Who’s got al fresco dining and margaritas on their minds?
The winter was long and cold, and Canucks are itching to get outside onto the patio and deck. But refrain from rushing out to buy plants just yet. You need a plan first, or at least a visual picture of what you’re aiming for. Think Caribbean loggia, Muskoka woods, or a Tuscan villa, then start clipping magazine spreads, printing off Pinterest or Instagram pics. Spread them on the dining table to see which you like best, and what will work best with your sunlight and temperature conditions. (South facing decks get more sun and tend to be warmer than north facing ones.)
Before creating a layout for your deck, think about how you’ll be using it – morning coffee spot? Evening entertaining al fresco with friends and family? Home office away from the office? Extra play area for the kids?
Just as an interior floor plan does, the deck layout should identify stairs, railings, door and window opening. Select the best spot for the dining table, umbrella and chairs – with enough room for pulling out chairs and consideration for where the sun will be at dinnertime. If there’s room, draw out a separate seating area for sunbathing, or reading. If the sun has constant sun exposure, and there’s room you may want a pergola or tent. And if you like to sit outside in the evening, you should consider adding a firepit.
Once you have the furnishings sketched out, you’ll need a plant plan. Research online what kind of plants grow best in your lighting conditions but ask the experts at your local nurseries. If you’re purchasing all your plants there, they may even help develop a garden plan. A word to the wise — visit the gardening centre during the week. Weekends, staff is run off their feet and can’t give you as much attention.
Decks were made for containers. When sourcing them, stick to a simple, consistent theme. Best to arrange in groups of three, five or seven in staggered sizes and heights. The advantage is they can be moved around easily. Also bring houseplants out for fresh air and sunshine – but introduce them to natural light gradually so they don’t burn. And don’t forget hanging baskets, if you have railings high enough.
Speaking of railings, for privacy when your deck abuts the neighbour’s, extend them by adding bamboo poles, a wood trellis, pergolas, or a row of tall plants such as cedars or tropical trees.
Gardens are enhanced with sound — wind chimes for example, or a water feature. While some water features are easy DIYs, more complicated ones should be installed by a professional. Don’t forget music – best if you have a stereo system hooked up outside, but if not grab the ghettoblaster and your playlist.
Invest in good-quality furniture – it lasts longer and is more comfortable. Lighting is very important – a fixture at the back door prevents falls while holding trays, candelabras suspended from a pergola over the table are super romantic, Japanese lanterns or string lights wrapped around railings are magical. extend the and candles at the table. And don’t forget dishes and cutlery and glasses – you might consider one of the beautiful new melamine sets if you have kids, but using real plates and glass outside isn’t a problem and does look better.
Before setting furnishings and plants in place, though, check the state of the decking. You’ll likely want to power wash it, and you may have to re-apply the stain. Buy quality materials – that extra $30 will pay off in durability. Make sure to get all the cracks covered – next winter water getting in there will freeze and expand, causing worse damage. Rule of thumb is the stains with more pigment last the longest. Clear stains usually have to be reapplied every year.