Patio Makeover

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Potted plants can be used to soften the look of hard surfaces for example where a paved area meets the wall of the house. The area can be softened further with the use of climbing plants. If these are trained on a trellis they are easy to control and will also provide a privacy screen.

1. The trellis – Start off your planting by erecting a trellis along the edge your deck or balcony. This can be used to support a climber which can provide privacy as well as giving a cooling effect against hot surfaces such as brick walls and flooring.

Tip: Trellis panels may dip in the centre if they are longer than 1.5-1.8m (4.5- 6.0′) across so use panels under 1.8m for a neater effect.

2. Climbing plants – Climbers can be grown in tubs or rectangular troughs placed beside the trellis. Although a little more expensive choose tubs that are as large as possible to give plants ample space in which to grow. Large, heavy pots are also less likely to be affected by strong winds. We used heavy duty CottaPots (Roman tubs and pots). The advantages of plastic look-a-likes over real terracotta include:

they are non-breakable

in the space we did up, the terracotta colour blended in well with the surroundings

Planting tips

  • Make sure that there are plenty of drainage holes in the bottom of the tub or trough. More can be drilled if they are required using a hole saw drill attachment.

  • Position your tub. To improve the drainage even further, raise the tub on all corners and sides with pieces of planking, bricks or purpose-made terracotta feet (available at nurseries).
  • Partially fill the container. There are special potting mixes available for container plantings and these may include water-saving granules (for example Debco Terracotta and Tub Mix).
  • Place your plants into the tub to get an idea of how they will look. Take care to support the root ball when you remove the plant from its original pot.
  • Check that the plant is centred in the pot or is evenly spaced from other plantings.
    Fill the pot with enough potting mix to bring the level to the base of the stem and sprinkle some granulated fertiliser, such as Osmocote Slow Release Fertiliser, over the surface.
  • Water in well.

Plant selection

We used the following plants:

Pandorea jasminoides ‘Lady Di’, a native climbing plant with white bell shaped flowers. We planted 12 plants at around $15.00 each (20cm or 8″ pots) for a quick effect.

Hill’s weeping fig (Ficus microcarpa var. hillii) – we selected a topiary plant shaped as a ball on a stick. Topiary plants: from around $80.

Other choices for balconies include citrus (Meyer lemon, cumquats or the Lemonade Lemon), camellias, azaleas, coprosma, dwarf conifers, herbs and some vegetables.

Did you know?

The pandorea was named by a botanist who thought the large, green seed pod as fascinating as Pandora’s Box, thereby naming it after that mythical container.

Product details

We used CottaPots however other brands such as Europot in a range of prices are suitable.

CottaPot Roman troughs (used for the pandoreas) – are available in four sizes from 760mm (2 .5′) in length to 1200mm (4′) and range in price from $100 to $440.

CottaPot Roman square pots (used for the Hill’s weeping fig) – are available in three sizes and are priced from $100 to $470.

Visit your local nursery or pot supplier to see the wide range of brands, shapes, sizes and materials available.

Further reading

Container Gardening by Malcolm Hillier (1991, Doubleday) ISBN 0-86824-443-0.