Decks, arbors, pergolas, hot tubs and other structures are the hardscape features that are most often found in a landscape design. Plants are considered to be the softscape features. The 2 elements interact and harmonize with each other to create a sense of aesthetically pleasing design. There are many ways in which to work plants into the deck design which can range from a few low maintenance plant containers to an integrated arrangement of permanent planting beds. The decision to place plants here or there can have a powerful effect upon the finished look.
Use plants for screens to create a sense of privacy. Plant a leafy vine or a mass of dense shrubs to develop a feeling of enclosure. The same technique will work well to also block off an undesirable view.
Various types of plants can be utilized to add interest to walls and fences. Use vines and other climbing plants, shrubs as well as flowers to break up the monotony of such large wood, brick or stone surfaces.
Dividing the deck space into separate areas can easily be achieved through the strategic placement of plants. Build raised planters to visually define different areas and direct traffic patters to and from and through an area.
Use various plants to gently soften transitions from the house to the deck or from the deck to the yard. Plants in containers placed in corners and along deck edges can conceal or soften transition lines.
Plants can be used to link the deck to the garden by simply using a few of the same types of plants. This applies also to using one or more of the same bloom colors in both areas. The result will be a wonderful sense of design unity.
Use plants to create variety and interest on the deck. They are especially powerful when used as accents. Plant blooms can provide a spot of color in one area while an interesting foliage texture can create a pleasant distraction in another area. Container plants are a wonderful choice for this technique because they can be moved around so easily until a final decision is made where they are to be finally positioned.
Plants may be used to create perspective on and around the deck. The idea is to create compositions consisting of foreground, middle ground and background. This is achieved by the strategic placement of tall, medium and short plants in appropriate places. Two or 3 of these arrangements are especially effective in a larger yard in order to keep areas distinct from one another.
Plants are energetic. They grow and change during the course of the seasons. They definitely need maintenance and require specific growing conditions such as light and shade. Plants offer endless variations of color, texture, size, form and fragrance. The decision to place specific plants in specific areas depends upon a number of variables.
Identify the purpose of each planting bed, plant container or other plant location. That will determine whether there is a need for tall, massed shrubs for a privacy screen, a broad tree for shade or an eyecatching mix of bloom colors and textures for a decorative accent.
Discover the growing conditions of each specific panting area. Identify sun patterns, whether the soil is moist or fast or slow draining and if plants are able to grow in containers or plant beds.
Make a decision as to the amount of care that will likely be given to maintaining the plants selected. Some plants require pruning while others need pinching. Some plants and trees require constant sweeping up of needles or raking of leaves. Some plants need water twice a day while others require watering weekly.
Do some homework by walking around the neighborhood to see what looks and grows well locally. Talk to neighbors who seem to have a green thumb. Take notes. Bring along the digital camera to record what looks good, especially plant groupings. Visit the nurseries and garden outlets in town to seek expert advice for specific areas and situations.
Gardening books, internet websites, garden clubs, horticulture displa ys and shows are all excellent resources that can provide a wealth of usable information for deciding upon what becomes a part of the deck softscape.
The careful selection of plants and their strategic placement on or around the deck will do much to enhance the total landscape design and create an outdoor living space that is aesthetically pleasing to all who use it.
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