Sunday, May 24, 2009

Patioscaping - One Word for Colourful Patio and Pool Designs

By Kent Higgins

Patioscape design allows for a lot of creative leeway. In fact, the possibilities for patios and pools are nearly limitless. Still, the best in the business recommend following basic design rules by answering these questions:

  • What materials and colours go well with the property's existing design?
  • What are the project's budget constraints?
  • Who will take care of the containers, and will they be watered by hand or automatic irrigation?
  • Do the specified containers have drainage holes? If not, can holes be drilled into them?
  • After a careful assessment, it's time to select your plants.

    Colour, of course, is the element that usually catches the eye first. Though it can be tough, the designer in you needs to exercise restraint in this area. Choose colours based on your individual situation. For example, blue tones are popular because they give a feeling of serenity. They look great near a pool. Warm, bold colours - reds, orange and yellows - are temperamental and have a high impact. Mono-aromatic designs are elegant and trendy.

    No matter what the trends are, don't just consider aesthetics. Make sure the plants you choose have similar requirements for light exposure and water. They should also have similar growth vigor, or more aggressive ones might outpace those that grow slowly.

    For a well-balanced design use tall, upright plants, mounding or medium-height plants and trailing elements. Work your way from the center to the rim, placing uprights in the centre, medium plants around them and trailing elements along the edges. If the planter is against a wall or in a corner work your way from back to front, with tall plants in the back and trailing elements in front.

    Other important considerations are proportion and texture. Aim for the plants to take up to 2/3 of the entire design, leaving 1/3 for the visible part of the planter. Keep in mind that trailing plants will hide part of your container. Use simpler plants to accent a showpiece planter.

    For a pool landscaping plan one idea is to consider using texture to create a natural design. Incorporate foliage plants for richness and work with different foliage and flower shapes and sizes. Design professionals favour such varieties as purple fountain grass (regular and dwarf forms), New Zealand flax, Mexican feather grass and sedges. You can also try perennials with intriguing foliage like Hosta, Heuchera, Ajugn, Euphorbia, Sedum or ornamental herbs.

    Other excellent foliage plants are coleus, English Ivy, Ornamental Sweet Potato, and Strobilanthes. For novel flowering plants try Ange Ionia, Nemesia, Bacopa, Calibrachoa or Cleome 'Linde Armstrong'.

    In most cases it's best to make a design last the entire year, but some gardeners prefer spring and fall planting. Sometimes plants become less attractive as summer wears on and fall planting becomes necessary. In this case consider including evergreens for winter interest. Try to limit complete change-outs to two to four times yearly, typically when the seasons change. Choose bromeliads over annuals for their longevity. Using mostly perennials will make fewer change-outs necessary.

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