Horticulture Q&A Sept. 29, 2020
I see some really cool outdoor spaces online and on TV, how can I create this at my house?
A popular trend in landscaping and gardening is to spend more time enjoying the outdoors even if it is in your own backyard. This has been especially important recently during the pandemic and being stuck at home. Creating a backyard oasis or even a simple outdoor room can enhance the overall enjoyment of your home. One of the easiest places to start in most yards is the back patio (or deck). The patio becomes an extension of your indoor living space and is often a central gathering place. As we slowly come out of quarantine, we can enjoy it even more with family and friends. You can't have a party without a party room, and to your landscape, that "room" is the patio. Here are some tips to ensure the most successful patio possible:
* It must be convenient, that is, accessible. Hopefully it will be adjacent to the kitchen, den or dining room, a short step from your home.
* It should seem like the intermediary, the space between your indoor living area and the great outdoors. Folks' eyes should be guided across it, out into the yard, to a focal point toward the back of the landscape.
* It should be adequately sized. Figure 100 to 200 square feet per family member. If your current patio doesn't have that much space, expand it. You can use pavers or flagstones or concrete squares placed against one or more edges of the existing concrete patio. Or, cover it completely as you also enlarge it by using concrete pavers or epoxy-stone surfacing.
* Shade it from the hot sun. If it's to be used primarily in the evening, plant a small shade tree a few feet away from the west edge of the patio. If it will primarily be a breakfast nook, let the shade be to the east.
* You may prefer a permanent arbor. If so, build it with sturdy timbers. Use beams that are large enough to shade it well, but open enough to permit free flow of the air. Use deciduous vines to provide shade in the summer, and then allow winter's rays to reach the patio surface below.
* Select quality patio furniture. First and foremost, it needs to be comfortable. It should be made to last with minimal repainting. Sit in the furniture for a while before you buy it, just to be sure it's comfortable for long stretches.
* Use striking annual flowers and tropical plants to give the patio a festive appearance. Choose handsome terra cotta patio pots, also quality hanging baskets and then fill them with showy plants.
* Finish it off with quality night-lighting. Down-lighting is the most natural, giving the illusion of moonlight. Lights give your special patio an entirely different feeling at night. It's like having two gardens for little more than the cost of one.