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Al Fresco Living

Finds to beautify the great outdoors

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New Orleans homes are known as much for their patios as for their beautiful interiors. And there's no more pleasant time of year to enjoy gardens and patios than in the spring. Bursting with camellias, azaleas, sweet olive, sweet peas and cascades of wisteria, spring in full bloom calls us outdoors. Nothing renews our outdoor surroundings like mother nature herself, but here are some suggestions for adding touches of your own.

When entertaining outdoors, incorporate a touch of eastern design philosophy -- lucky bamboo is recommended by feng shui practitioners to improve the flow of chi (or energy) and is believed to be particularly lucky in the area of wealth and prosperity. It should be kept out of direct sunlight though, making it best suited to a special spot under a covered area or for decorating at night. Small frog pot with bamboo, $17; tall blue vase with bamboo, $24; flat pot with pagoda-shape bamboo, $60; curly bamboo stems, $22.50 each; Asian cylinder vase, $10; round pot with bamboo, $15; all from The Plant Gallery (9401 Airline Drive, Metairie, 488-8887; 1135 Press St., 947-7554; 83-89 French Market Place, 524-3716).

Available in a rainbow of crayon colors and with either stationary handles or movable ones for easy tilting, these metal watering cans will brighten your chores and your surroundings. Red, yellow, orange, light blue, navy or green watering cans, $25 each, from American Aquatic Gardens (621 Elysian Fields, 944-0410).

This sleek, self-adjustable take on a chaise lounge from Homecrest's "Florida" collection has a rust-proof aluminum frame and a washable zebra-print sling. This is made of durable plastic but feels like luxurious chenille, $599, from The Pool & Patio Center (3740 N. Causeway, Metairie, 837-2022).

Made of white cement, both of these classical plaques can be used to adorn garden walls or can be transformed into decorative fountains by drilling a spout in the center of the mouth. Large rectangular plaque depicting Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, $45; smaller reproduction of Michelangelo's green man, $30; both from Old World Casting Co. (4332 Magazine St., 895-6922).

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