Landscaping around Decks, Patios and Porches

May 1st, 2011

Lakeside Patio

Image by Kansas Explorer 3128 via Flickr

Once the weather warms and decks, patios and porches are back in use, queries begin coming in requesting assistance in landscaping these areas. So, I thought it would be a good idea to offer these suggestions to all of our readers. The first task is to sit on your patio, porch or deck and actually look out (away from the exterior walls). What do you see? Do you see an open never ending lawn or, maybe it’s a small enclosed area? What could you see as a focal point in your view? How do you feel about your deck? Is it quiet and cozy or more of an open space where you would prefer more privacy? The answers to these questions will dictate how you landscape around your outdoor living area.

Let’s discuss patios and low level decks and porches first. Your point of view from sitting in your chair should give you looking into (not onto) the lawn area. Basically, the lawn becomes an extension of that outdoor space. Low level sitting areas take more advantage of the opening. Colors and textures can be used effectively from the immediate areas on to the outlying regions. The view will be complete from the tree tops all the way down to ground cover. So, be sure to add in lots of colorful perennials and shrubs into the outlying landscape.

Now, in landscaping around the perimeter of your low level deck (patio or porch), you will want to select plants with that in mind. If your outside living space is large and extends out considerably from the house, consider placing ornamental trees or other decorative plants. The following is a great listing of plants for this purpose.

Japanese red maple
Sky rocket juniper
Blue point juniper
Emerald green arborvitae
Crape myrtle trees
Kousa dogwood
Kwanzan cherry
Sourwood trees
Red bud
Sweetbay magnolia
Clumping bamboo
Nishiki willow

Remember to allow for stepping stones or other access to the outlying areas. In planting along the edges, select low growing plants so as to not block the outward view. Staying in the 3 ½ foot range and below should work quite well, especially with taller plants in that range that are airy at the tops such as ornamental grasses.
The following list you will find excellent plants for bordering gardens.

Barberry crimson pygmy
Crape myrtle Chickasaw
Crape myrtle Pocomoke
Coreopsis
Astilbe
Gaillardia
Heucheras
Lemon princess spiraea
Hydrangeas (Cityline series)
Hostas
Chamaecyparis pisifera compacta
Nandina dwarf firepower
Nandina dwarf harbor
Saliva
Russian sage little spire
Weigela
Liriope
Grass, Acorus Ogon
Grass, Sporobolus h. Prairie Dropseed
Grass, pennisetum Karley Rose
Grass, Pennisetum Hameln
Grass, Phalaris a. Strawberries and Cream
Verbena-low growing
Lantana-low growing
Rosemary
Lavender
Sage

When planning your landscape around high level decks and balconies, remember that you will be looking down onto the plants immediately around the perimeter and only seeing the top portions of the plants in the outlying areas. High level areas truly take on a different view of the lawn than low level areas and should be landscaped accordingly. High level decks are considered to be (roughly) 5 and 6 feet and higher off the ground. Plant for fragrance, long blooming periods, lots of texture and slightly away from the deck so you are fully able to enjoy the plants. This list of plants works nicely in such situations.

White birch
Dogwoods
Serviceberry
Magnolias
Tulip poplar
Lilacs
Crape myrtles-tall growing varieties
Heptacodium, Seven son
Oakleaf hydrangeas
Magnolia Jane
Red bud
Flowering cherry
Flowering peach
Flowering pear
Sourwood
Laurels
Rhododendrons
Holly

Armed with this information, you can now confidently plan the landscape around your multi leveled outdoor living spaces.

Cheryl D. Jones, co-owner of Greenwood Nursery, McMinnville, TN, shares tips and information on gardening and landscaping through her blog, newsletters and nursery website. Visit Greenwood Nursery for a full line of trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses and ground covers. Join the Greenwood Gardeners Club free to receive the nursery’s weekly newsletter, access to the members sales page, seasonal promotions and 10% off your first order.

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