Metro-East Living

Shopping: Here’s how to make outdoor living colorful and comfortable

Spring is a fickle time of year, with popping-blue skies and warm temperatures one day, then chilly, gray ones the next.

If it’s raining, it’s time to sit inside and plot out where those impatiens will go and, perhaps, plan a new water feature for the garden.

If it’s sunny, it’s time to set up your warm-weather living space with table, chairs and loungers on the patio or deck.

Retailers in the area are ready to help with a colorful and practical array of merchandise. Here’s a sample.

Useful can be attractive, too, in your garden. The $9.99 rain gauge from Rural King in Swansea is a standout out among a variety of other gauges that look very utilitarian.This one has a black metal stand and leaf frame with a plastic gauge that holds up to 5 inches of water. Because the stand comes in three pieces, you can decide how far off the ground you want the gauge to be.

Disguise your outdoor thermometer as an attractive accessory for your garden. This “stained-glass” one from Menard’s in O’Fallon is on sale for $14.99 and found in the outdoor garden section of the store. It has a metal frame, is 18 inches in diameter and ready to hang. You’ll also find glass ones in shades of blue and green.

Lowe’s has Rain Wizard 40-gallon plastic rain barrels for $108.78. They come in brown, black, terra cotta and khaki. Order today and pick one up at your local store in about a week. Made of UV-resistant resin, the barrel resists rust, mold, mildew and rotting. Plus, it comes with a brass spigot for hose hook-up, an overflow spout and a screen cover. The barrel is linkable to other barrels, too, with kits sold separately.

Whether the sun shines or the rain falls on your backyard oasis, outdoor rugs from World Market in Shiloh will be eye-catchers. In vivid shades of turquoise, red, orange, green and yellow, and in stripes, paisleys and swirl patterns, they’ll stand up well to almost any kind of weather. In particular, this lightweight Rio mat ($19.99) is 4-by-6 foot and reversible. Made of 100 percent polypropylene, it is easy to clean with just a shake, or a broom to sweep away water, dirt and leaves. Other sizes are available, with other rugs made of recycled plastic bottles and jute.

Send the kids outside in good weather and let them explore with this Play Day set sold at Walmart in O’Fallon (and other locations) for $12.99. Called the Nature Explorer Kit, youngsters can catch, observe and then release bugs and insects. Included are a net, magnifying glass, lantern/flashlight, carabiner, tweezers and jar.

Ready to add a water feature to your garden? Turn to easy-to-use guides from Barnes & Noble in Fairview Heights. “The Backyard Water Garden” by Veronica Lorson Fowler (2013, Cool Springs Press) is $19.99. Or, pick up a copy of the popular “The Water Gardener’s Bible” by Ben Helm and Kelly Billing (2008, Rodale) for $21.95. Both offer advice on installation, planting and maintaining a pond.