Probably the most compelling reason for patio gardening is the extension of a home’s living space. If your home doesn’t have a dining area large enough to entertain guests, a patio can offer the perfect solution. Do hard wooden benches and sagging plastic chairs sound unappealing? No problem. Outdoor furniture options improve every year: deep seating with plush cushions, tables for every use with gorgeous finishes and decorative details, designer rugs that wouldn’t look out of place indoors, and much more. The transition from inside to outside can appear virtually seamless.
“Outdoor rooms” offer fantastic places to relax, recharge and reconnect. Once you’ve furnished your patio, choose a patio garden theme to unify your plant selections and create the atmosphere that you want.
According to expert gardener and author Barbara Damrosch of Harborside, Maine, a garden theme can be particularly helpful “for a new gardener faced with bewildering array of choices. It can be a place to start.”
Her book “Theme Gardens” (Workman) contains myriad ideas. Although designed for traditional gardens most of Damrosch’s suggestions easily can be adapted for patio gardens. One of her favorite patio garden themes for this purpose is the fragrance garden, “close to a door or window so the odor of the flowers, petunias and sweet alyssum, can waft indoors.”
Another great garden patio theme is the children’s garden. “A patio garden is a great place to give youngsters a small plot of their own,” Damrosch says. “It’s more manageable, it’s within view of the house so they can admire their work from inside, and you can keep an eye on them and give them a hand when they need it.”
Ask any garden-loving child, and you’re likely to hear the same thing: Flowers are fun, but something you eat is better! Patio gardens are perfect for growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs. From cherry tomatoes ripening in a hanging planter to strawberries nesting in the pockets of a pot designed just for them, the options for container-grown fruits and vegetables are truly mouthwatering.
Read ”The Bountiful Container” by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey (Workman) for a fantastic resource, or just ask the experts at your local nursery. They can share advice on which vegetables, fruits and herbs are bred specifically for container growing, which plant varieties do best in your area, when to plant them and how to care for them.
Patio gardening benefits you as well as the environment. Matt James, a horticultural lecturer and host of the BBC television series “The City Gardener,” shares the greener living and sustainability-mindedness have brought urban gardening to the “frontline in the U.K.” Together with their balcony, rooftop and country counterparts, patio gardens provide much more than a place to unwind with a glass of wine, James says: “They give wildlife habitats in the middle of the city and help with water management. There’s a great deal of runoff with only hardscaping-miles and miles of concrete.”
Plants absorb the water that normally would wash pollutants on city streets into drains and out to sea. “Having a splash of green when we’re surrounded by grey reconnects us with Mother Nature,” James says. It raises both our quality of life and the quality of the environment that we live in.
I didn’t have such a wide view when I started gardening. What I had was a small patio and a patch of weeds – a golden opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. While transforming my patio garden into the space I envisioned, I discovered that what I thought would simply be hard work was actually fun. I fell in love with the whole patio gardening process: researching the right plants for my space, finding solutions that wouldn’t break my budget, using muscles I didn’t know I had and watching the patio garden slowly come to life. It was a changing, growing work of creativity. There were amazing little surprises, too, like the smell of a moonflower (a blend of jasmine and fruity gum, to my nose). From such a scant amount of square footage, I gained a rewarding focus for my energy and relief from stress.
Click here to read more about container plants for your patio garden.