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Top tips for choosing the right sort of plants for decking

A good planting scheme can transform a deck and turn it into a natural environment for outdoor living. With the right use of colour and fragrance it will also carry your interior designs ideas out into the landscape. Careful planting and placement will let you soften the deck’s edges, add colourful accents, organise space, provide privacy, reduce glare, and add shade.

However, before you considering planting on or around your decking, it pays to do some homework. You’ll need to know what the plants look like, when they bloom, if you like their fragrance and you’ll also need to make sure they will remain in scale with the space over time. Here are some of Ladybrook Nursery’s top tips for choosing plants for decking.

The Dos and Don’ts of decking planting

Do plant fragrant flowers

Careful planting design and the use of plants like jasmine will bring a heady scent to decking areas. Position the various species of scented plants around you deck to maximize the experience for you and your guests. Position them close to where you sit or dine for a more intense experience, or give them distance for subtle background fragrance.

Do exploit close up detail

While sitting on the patio you’ll get an eyeful of close up planting. So consider planting the type of intricately detailed flowers that are too often overlooked in a larger landscape. Many new plants featuring coloured foliage can be mixed and matched here for high contrast all year long. If you’re unsure which plants would be most suitable ask at your local garden centre or plants supplier for more information.

Do try to use trees in pots

Planting small trees in big pots is one of the tricks garden designers use to add interest or improve privacy on a deck or patio area. A palm can distract the eye from large bare walls: a row of them can act as visual partitions to improve privacy or block unattractive views. They are also useful for adding much needed shade on hot afternoons. Consider smaller patio trees like Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii) and dogwood (Chamerops Humilis) that will prosper in containers.

Do plant for season-round interest

While planting for the warmer months is always seen as a given, good garden designers incorporate plants that offer season-round interest. So make sure your deck is well stocked with off season plants and use up-lighting after dark to create a beautiful view. For example, Japanese maple is one of the most popular small trees for winter beauty because its bark stands out brightly on dull days or in snow. Beautifully shaped evergreens offer powerful interest in winter too.

Don’t use oversized plants

By far the most common mistake gardeners make when planting a deck is to use plants that ultimately will prove to be too big. Don’t forget large plants will eventually crowd what is generally a limited deck space. Make sure that every plant you consider will mature to a suitable and appropriate height and diameter. Ideally you shouldn’t have to prune or clip a plant to keep it in check. If you would like to plant small trees on your deck, consider smaller patio trees like Japanese maples (Acer palmatum), butterfly bushes (Buddleia davidii) and dogwood (Chamerops Humilis) that will prosper in containers.

Avoid sharp plants

Plants that bear spines or thorns are painful and not ideal for planting around decking. Succulent plants like agaves might look stunning in the right setting, but remember they have potentially dangerous spines on each leaf tip. That’s a particularly important consideration if children are likely to use and play on the decking. You would also probably want to avoid roses, cactuses and holly too.

Don’t use toxic plants

It’s probably stating the obvious, but do try to avoid using toxic plants on or near decking. Children have a habit of touching and occasionally eating much of what they discover. So avoid using plants like morning glory, euphorbia, castor bean, digitalis and oleander.

Pungent plants are not always ideal decking plants

Not all natural scents are appealing. So avoid plants like privet, female ginkgo tree, stinking hellebore and photinia.

Don’t use oversized pots

When planting in containers on the patio or deck, always be aware of the combined weight of any one pot and its contents. Large pots used for planting small patio trees or tropical specimens can be difficult to move/ remove without heavy lifting. Whenever possible, use wheeled platforms under large pots when they must be moved to protection for winter. Or, use a larger number of smaller containers.

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