Do It Yourself Landscaping For Your Deck Or Patio

Do it yourself landscaping that wil help you achieve the atmosphere that you desire.

Jack Kramer and Andrew Addkison, writing in 100 Garden Designs, assert that the patio or deck is really an extension of the house, acting s an extra room. As such, it is important to make it a showplace, because it is always on display. In some climates, the deck or patio is on display year-round. In others, six to nine months a year. How you furnish it, plant it, decorate and accessorize it will reflect your taste, your version of creativity and ambience. Some helpful tips follow.

First, consider the uses of your patio and deck in order to decide what furnishings and special plant needs you have. For example, if you plan to barbecue and serve meals on your patio, placement of the grill, server and table and chairs is critical. Make sure you won't be cooking with the sun in your eyes, and that your table setting will be shaded during meal times.

Shade trees, therefore are your primary concern, unless you have been fortunate enough to plan your patio around existing shade trees, or shade provided by structures, plant shade providing trees as soon as possible.

Choose fast-growing trees, either with dense shade, such as that provided by maple or oaks trees, or thinner shade, like that of various kinds of locusts. Fast growing poplars provide nearly overnight shade, but do so in narrow columns, and unless you plan to plant a whole fence of poplars to shield patio or deck from a full southern or southwestern exposure, trying something different. Sometimes a well-placed crabapple will provide just the right amount of soft shade over the picnic table at dinnertime to be enough. In other cases, you may have to depend on picnic tables with umbrella attachments, or ateliers or trellises planted with vines to provide minimal shade overhead during high noon, if that is when and where your shade deficits lie.

If your patio will mostly be used as an outdoor living room, shade is not as crucial, but you will want some relief from the sun. Consider first what sort of furniture grouping you desire""two chaises with a connecting small table and two occasional chairs? Or a love seat in wrought iron with two opposing chairs and an occasional table?

Wherever you plan to place your furnishings, sit down in those areas and imagine what the view of your patio will be from that angle. Will you see bare wall? Level patches of grass only? Pavement of parking lot? Utility areas needing screening? Consider first any constructions or plantings needed to modify the views.

Next, recognize that patio and deck plantings must primarily depend on containers, and that the key to wise container planting is to vary their heights.

First, if you have a strip of soil or a flower bed along one edge or more of your patio, take advantage of it and plant a subtle, understated garden for as many seasons as you'll use the outdoor room. Put height at the back or along the centerline using a few shrubs like spirea or English cranberry, or if space is limited, just some tall perennial blooms like Mt Fuji phlox, or delphiniums or lupines. Around the tallest plants try medium leveled perennials. Interplant with chrysanthemums which will return every year to fill in with fall color, and plant annual borders such as lobelia in brilliant purple shades which look great against the wood shades of decks or bricks and stone.

Key to patio and deck plantings are containers. Containers can be arranged in groups most attractively. Half barrels and barrels, redwood tubs and large clay pots can set the tone. A few large containers are more impressive than many small ones. Imagine a living room with only small, dainty chairs. It doesn't work. A living room needs some large focus pieces, and a patio needs a few large focus planting areas.

An alternative to barrels or tubs is oblong redwood planters, perhaps set at bench level, or one at bench level, one at ground level perhaps at right angles. Another option is the construction of multilevel benches with plantings along the higher level, perhaps yellow striped euonymous that grows ow and spreads to catch the sun or even glow like sunshine in the shade. Cascading flowers such as Begonia pendula and lobelia make excellent container plants, softening the edges of wooden containers.

However you're planting your patio or deck, remember to vary the heights of your plantings. A pleasantly decorated living room pleasing to the eye depends on drawing the eye to various levels: to floor level and attractive floor coverings or shiny, glowing wood floors, to bright, well lit ceiling, to furniture at approximate 27 inches, or normal seat height, and higher, where lamps, table tops, televisions and bookshelves vary across a rooms four walls. If all the furnishings were at say, 27 inches, the room would be boring, the eye would experience no variety, no rhythm, as it traversed the horizon of he view.

Good decorators use floor plants, large jugs or pots, interesting wall hangings to vary and attract the eye to various heights. Don't ignore house surfaces for an occasional interesting piece of pottery or other garden sculpture such as a heavy clay clock or Aztec sun plaque or other whimsical design that makes a fun conversational piece.

In addition to using containers or plants of differing heights, consider using garden structures such as metal teepees, birdbaths, fountains, wind chimes, sculptures, and trellises. Also take some time to harmonize the colors of your patio garden for a restful effect, and for a more formal garden use primarily evergreen plantings, adding only a few annual flowers such as impatiens or petunias in season.

In a small space such as a patio or deck, although the space appears larger because of the lack of walls, it is also crucial to limit the number of textures and amounts of different colors of shrubs used in the plantings. Just as you would not use a dozen different textures in a room of 200 square feet, or as many colors, it's important to restrict the textures and colors outdoors, too. Also beneficial to create a pleasing scheme is a certain repeated pattern, such as one or two very low plants of one color, two or three mid-sized plants of another color, texture and shape, and one or two of a third color or shape.

The more you limit your plant material, the more restful the appearance of your patio area. The more greens and whites you use, the more tranquil the effect, as well. But if yours is a bubbly, playful, outgoing family who love the dynamics of bright colors and supercharged atmosphere, plant reds, pinks, yellows and purples in match and mix patterns and varying heights, and enjoy your deck and patio. It's your outdoor space, to enhance as you yourself prefer.

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