When Mary Schlichting Francis moved into her four-plex in central San Jose, a small corner patio came with it. It was a blank slate of concrete and gray. For this woman who loves to garden as well as collect vintage treasures, her task was a welcome opportunity. So with a little imagination, a can of black spray-paint and an internal compass leading her to bargains, she transformed her patio into a creative, welcoming spot.
“You get so much more joy out of it knowing you spent so little,” she said.
Here are some of her tips to get your patio ready for spring — on a dime.
1. Find a small fountain(Mary found hers at Savers on San Carlos, painted it and added river rocks.) The sound of gurgling water creates a soothing atmosphere.
2. Rescue orphan plants from friends who are moving or cleaning out. Mary, who has a green thumb, loves to nurse sickly plants back to life — her exquisite white azalea is testament to that. Cast-off cyclamen bulbs from last year are blooming on Mary’s patio this year.
3. Shop second-hand stores, like Move It Elsewhere on Lincoln Avenue in San Jose that is open one weekend a month for old pots, garden furniture and interesting “found art.” Try Salvation Army on Taylor Street, too, or Marshalls and T.J. Maxx.
4. Buy a can of black “Painter’s Touch” semigloss paint at Home Depot, and spray a coat on old orange pots, especially plastic ones, to give them a more sophisticated look.
5. Create vignettes by combining plants, sculpture (like Mary’s buddha statue), garden mosaics and even cheap paintings or pictures that can hang under the eaves, or over a bench. “Some things can handle the weather,” Mary said. “If it only lasts a season, but it doesn’t cost much, it’s just fine.”
6. Go green and purchase a compost bin. Mary is sharing it with the other tenants in her complex.