By Kristy Ju
With the hot summer months well under way, don’t forget to include plantscaping the deck on your next summer to-do list. Linda Nichols of Hidden Lane Landscaping & Design brings us tips to ensure that our deck’s blooms can withstand the season’s blazing heat and humidity. With over 24 years of experience of residential landscape design, Nichols has developed a wealth of knowledge of plants and the best groupings for color that lasts throughout the year (with the least amount of maintenance).
What plants do you keep on your own deck during the summer?
I move a number of my houseplants outside for a summer vacation—they really thrive with fresh air and filtered sun! For annual summer color, my planters are filled with pink geranium, purple petunias, yellow marigold, white alyssym and dusty miller. I love this color combination! In individual pots, I’ve used red pentas, pink callibrocha, blue verbena, variegated sage and purple oxalis to carry the color scheme through. Most of these plants are attractive to hummingbirds & butterflies because the tubular shape of the blossom is conducive to their long beaks/tongues as they search for nectar. The grass is an experiment this year, it’s called Stipa. I like the way it drapes and moves gracefully with the breeze, although by the end of the summer it may hide the annuals too much underneath it. If that happens, I’ll plant it in the ground this fall.
I also keep a pot of my favorite herbs on the back deck (basil/chives/parsley)—there’s nothing like slipping out the back door and pinching off a few basil leaves to accompany fresh tomatoes!
Why is soil with moisture control elements important to use during the summer?
When filling up pots for outdoor use it is a good idea to use a potting soil that has ‘moisture beads’ included. These ‘beads’ swell up with water and help the container stay wet a little longer during the hot summer days. Pots sitting on your deck/patio will dry out faster than plants in the ground, as the surrounding hot air heats up the potted soil much faster than plants in garden soil. As summer progresses the plant roots expand and fill up the pot, quickly absorbing any available moisture. I have found that during the last days of summer, it is not unusual to water the pots on a daily basis.
“Don’t crowd your pots” is one tidbit that landscapers advise. What is the reasoning behind this tip?
I like to give annuals in my container plants room to grow, and so when planting them in mid-May, leave plenty of room between the plants so they naturally fill the pot within a few weeks. This will give the roots room to grow and have access to enough water as the summer progresses.
Now that it’s the middle of summer, what is one task we should keep in mind for plantscapes on our decks?
By mid-July/early August, some annuals can get leggy or tired looking. I like to cut these plants back a few inches and then give them a good liquid fertilizer. It’s amazing how quickly they respond with dark green, bushy growth and lots of new flowers!