Coloured wood stains allow the wood grain to show through and are more subtle than paint. They also tend to weather better than paint as, when applied correctly, they won't peel or flake.
You can complete a project in a weekend - this allows for time to dry between coats - the actual work could be as little as a couple of hours, depending on the size of the project.
Products you could use are:
* Cuprinol Garden Shades in 21 colours, from cream, sage and sky to cobalt and turquoise; www.cuprinol.co.uk (online advice service).
* Ronseal Garden Furniture Stain in four wood shades plus green and blue; www.ronseal.co.uk
* Sadolin Classic Colour in 13 wood tones, red and 48 tinted colours; www.sadolin.co.uk
Here's how to use Cuprinol Garden Shades
1. Apply to wood that is clean and dry.
2. Sand back all grey, weathered wood to a clean bright surface. Make sure you remove any old finishes. (Tip: wrap sandpaper around a small piece of wood, or use a sanding block). Wear a mask if using an electric sander for large jobs.
3. Wipe over with white spirit to remove any dust or grease, and allow to dry.
4. Use a tester pot on an inconspicuous area to check colour and to make sure the wood will take the stain well.
5. Stir well - and again as necessary during the job.
6. Brush on evenly along the grain. This finish should be touch-dry within one hour. Wait at least eight hours before applying a second coat. You may even need a third coat to get an even colour.
Tip: wait for about three days before using garden furniture or you could stain clothes or cushions.
Prices: a 125ml tester pot costs £1.99; 1 litre is £8.99; 2.5 litres, £16.29; 5 litres, £22.99.
* To cover fiddly trellis, or to paint large areas quickly, use a Cuprinol wood spray. There are two types: a fence sprayer, which has a pump action, at £24.99; or a power sprayer with rechargeable batteries for £33.99.