Whether you have a big lawn or a postage stamp, a concrete backyard or just a window ledge, there’s nothing nicer this time of year than looking out and seeing a flower or a nice bit of greenery. But, while gardens are great, I always find there’s just one snag: to get any kind of outdoor space looking nice, you normally have to garden, which invariably means you have to touch soil and get your hands dirty. This is not so bad if you like that kind of thing, but for me it means the high risk of coming across a worm. Personally, I hate worms. Sorry, worms – feel free to hate me back. Gardeners, you can hate me, too.
PS I also hate any creepy-crawly, apart from ladybirds.
PPS I’m now beginning to sound like I hate everything, but I don’t. I love lanterns, nice pots, outdoor cushions…
Over the years, I have honed a number of gardening-avoidance tactics that won't compromise the appearance of my patio. Here are the laziest ideas, cheats and shortcuts I always turn to:
1 always CHOOSE BRIGHT COLOUR
There is one basic rule all gardening-phobes need to follow and that is to always invest in bright accessories. If your flowers die, you will at least be left with some colour.
2 PRINTS LOOK GOOD OUTDOORS, TOO
I love these Orla Kiely pot covers, as they will add interest to the corner of a dull concrete patio or nondescript lawn, plus plants left in their plastic pots never look nice. They look great dotted up the side of outdoor steps, too.
3 FAKE A FLOWER GARLAND
Floral wedding decorations (stay with me) are great for bringing colour and prettiness to a patio. Plastic wysteria hung from an arch or tree will also soften an exposed space – stick to whites if you’re concerned about it looking too unrealistic.
4 HELP THE BEES
Sir David Attenborough’s recent Facebook message about helping tired bees brought a tear to my eye. These seedballs are specially formulated to help bees and the only "technique" you need is to sprinkle over soil. You can do that, right? For the bees?
5 GET SOME HANGING BUCKETS
At only a little over £2 each, these pots are a budget way of bringing a shot of colour into an outdoor space. Fill with bedding plants in their pots; the cheaper and more cheerful, the better – no need to replant.
6 SOW A WILDFLOWER LAWN
You really don’t need to go to the faff of a herbaceous border if you don't want to – just scatter this wildflower mix on your grass (do this in September for next spring).
7 Invest in fake pot plants
I am a total convert in going faux. You get full, lush colour right through summer, blooms don't wither and you don't have to beg a next-door neighbour to water anything if you go away.
8 WRAP TREES IN Festoon lights
Bring fairground colour to a patio both day and night with a set of outdoor lights.
9 Update a patio with Astro turf
Proper astro turf can be costly – it needs a professional fitter or you'll run into problems with drainage. Instead, try these artificial floor grass "tiles" from Ikea. They're relatively inexpensive and can be just slung down quickly on a patio – simply click them together and job done!
10 plant things at EYE LINE
Placing colour in your eye line is a neat trick and an instant one. Invest in an outdoor shelf ladder that you can line with cheap bedding plants and easy-to-care-for herbs.
11 CREATE A SOFT FURNISHINGS "DEN"
From rugs to cushions and bean bags, these days there are so many great outdoor textiles on the market that you don't need to buy garden furniture if you haven't got the budget.
12 AND FINALLY… ADD SOMETHING FRIVOLOUS INTO THE MIX
If you do have space and cash, though, it's good to add some personality. When this tiki bar debuted on John Lewis last year, it sold out in days and there's a reason for that – anything fun that will create a talking point will lure people out of the house to spend more time outdoors. I am eyeing up hot tubs on Argos, too. Now, that's my kind of gardening.