To answer the question “what is a patio garden?” we need to clarify what a patio is. Terminology for outdoor spaces is often mixed up and used interchangeably. Balcony, patio, porch, deck, or terrace; they’re all the same, aren’t they? Not exactly.
Your outdoor space is a patio if it is a flat open area, adjoined to your house, uncovered, paved (or tiled) and level to the ground. When you think of gardens, you may typically imagine big green spaces with plants artfully arranged growing out of the ground. However, you don’t have to have wide rolling planes of grass to have a garden. Grow your own garden, on and around, your patio.
Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Patio Garden
So how do you transform that flat, open, paved area into a patio garden you can take pleasure and pride in? Well, it takes some forethought, some purchasing, and some work. Lucky for you, we’ve put together this list to help you along the way. Let’s get started!
Set the Tone with the Style of Your Patio Furniture
If you like sleek and modern, or crisp lines, cushioned and comfortable, or mismatched and eclectic, or cheery and cozy; it’s important that your patio furniture showcases your style. You want to feel like this space is a reflection of you, and your furniture can go a long way to setting the tone.
Measure your space before buying anything. Two big cushy chairs may seem like a great idea until you get home with them and realize there isn’t room for anything else!
For your dining space, it is recommended that you leave at least 60cm (or 2 ft) of space between the edges of your table and any walls or other furniture. You want to be able to move around the table to other parts of the patio without bumping into anything.
Helpful tip: Use sidewalk chalk to mark where you plan to arrange your patio furniture. Once you've chalked the furniture, walk from the doorway of your home to the table and chairs. This will help you visualize size, and flow of traffic so that you can rearrange or reconsider furniture size if necessary.
Tips Creating Shade on your Patio
If your patio area is exposed to the harsh summer sun for most of the day, that can be a major deterrent from dining outdoors. We don’t want deterrents, we want the patio to be inviting! Fortunately, there are all sorts of options available to provide your patio with shade.
Umbrellas are a quick and practical solution to the issue of too much sun on your patio. There are two types of umbrellas, the market umbrella and the patio umbrella. A patio umbrella fits in a hole in the middle of a patio table. It uses the table for stability and its canopy therefore sits directly over the table.
Patio tables are practical, but because they rely on the table for stability, they cannot be moved to accommodate the movement of the sun. A Market umbrella stands on its own, and uses a weighted base to provide stability. The market umbrella has the advantage that it can be moved around on your patio to provide shade strategically in accordance with the location of the sun and the area you want shaded.
Helpful tip: The terms market umbrella and patio umbrella are not always properly applied in the retail world. When you find an umbrella shape and color that you like, be sure to check how it is stabilized instead of relying only on its label.
Awnings (also called retractable canopies) are a more expensive sun shade option to consider. They advantage that they can retract to the house may appeal to you enough to invest. You can purchase canopies that retract by use of a hand crank or by the push of a button depending on your budget.
A pergola is a shade option that is more permanent, and more in harmony with nature. Pergolas are typically built out of wood. Vertical wooden posts support a lattice network to provide shade. Vines can then be trained to climb and drape over the pergola softening its hard lines. Picking a hardy vine is important because it will be providing the shade and therefore exposed to the maximum amount of sun.
Bougainvillea, Trumpet Creeper, Wisteria, Clematis, and Bower Vine are all commonly used on pergolas and produce beautiful blossoms that can contrast with or enhance the colors of your patio furniture.
Patio look After Dark
Who says your patio garden can only be appreciated during the day? Light features can be a great addition to your patio and provide a magical atmosphere after dark. Perhaps some strings of lights artfully draped over your sitting area, or wrought iron floor lanterns placed in the corners would fit your design style. Solar powered lights that stick directly into the ground can be placed along the border of your patio for an eco-friendly option.
Helpful tip: You can use inexpensive solar powered lights . They will give you nice Ambient light to your patio garden. If you have electricity present and thinking which light bulbs to buy then LED is definitely the best choice for your outdoor. LEDs won’t need to be changed nearly so often as their halogen or incandescent counterparts and have the additional benefit of using less energy as well.
Hard or Soft Edges
Patios are typically paved and some like to enhance the contrast between the hard edge of the pavement transitioning to grass (or to the wall) by framing the borders. You can soften the border by installing rectangular plant boxes filled with colorful blooms along the edge, or strategically planting an ornamental grass. If you want to enhance the hard edge, consider using red brick to edge the patio for color contrast, or stone for texture.
What to Plant in a Patio Garden?
Your patio garden is mainly going to consist of potted plants. You will want to consider carefully your style in this regard. If your style is clean and sharp lines, you may want to avoid circular planters and pots. If your style leans more towards earthy; terra cotta, wooden, or clay pots would be good options to consider. For an eclectic or country style, galvanized steel buckets and tubs would be a fitting choice.
Helpful tip: Not all soil is created equal. When you’re shopping at the garden center don’t just grab the first bag of soil you see. Look for soil that is labeled either potting soil or potting mix. It should feel light and loose in your fingers. Avoid soil that is labeled garden soil or topsoil. These types of soil are very dense and intended only for in-ground gardening.
Succulents are great plants for patios because of their hardy nature, and the visual texture they provide to a space. They also have the added benefit of thriving in shallow soil making them ideal for living wall art or a vertical garden.
You can also create scent sensations in your patio garden. Herbs such as lavender, rosemary, basil, and mint do very well in containers. You may not know this, but rosemary will produce little purple flowers in the summer. Lavender and mint will winter over and come back the following year. Rosemary is a little trickier as it can survive cold but not below freezing temperatures. Basil is more fragile to cold and if not moved indoors, will have to be regrown every year. Other scented plants that can thrive in pots include hyacinths, peonies, and some species of jasmine.
Diamond frost euphorbia, petunias, summer snapdragons, scaevola, sunray sunflowers, marigolds, celosia, geraniums, and hibiscus are all bigtime bloomers with bright splashy colors that do very well in containers.
Helpful tip: Before selecting your plants, consider whether or not you’d like to have a color scheme. You can really have fun with this. Some gardeners choose to stay with a cool color pallet, focusing on plants that have blossoms of blues and purples. Other gardens fiery with reds, yellows, and oranges create a cheerful atmosphere. Or throw caution to the wind and go for a rainbow effect.
You can grow food on your patio too! Supplement your grocery shopping right from your patio, and have it look good as well. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries, rainbow chard, oriental eggplants, peppers, grapes and beans can all be grown successfully in containers or planters on your patio. Rainbow chard will give height and color with its rainbow-colored stems. Bright red cherry tomatoes, strawberries, and hot peppers will give a pop of red amid all the green. Both beans and grapes can climb a trellis providing height and privacy.
Plant Combinations in Pots
You don’t have to stick with one plant per pot. Some really striking plant combinations can come together in a single pot to impress your guests, and yourself! When planning a plant combination, you want to concentrate on choosing plants with contrasting textures, heights, shapes and colors.
Helpful tip: Succulents act as great fillers in combination pots. Their low height, and textured leaves provide great contrast to taller flowering plants.
This may sound like a lot of planning, purchasing, and work, and truthfully it is. Maybe incorporating all of these elements is overwhelming or impractical for your space. Creating a patio garden is not an all or nothing scenario. By choosing even just a few of these elements, you can make a big impact. Perhaps every year add a new element to focus on, growing your patio garden incrementally instead of all at once.
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