Outdoor string lights, especially yellow globe ones, can give any space an Italian courtyard feel. To create a canopy effect, string several lines in a zigzag overhead. Pair the lights with a patio bistro set and you'll feel like you're dining in Tuscany. You and your guests will be able to dine and celebrate al fresco into the wee hours thanks to these romantic lights.

Pergola
A pergola is a pair of poles with crossbeams over its top, and even though it won't shelter you from rain, its beauty makes up for what it lacks in utility. You can purchase these garden and walkway coverings at most home supply stores or you can make your own out of cedar wood. Whichever route you decide to take, these wooden structures are great to hang vines and other plants off of. A pergola will give your backyard a bit of shade and an Italian Renaissance look. 

Add a chair under the pergola to create a perfect and peaceful place to escape with a great book or a glass of wine. 

Flora
Besides vine-like plants, other flora can really add to the villa atmosphere. If you want plants that will complement your outdoor chaise lounge or other lounge seats, then consider planting a few Mediterranean plants and trees. Cypress trees, succulents, lavender and rosemary plants will give your patio and backyard a beautiful and sophisticated vibe. Add even more greenery near your tables by planting some ferns in clay pots and arranging them around your deck or near your pool.

Games
Villa settings are all about relaxing and taking in the joys of everyday life, but that doesn't mean lying around all day. If you want to provide some entertainment for your guests but also keep your Old World-style theme, consider buying a bocce ball set. The Italians modernized and popularized this ancient sport, and it's a fun and relaxing outdoor game that you and your partygoers will instantly fall for. 

If you're looking for another classic game – one that will work your brain instead of your throwing arm – then treat yourself and a guest to a game of chess or backgammon. These board games never go out of style and can be a wonderful way to while away the hours. 

Food
What Italian villa would be complete without food? Wine and cheese plates are a great way to go. Serve a selection of red and white wines or prosecco, a few light Italian beers and a charcuterie plate, and you and your guests will be dining in style at your "villa."

How to protect your pets from your yard

Yes, you heard us right – protecting your pets from your yard might seem a little backwards, but it's just as important as protecting your yard from your pets. Creating a pup-proof backyard isn't as tough as it may seem, though. Here's how to do it: 

Smooth it out

Those misshapen rocks may look great in your garden from an aesthetic perspective, but they aren't so great for your pet's paws. Instead, opt for a smoother variety – or better yet, ditch them altogether. Small stones can be ingested even by little dogs, and can potentially be a choking hazard. 

Use a fence in your garden 

For your actual garden, it's important to fence it off entirely, as many plants are poisonous for dogs (and meant for human enjoyment, of course). You can choose from a variety of decorative options, such as a traditional lattice fence or plain old chicken wire. Regardless of which one you opt for, make sure it's not too short or easy to knock over. 

Be careful with your fertilizer, bug repellents and pest poisons 

Some of the things you spray on your plants and leave in your bushes can be incredibly dangerous for your pets, such as fertilizer, rat poison, or bug repellents. What's worse, dogs often confuse fertilizer for food, meaning they don't just accidentally eat it – they seek it out. It can be tough to nix these things when you're seeking a gorgeous garden, but they aren't worth the potential harm they could cause your pup. 

Don't leave the grill open 

There's nothing better than grilling in the backyard, but it's dangerous to leave your pet near a hot grill unattended. To mitigate the risk of something going awry, make sure the grill is always closed when you're not actively putting on or flipping meat. 

Get a good fence

This one is a no brainer – the fence surrounding your yard as a whole should be high enough that your pup can't hop over it or slip through one of the cracks. You can even use an additional fence to surround a small area of your yard for your pet to hang out it when you're not able to keep an eye on it. 

Long live the dog house

"Dog house" might have a negative connotation when it's used colloquially, but dog houses are actually great for pets, especially in bad weather. To get the most out of your backyard dog house, it's a good idea to choose one that is insulated for the cold and entirely protected from the rain. As a bonus, this will also give your pup some shade when it's super hot. 

Keep them off the outdoor furniture

OK, so this tip isn't exactly for your pet's safety so much as it is for you sofa's, but you get the idea. Training your pets to stay off the outdoor furniture means they won't do any damage to those cushions – and they won't fall off, either. 

