Growing a Patio
Create a year-round retreat right outside your back door.
By Melinda Myers, Contributing Editor
When you look out your windows onto your patio, what do you see? Is it a beautiful, inviting space filled with vibrant blooms? Or is it a drab, cluttered area with withering plants that need your attention?
If you have been avoiding your patio, then it's time to
do something about it. I'm going to show you some quick changes that will allow you to enjoy this space now and throughout the year.
Devise a Plan
This is a good time to give your patio a facelift. Summer
is still lingering, so you can see what you'd like to keep and what you'd rather change for next season. And fall will be here soon, which means bargain time for outdoor furniture, plants and gardening equipment. But before you go shopping, let's start with a few improvements you can make to your current space.
If your patio surface is a bit dull or out-of-date, you can liven it up without tearing it out. Concrete paints, modular decking, a layer of pea gravel and even a few ground covers squeezed into unsightly cracks can improve its appearance.
If you're looking to create a sense of privacy or screen bad views, then plants are a great way to do it. Train a few vines to grow up a trellis. It adds color and interest to the area.
You can also take things a step further by grouping ornamental grasses and tall shrubs nearby. Before you know it, the eyesore that was there before will be long gone, and you can relax in your own private space.
If the summer sun has been driving you off the patio, then now is the time to create your own shade. Plant a tree or large shrubs nearby to help, but if you're looking for a faster fix, invest in an umbrella, arbor or awning.
Keep in mind that any shade you add will impact your plants below. This shouldn't deter you from adding shade or plants to your area. Just plan accordingly.
Plenty of Plants
Now it's time to put your green thumb to work. We may be heading out of the traditional outdoor growing season, but you can still plant in containers.
If you're trying to create year-round interest, there are plenty of perennials, dwarf trees and ornamental shrubs that will provide interest to your patio garden throughout the season. Select plants at least one zone hardier for better winter survival. Northern gardeners should also provide a bit more winter protection.
At the beginning of next growing season, start by adding some containers filled with annuals, perennials, bulbs and even edibles to your patio. Increase your planting space by changing annuals throughout the season. Begin with frost-tolerant pansies in early spring. Then replace them with butterfly-attracting pentas when the weather warms, and finish with cold-tolerant ornamental kale. And don't forget a few evergreen boughs for a bit of winter color.
Never underestimate the power of color. Use a wide range of mixed plantings in the containers on and around your patio for added color and interest to the area.
Be sure to have variety, too. To do this, look beyond your traditional growing patterns. Try adding bulbs in your ground covers, a summer and a fall blooming vine together on one trellis, or herbs such as purple ruffle basil and tricolor sage with your flowers.
Get the greatest show from your patio garden by using plants with four-season interest. Look for those with flowers, fruits, colorful bark and other features that will allow you to enjoy them throughout the year. And don't forget to include a few to attract the birds and butterflies. You'll be glad you did when you spot these fliers enjoying your backyard.
So get started on creating your patio retreat. Whether you tackle the entire area or just add a few plants, you can make your patio a place you want to spend time.