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Landscaping around Decks, Patios and Porches

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 
Kousa dogwood 
Kwanzan cherry 
Sourwood 
Red bud 
Sweetbay magnolia 
Clumping bamboo 
Sweetgum silhouette 
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 lists plants that make excellent borders.

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 http://www.GreenwoodNursery.com/ 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.