A deck is like an extra room for your house. It can be your favorite room in the summer, or it can be just a large entrance to the backyard. The difference comes down to offering a reason to stop and relax a while. Even the addition of furniture may not be enough. After all, why leave the living room couch and TV to sit on an empty deck? Your deck needs to become a destination and the way to achieve that is to offer something that draws you out. Nature and the beauty of plants can turn an uninviting deck into a retreat to unwind and relax.
Start by planting around the deck. If your deck has no plants that connect it to the rest of the landscape, it will look like an afterthought. Add some trees on the sides of the deck and some shrubs. Choose flowering shrubs for year-round interest. Add some bare root roses for color, scent and beauty. Finish with perennials that are easy care but provide interest. If you are renting, planting in ground may not be possible. If that is the case, you will have to bring some of the larger plants onto the deck by using containers.
If you are a beginner gardener or this is the first time with a deck, here are some helpful tips.
1. Utilize Containers and Pots
All of the plants on your deck will need to be in pots or containers. Those containers are very important to the look of your groupings of plants. Usually, it is best to have some continuity. Perhaps all your pots are terracotta, or they are all the same color or same shape. Depending on what is planted in each, the size will already vary, so you need something to unite them. Make sure each pot and container that sits on the deck has a saucer to catch excess water. If the water is allowed to sit on the deck, it can stain or even start to rot the wood under it.
2. Group By Watering Needs
You will make life easier for yourself if you group plants with similar watering needs together. Some plants don’t do well if they don’t stay moist, while others like to dry out a little before they are watered again. There are pots that are self-watering. These have a water reservoir that the plant can draw from as it dries. There are also irrigation systems available that have a water line that goes to each plant from the main hose. The water can be turned on when needed or it can be controlled with a timer to automatically water for you.
3. Design a Layout
Decide where you want your plants. If you have a rail on your deck, there are planters that hang on the rail. Corners are a great spot to place a grouping of plants. You will still have room for furniture, while maintaining good traffic flow along with access to the steps off the deck. If there is wall space, consider vertical gardening. Use several pots hanging on the wall to plant flowers or even an herb garden. A flowering vine in a pot could cover an unattractive wall.
4. Consider adding Trees
Yes, you can grow a tree in a large pot. There are many small trees that will be very happy in a pot including acers or Japanese maples. There are some Japanese maples that grow very tall, but many are only four to five feet tall. That is a lot of height when you add the height of the pot. Placed in the corner of your deck and surrounded with other plants, this tree could be the hero plant. Other options for trees that will grow well in a pot include ficus, crape myrtle and Meyer lemon tree.
5. Find Some Shrubs
There are lots of shrubs available that will do well in a pot. How about setting aside a corner of your deck for bare root roses? If you love roses, they’re perfect to add to your deck. Choose different colors of the same type or mix it up. If you don’t have room for full size roses, pot up some miniatures. They will even fit in a window box on your railing.
Hydrangeas are also a great choice for a potted shrub. Want foliage without flowers? Select a boxwood. Other shrubs that do well in pots include sweet bay, azaleas and sambucus.
6. Incorporate Perennials
You will find perennials for sale in the spring, but there are also perennials that are sold in the summer. Pots of perennials can be changed out when they finish blooming so that your deck always has some interesting fresh plants throughout the season. Most perennials bloom for two to four weeks each season, but others continue blooming throughout the summer. Some spring-blooming perennials will put on a second show of blooms in the fall. Some good choices include coneflowers, daisies, asters and chrysanthemums. You might also want to add some grasses or some succulents.
7. Try Some Annuals Too
Annuals are the usual choice for window boxes or containers, and your deck garden is no exception. Plants like geraniums, petunias, zinnias and alyssum are favorites. You could also add annuals like snapdragons and salvia, as well as cosmos, bachelor buttons and marigolds. If you are probably going to use your deck mostly later in the day, plant some night-blooming flowers like four o’clocks.
8. Start an Herb Deck Garden
Herbs make a great addition to the deck garden. Pick them fresh to use when preparing meals or for their scent. Basil and lavender are obvious choices, but don’t forget thyme, mint and oregano can be grown in pots. A pot of chives will not only taste good, but if you don’t use it all, (when you cut it, it will grow back) it will send up some purple blooms.
As you have seen, there are lots of possibilities for your deck garden. Start with one corner and you are sure to have fun when you successfully turn your deck into the favorite room for you and your family.
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