Jazz up your patio
Bring your patio to colourful life with an array of eye-catching pots and stunning plants.
A patio is a perfect place for entertaining family and friends, a place to dine al fresco, and a place to relax. With the right choice of plants and pots, the patio can be a welcoming haven which will encourage everyone to spend more time in your 'outdoor room'. Life is a garden filled with beautiful flowers to entice visitors – make sure your patio has its own charm by giving it an instant makeover with the addition of some colourful flowers in gorgeous containers.
Hanging baskets are ideal for trailing plants, provided they are held on strong chains and positioned so that water will not drip on people or furniture. Position some pots on pedestals to add height and interest. A tiered stand is perfect in a corner for displaying pot plants, while a row of troughs can be used to edge the patio. A patio is also a place to display weathered driftwood, old garden tools or a whimsical sculpture.
Use trellis panels to add vertical interest and screen part of the patio, providing privacy and protection from wind. Paint a wall on the patio as a trompe l'loeil (French for 'trick of the eye'), which depicts an object such as a fountain, an archway, or a distant rural scene, as to make it appear real.
What you decide to grow depends on climate and position of the patio. All day sun? Then make use of water wise plants such as succulents. If your patio is in shade for most of the day, then pots of ferns, clivia, primula and cineraria are what you need. Group plants according to their needs. Use a commercial potting soil and add coarse sand for plants that need excellent drainage. Add water-retentive granules to the mix for plants that like moist soil.
Permanent plants of tall heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), Ficus benjamina with weeping, variegated or plain green leaves, bamboo and palms can be grown in large pots, and climbers can be trained on trellis. Phormium 'Flamingo', Cordyline australis 'Sunrise' and miniature citrus (kumquat and calamondin) make stunning subjects for large containers.
There are pots to suit every plant, from clay and plastic, to stainless steel and glazed pottery. A collection of pots can look more effective if given a coat of matching paint. Sage-green and grey-blue work well, but if you like colour then why not be bold and paint pots watermelon, pumpkin or cobalt blue? Colourful annuals which perform well in containers include pansy, calendula, antirrhinum, stocks and verbena on sunny patios, and primula, viola and primrose for shaded areas. Alyssum is ideal for hanging baskets as it has a beautiful trailing growth habit.
Great planting ideas
Think of containers as being gardens in miniature - the more generous the plantings, the more successful the effect. Try tawny-coloured chrysanthemum, orange Osteospermum Sunny 'Sheila' with ornamental grass Carex 'Bronze', or perhaps you would prefer a pastel grouping of pink Osteospermum Sunny 'Bianca' with mauve diascia and purple cascading lobelia.
Add a touch of sunshine with Rosmarinus 'Wilma's Gold', yellow petunia and Lysimachia 'Midnight Sun'. For a touch of drama, combine purple angelonia, Scaevola 'Summertime Blue', Carex 'Variegata' with green and gold grass-like leaves, and Helichrysum petiolare 'Limelight'.
To keep your container pots looking their best at all times, regularly remove dry foliage and spent flowers. Container grown plants will thrive if given a regular dose of fertiliser and make sure they are kept well watered during dry weather.