Porches, Decks & Patios

Porches, Decks & Patios

BY JANICE F. BOOTH

APR. 21, 2021

10:09 A.M.RSSPrintExpand

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For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

I can’t assure you that the rains are past, and I’m not too sure I’ve ever heard a turtle’s voice, but these beautiful lines from Ecclesiastic’s “Song of Solomon” seem to me just the right note for this season in the garden. We’ve come through a long, difficult winter, and many of us have rushed early into our gardens to look and plan and dream of better seasons ahead. 

We may have spent some of our daydreams imagining which bulbs will burst into bloom first and how lushly the camellia or the azalea’s blossoms will cover the bushes. But, let me turn your thoughts and imagination to an asset in your garden that may have been either overlooked or overused through the long winter past—your porch, deck, or patio. Perhaps now is the time to plan a few projects to freshen up that transitional space—half house, half garden. Through the winter months, you may have used your patio as a place to more safely meet friends or just breathe some fresh air. Or, maybe you preferred the cozy indoor spaces and left your deck chairs and tables covered and unused. 

So, let me propose, first, we re-examine how you and your family and friends can comfortably enjoy your garden’s beauty from your porch, patio, or deck. Second, let’s consider ways to enhance your outdoor living areas. And finally, how can we bring our gardens into or nearer our porches and decks, bring Nature’s charms within easy reach. 

Comfortable Outdoor Living

Depending on the style of your home, you may have a porch or porches and a deck. A patio is often part of a townhouse or condominium’s amenities. Sometimes, one or more of those structures, particularly a front porch, is overlooked and underutilized, its beauty and usefulness left untapped. So, looking first at a front porch, consider that it is more than a setting for the front door and steps. Think of your front porch as a gift box inviting guests into the beauty contained inside. The porch can set the tone for the residence—calm and sophisticated or casual and bustling. We’ve all read and seen videos on the importance of the front door, both for design and color. Perhaps what surrounds that front door can be equally inviting. The size of your front porch dictates your plans. The long porch facing the front yard and walkway flower beds is the perfect place for inviting neighbors and friends passing by to stop and chat. A few chairs and small table provide a conversation area and a great setting for a cascading fern or perky, pink begonia. For a comfy, old-fashioned look, install a porch swing suspended from the ceiling or on a glider-frame. A swing can be a handy way to turn away from the neighbor’s driveway and face the attractions of the front yard. Expand

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If your front porch is little more than a stoop, don’t despair. Look at the porch as an architect might. The support for the roof—could there be columns rather than posts? Would adding a wrought iron railing add a touch of elegance? Here too, bring some of your garden’s beauty to that tiny porch. A tall urn filled with elegant plants or a low bowl overflowing with blooming flowers might sit invitingly beside the front door. 

The back porch, patio, or deck will be much easier to update and freshen. Lighting is important, and easy string lights are great. But, you may want to consult an electrician about adding recessed lighting on the steps leading from the porch or deck. Seating is equally critical to a comfy outdoor area. Simple wood or vinyl chairs will work. You can choose cushions for added comfort. And, again, add some potted plants to your porch, patio, or deck. The porch has one important difference in that it’s usually roofed. So, if you’re choosing plants to bring on the porch, consider shade plants: coleus, sweet potato vine, vincas, hellebores, and impatiens. Lots of color there. And think about looking up! Hang some plants from the ceiling; bicycle hooks are sturdy and easy to install. Another option is to install a trellis on the porch or patio. Add rectangular pots beneath the trellis, and plant vines that will find their way up the trellis. This is great if you have some unsightly recycle cans or a neighbor’s garden shed to hide.

Expanding Your Outdoor Living Space

Even if your living space is interior, you might want to consider expanding out into lawn or garden. One simple way to do that is by creating a small seating area. This doesn’t have to be set up on a permanent slab or wooden platform. Your two chairs and small table might be placed, picturesquely, near the tall pine in your backyard, or next to a group of azaleas. If you wish, you could even pick up a few paving stones at the hardware store and put them under the chairs for stability. Or, why not have a small area set out with timber or brick borders and fill that square with gravel or crushed shell? This impromptu patio can be a charming gathering place. Expand

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If you’re ready for a bigger project, why not consider screening-in your porch, patio, or deck? While the screens will lessen the breezes, they’ll also keep out the pesky mosquitoes, flies, and midges that plague us day-and-night. If you decide to go with screening the porch, add ceiling and pedestal fans to the area. They’ll keep the air moving. 

Bringing the Garden onto the Porch, Patio, or Deck

In addition to the planters, trellises, and hanging pots we’ve already discussed, you can bring your garden onto the porch in other ways. It may be interesting to set up a little plant nursery on the porch. Start some seeds, they could be flowers or vegetables, even an avocado pit or pineapple top would be fun. As the weeks go by, you can enjoy watching the seedlings and shoots grow and strengthen. (And, if they don’t make it, just quietly dispose of them and start again.) You might want to frame a group of your garden photos to hang on the porch. You don’t need a wall, you could suspend them, one below the other, from the ceiling—a great conversation piece. 

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you’ll enjoy the voice of the turtles and the touch of the breezes in your garden, as I will in mine. 

About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
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