Perfect for Patios
Brighten up your outdoor living areas with fashionable containers and colourful flowers.
Summer is the time when homeowners spend most time on their patios or balconies, whether it is dining 'al fresco' style, entertaining or simply relaxing. It makes sense to make your patio an attractive garden room - and plants in containers are the way to achieve this. By giving some thought to the overall design it can become a lush green oasis, a colourful Mediterranean courtyard, or a private sanctuary.
Adding the appropriate plantings to a patio is as important as adding the finishing touches to a well-designed interior. With the right choice of containers and plants, the patio ceases to become a 'space' and takes on a unique character of its own.
There is huge range of containers from which to choose, and these will influence the ambience of the patio. Geometrically shaped containers in a formal arrangement give a contemporary look, whilst glazed green or aqua pots are distinctly oriental. Terracotta containers suit any Mediterranean theme, whilst ornately decorated fibrecrete pots are timelessly classical. Fortunately, the cottage style remains as popular as ever and permits a variety of containers as well as hanging baskets to be grouped together randomly - so long as they are brimming with colourful plants.
Make sure you choose the right sized container - both for its position and for the plant or plants it will contain. Big containers overflowing with plants are more eye-catching - and require less watering - than small pots. Grouping containers is more attractive than scattering. Place the larger containers at the back and smaller containers in the front. Position plants in a medium or large container according to their ultimate height, with tall plants towards the centre and smaller ones at the edge.
If space at as a premium go vertical with pots attached to a wall, or invest in a jardinière. Alternatively, choose a couple of large, upright containers, and position them in the corners of your patio.
- The most important factor is whether your container will be in the sun or shade, or in a position where it receives some sun. If in shade, look for plants that grow in the shade, and vice versa. If you live in a frosty are, choose plants that tolerate frost.
- Another consideration is how much time and attention you want to give to your plants. Low water usage plants are easier to care for, and yet can still give a lovely effect. Examples include succulents, bougainvillea, felicia, pelargonium, gazania, guara and ficus.
- For year-round good looks, select evergreen shrubs for your containers. Colourful seasonal annuals can be planted around the shrub.
- Choose plants that suit the container. A low container will focus attention on the plants, while a decorative pot can be as much part of the display as the plants it holds. Trailing plants suit a large container and hanging baskets.
- Use trailing plants to soften the edges. Examples are Helichrysum petiolare, lobelia, nasturtium, cascading petunia, and verbena.
Summer-flowering annuals provide masses of colour for the whole summer long.Most plants prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, but some will tolerate hot sunny conditions. A fair number will grow in partial or filtered shade, while only a select few thrive in shady conditions. So once you have decided the locations for your containers, make sure you choose the right plant.
- Full sun: Alyssum, celosia, cosmos, dianthus, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, portulaca, salvia, sunflower, zinnia, rudbeckia, verbena, arctotis, felicia, gaura, gazania, lavender, pelargonium.
- Morning sun only: Abutilon, ageratum, aquilegia, fuchsia, lobelia, nicotiana, schizanthus.
- Partial shade: New Guinea impatiens, begonia, coleus, impatiens, fuchsia, lobelia, mimulus, schizanthus, torenia.
New Guinea Impatiens
- Shade: begonia, coleus, impatiens.
- Water smart annuals: The following annuals need less water than many others: Begonia sempervirens (shade); cleome (partial shade); and alyssum, celosia, cosmos, cineraria, dianthus, eschscholzia, gaillardia, helichrysum, sunflower, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, phlox, Shirley poppies, portulaca, rudbeckia, salvia, verbena and zinnia (sun).