How to create a pet-friendly backyard

If you have a dog you probably treat it like another member of the family. Fido is always there for you whether you have snacks or not … but mostly when you have snacks. However, just because he's an important part of your life doesn't mean you want him dirtying up your outdoor seating. Here are just a few suggestions that can help you keep your yard tidy and your dog occupied when guests come over to a backyard party:

Ice lick
Having an outdoor get-together but worried that your dog will bother guests while they're eating? Consider making a doggie ice lick that'll keep your pooch busy while you and your party attendees enjoy one another's company. It sounds odd, but your dog will be busy for hours with it. Just fill a cake mold with chicken broth, dog bones and toys, and freeze it for a few hours. Present the ice lick to your pet in the backyard once your friends start arriving and be bothered by a hungry puppy no more!

If you'd prefer to make something smaller for your pet to chew on, then fill an unused ice tray with chicken broth and chopped up apple slices. This method will help keep smaller dogs busy while you enjoy the day lounging in the yard.

Designated potty spot 
Are you still training your dog when it comes to going to the bathroom? If your pup regularly uses your yard to do his business, you might forget to clean up after him all the time. Also, if you're a gardener, you probably don't want your pet going to the bathroom over your prized flowers and bushes. 

A great work-around to this problem is to create a small fenced-in area of your backyard as a dedicated potty training zone. Make sure the area is far enough away from your outdoor furniture sets and guests. 

Dog bowls
Does your backyard furniture and design have more of a Mediterranean style? If you think the chrome of your dog's food and water bowls clashes with your design sense, there's a simple way to fix it. Find a pair of planters or pots that the bowls can easily fit into that will make a nice facade.

Water fountain
If your dog is thirsty but you want to keep his water bowl inside the house, then invest in a dog-activated water fountain. The outdoor kind usually hooks up to a hose, and dogs can step on the fountain's mat to start the water stream themselves. 

For small dogs
A fenced-in backyard can keep most pups from running off and getting lost. Do you have a particularly small dog and want him to be able to enjoy the comforts of playing in a yard? An escape-preventing harness could solve the problem. Made by a number of companies, it features a fabric crossbar over the top that's wider than your dog. It'll keep him from slipping through any narrow bars.

The best plants to get your backyard through the dog days of summer

While the first month of summer can be a blessing for those of us trapped indoors during the winter, the dog days of the season can bear down with heat, leaving you to wonder, "how can I landscape my backyard without it looking like desert?" Don't fret. There are plenty of plants and flowers that will complement your outdoor furniture and design while keeping your backyard looking just as fresh and green as the middle of spring. The blossoms will also make a wonderful conversation starter for your next outdoor dinner party.

Here are just a couple of styles to add some green to your backyard: 

Tropical garden
If you're looking to create a tropical-like environment to go with your outdoor lounge chairs and furniture sets, you can't go wrong with the purplish, light blue flowers of the plumbago. The vines can grow to about 10 feet and do well in humid environments. 

Another bush with beautiful blossoms is the Madagascar periwinkle, and its reddish flowers flourish in both humid and dry conditions. The shrub can add a pop of color to your backyard while the plumbago can grow around a fence to give your yard a lush vibe even in the punishing heat of August. The flowers' colors also go great with neutral-colored outdoor seating and hammocks.

If you want to add some more violet hues to your patio's palette, consider planting some Angelonia angustifolia. The tropical plant does well in late summer and can grow in pots or in the yard.

For a plant that'll give you larger flowers in a humid environment, try sky vines for a verdant and luxurious feel. The big sky-blue blossoms attract many species of butterflies to their nectar and can make your garden a veritable paradise.

A plant that can complement any backyard with a pool or lounge chairs is the canna. Its many colored flowers will liven up any deck or patio. 

California beauty
Even if your home is undergoing dry or drought-like conditions, you can still have a beautiful garden to look at while relaxing in your lounge chair. The salvia plant is just as tough and drought-resistant as it is beautiful when it sprouts its indigo blossoms. 

A plant that can take the summer's heat but is easy to plant and maintain is the solanum bush. Its dark violet flowers can grow with just a little water.

If you want to lie out on the hammock without having to deal with the sun's rays, planting bamboo in large pots can help. And, it can give your deck or patio some privacy. The fast-growing plant can grow up to 20 feet and provides a natural green curtain for your backyard. 

However, if you're more in the mood to embrace a desert setting without having to skimp on the greenery, agave plants can give your porch or patio a wonderful look with their bluish greens. Place these desert plants in a container and watch them bloom in dry conditions.