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How to Deckscape and Create the Ultimate Outdoor Living Space

Oct 12, 2007
Flowers, plants, shrubs and trees have the ability to bring a deck to life. Deckscaping can be used to solve design problems in a manner than no other element can.

Brightly colored blossoms sprouting from a plant container create an appealing view from the house while a nearby hedge screens an unattractive view. Potted trees provide privacy and shade. Large built-in planters help establish patterns of traffic.

Well placed planting beds, trees, shrubs, perennials and ground covers blend the deck right into the landscape creating a single attractive composition. The first step is to observe and evaluate the deck and the surrounding yard to decide upon deckscaping possibilities. Determine where shade, privacy and shelter are most needed. Then select the plants that will best suit those purposes.

Once that decision has been made it is time to figure out the right shape for the planting bed. Keep in mind that the perimeter of a garden bed also shapes adjoining lawn areas. Sketch ideas on paper or try using a garden hose in the general area of the bed to create outlines that are in keeping with overall style choices.

Many homeowners discover that curving lines even when bordering square deck corners give the landscape a more professionally designed look than straight lines.

Once a shape has been selected mark it on the lawn with spray paint and cut the contour and the bed from the soil. Plant beds in tiers making sure to place the shorter species toward the front and gradually increasing the height of plants toward the rear of the bed. Plants next to the deck should not be more than eye level with anyone seated on the deck unless they are being used to screen out a view or provide a greater measure of privacy.

Trees are great additions to the task of deckscaping. They create shade, reduce erosion, keep homes cooler in the hot months and help clean the air. Make a point to research possible choices and plant trees that will adapt to the extremes of climate in an area as well as to the soil and drainage conditions of the yard. Use the following as a guide:

1. Choose first between evergreen species and deciduous trees which lose their leaves in the winter.

2. Consider the rate of growth and eventual mature size of any tree. A small sapling may one day root into the home foundation if placed too close to the house.

3. Check out the characteristics of the tree. Some can be messy, dropping seed pods, keys, foliage and blossoms that might demand constant cleanup.

The midsize height of shrubs make them ideal plants for transitions between larger elements such as trees, sheds or decks. Shrubs can be used to fill in nicely for trees in locations where trees simply will not fit. Obtain shrubs that meet the needs of the deck and yard. Consider the following factors in making those choices:

1. The amount of care required can vary from one type to the next. Some require pruning or trimming while others do not.

2. The mature height and width of the shrub can be a factor in future encroachment issues with the deck.

3. In the future some type of pruning might be necessary and would impact upon the look of the shrub afterward.

Container gardens are a multi-use option in deckscaping. They allow homeowners to make quick changes when the look of an area has grown tired. Containers have a great capacity for allowing the growth of just about any kind of plant especially during hot, dry weather or in small spaces.

Before making a decision as to which plants to grow, figure out where they will be placed. Consider the following suggestions:

1. Sit on all chairs, benches, hammocks, walls and steps of the deck and observe the views. Go into the house and examine the view from the adjoining room.

2. Make a note of any unsightly items in the background such as utility wires, heating and cooling units, meters and outlets.

3. Pay close attention to any spaces that seem to cry out for additional privacy. Plants have the ability to add height to a wall without creating a totally isolated feeling.

4. Discover empty corners, blank walls and signs of deterioration. Container grown plants can easily liven these areas up.

Container grown plants clustered at the foot of steps lend color, texture and importance to the entrance of a raised or multilevel deck without blocking the way.

Deckscaping can easily include window boxes and hanging baskets which offer a chance to create a self-contained composition on a smaller scale. These 2 items filled with brightly colored flowers can add a great measure of cheer to a deck. For reliable results make a point of combining plants of similar colors or contrasting textures.

Upright forms accent compositions when surrounded by trailing flowers. Remember that the deeper the window box, the healthier the plants will grow. Take the steps necessary also to ensure that window boxes have at least 2 drainage holes in the bottom and are watered daily in hot weather.

Hanging baskets should never be placed in an area where deck users will hit their heads as they pass by. Since they are so accessible, window boxes and baskets can offer a practical place for small edible gardens also. Try including lettuce, a few herbs and edible flowers in the planting scheme.

Make an effort also to include in the deckscaping scheme plants that will contribute their wonderful fragrances to the air in and around the deck.

The stategic placement and careful selection of flowers, trees, shrubs and other items in the deckscaping process can ultimately turn a humdrum outdoor living space into an aesthetically appealing creation that will please homeowners and their families and dazzle their guests.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deckscaping and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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