It can happen to anyone. You walk outside, onto your deck, take a few steps, and suddenly realize you’re standing in the middle of a vast, barren space, where nothing is happening – or about to. The wind whistles forlornly through your hair as you turn a 360 degree circle, staring out over a wasteland of wood. Are those the deck rails, way over there, miles away? Is that Lady Godiva, riding her steed bare-assed across the deck floor?
You could land a jumbo jet out here!
Decks (and Patios) – Perfect Outdoor Space Additions
Decks are wonderful additions to a home, but sometimes it can be lonely out there, amidst all that space. You could hold ball room dances on some decks without fear of couples running into each other.
That’s the irony of Bare Nakid Deck Syndrome. You have a great deck, but all you’re doing with it is storing air.
So how do you cure Bare Nakid Deck Syndrome (and its insidious counterpart, Pallid Patio Syndrome)? Easy. Put those suckers to work earning their keep.
What are some of the things you can do with a bare nakid deck or a pallid patio? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Create real living space. Add festive tables and chairs for seating, eating and entertaining (make sure to allow about 4′ of space behind chairs for guests to circulate).
- Snuggle nooks. Create intimate spaces suitable for more private get-togethers by subdividing your deck space with container gardens and potted plants.
- Jungleize. Soften all that empty space with container-grown dwarf trees or standards, window boxes hung from the deck rails, and vertical gardens grown against your home’s walls.
- Turn up the music!. Wire your deck for sound using hidden speakers suitable for outdoor use.
- Light it up! Put in soft outdoor lighting to create the right ambiance.
- Don’t forget the eats. Install an outdoor kitchen close to the kitchen door, outfitted for cooking, food prep, and serving.
- Veggies are good for you. Grow herb and vegetable gardens right on the deck in containers or tubs, where fresh edibles are only a step away.
- Accessorize. Add and display garden art, wicker furniture, bird feeders, even small water features – and sun-loving tropical plants vibrant with color.
If you’ve figured out by now that plants should be an integral part of your deck and patio living space, you’re right! A deck or patio without plants is only half dressed (or less). Plants change the entire character of your outdoor living space, from barren plain to fragrant, shaded oasis.
Plants Make the Space on Your Deck or Patio
Where are a few places to use plants on and around your deck or patio?
- Step it up. Place pots of annuals on either side of steps leading up to the upper deck or to a terraced patio (make sure steps are wide enough to navigate without danger of tripping).
- Show your artistic bent. Create a visually appealing container garden grouping staged against a bare wall. Place taller pots and plants in the rear or to the sides, with smaller pots in front. Mix and match color combos and textures for a lively display.
- Window boxes aren’t just for windows. Hang a few from your deck railings to add space-saving life and color.
- Go vertical. Planted frames attached to walls can hold a variety of plants.
- Don’t forget the climbers. Use trellises or wire supports to divide space and grow tall or climbing plants right on the deck, or above the rails.
- Head for the tropics. Pots of tropicals and perennials are great for defining space. Place them around seating areas for instant intimacy.
- Incredible edibles. Growing edible plants in matching plastic pots placed side by side before a deck rail can make a surprisingly bountiful kitchen garden.
- Basket case. Strategically placed baskets hung from metal shepherd’s crooks bring beauty to a new level.
- Overhead structure. Design for shade with pergolas extending from your walls out over the deck, and planted with vines.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it need not be. You can design many of these features into your deck or patio before you build them. Then it’s only a matter of adding plants – the fun part!
The Tao of Low-Maintenance
You can make things a little easier by planning for low-maintenance.
- place larger pots on wheeled pot caddies so you can easily move them if needed.
- make sure you use plants that play well together and have the same cultural requirements (amounts of sun and water, etc.) within the same containers.
- consider placing your containers on a zoned drip irrigation system for maximum watering efficiency.
Once you get your creative juices flowing, it’s easy to get carried away. Of course, you should show some restraint. Too much of a good thing is just as bad as nothing. You don’t want your deck to appear over-dressed.
Also, keep pedestrian circulation in mind as your planning your spatial divisions, and make sure there are clear pathways from one user area to the others. And don’t forget safety. Know the weight load your deck is rated for. Use lighter plastic or fiberglass pots with soil-less mixes to keep total weight down. If in doubt, consult a structural engineer.
There now. That wasn’t so hard. You’ve overcome Bare Nakid Deck Syndrome, and dressed your deck for any occasion. Now all you have to do is call up family and friends and start the party!