How to achieve a brilliant terrace, deck or patio revamp
You don’t need to spend lots of money to achieve a brilliant terrace, deck or patio revamp.
A recent lunch with gardening writer, Francine Raymond, left me with Patio Envy. Or Terrace/Deck Envy, depending on what you call the area you sit in. Her terrace was no bigger than ours, and she hadn’t spent a fortune decorating it. But it was stylish, clean and tidy.
Ours is OK, but has turned into a bit of a dumping ground. We decided to see what sort of patio revamp we could achieve in just one morning. And we were sent a Karcher K4 pressure washer for review, so Mr Middle-Size and I put aside a Sunday morning to perk up the patio.
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1) Tidiness isn’t always good in gardens, but…
Every garden needs some untidiness – such as piles of leaves and general debris in shady corners for wildlife. But when I look at the difference between a gorgeous patio and an ordinary one, tidiness is a clear factor.
So step one was to clear away pots, garden stuff, empty compost bags, old bits of plant of label. Once I put on my glasses, it was surprising what I found to tidy away.
2) Clean the bird feeders
This is a horrible job, done by the noble Mr Middlesize. Bird feeders are the avian equivalent of public transport in rush hour. They are a place where birds can gather together to spread germs.
Occasionally someone pops up with a study that suggests that urban bird feeders may be responsible for some bird species’ decline, owing to the spread of disease. But the birds need feeding. It’s just important to clean the bird feeders from time to time, too.
If you need a new bird feeder, the one we use is available here.
3) The things you must know about pots…
I am going to tell you something very boring. When you put a new plant in a pot, you need to put new soil in too. Not just a bit of new soil. Empty the pot and fill it with fresh compost. You can order it online here. Put in the new plant. Old soil is much more likely to harbour pests and diseases.
Yes, I know it’s easier and cheaper to take half the soil out, then top up with new, but that encourages vine weevil and other beasties. Having been given this advice by horticulturalist, Will Denne, I ignored it with some heuchera. One day, they blew off their pots like Ascot hats in the wind. Vine weevil had munched the roots.
Of course, if you have a huge pot, you can’t change all the soil for a punnet of pansies – it applies to plants you intend to grow in the pot for more than a few weeks.
It’s a good idea to rinse your pots out too, and you can add a bit of vinegar if you want to disinfect them. Be aware that terracotta can absorb bleach, which can then leach out again into the soil, so don’t be too much of a clean freak.
However if you are re-using smaller plastic pots for planting and potting on, dunk them in a solution of bleach and
4) The reason why your pots never work out the way you plan…
Plants in pots will do better if they’re sited in the right place. Be aware that the terrace or patio may be hotter, colder or shadier than the rest of the garden.
Our terrace is west-facing and sheltered, so the south-west corner of it should be a wonderful spot for plants.
But in summer, the container plants are often shaded by the big parasol which is usually up over the table.
So we need to treat it as a shady location, and grow the plants elsewhere in the garden, then put them on the terrace when they’re flowering. The flowers will last longer under the shade, so this will work well.
You don’t need lots of flowers for a smart patio or terrace. I’ve noticed that patios and terraces that inspire me with awe often don’t have many flowers at all. They just have good shapes in foliage and healthy plants. So I’m going to plant ours up with a mix of smart shapes, like box balls, which won’t mind the shade. Then I’ll add a few flower plants when they’re in season, and not expect them to last the whole summer.
5) Theme your pots..
Pots don’t have to match but it’s useful to have an informal theme. I mainly collect seconds from Hode Pottery, near Canterbury. Otherwise, our pots are mainly galvanised zinc or tin. I also include the odd terracotta one too, as I think terracotta echoes the red-brick walls of our house and garden.
Sara Price’s pots (below) are mainly galvanised vintage items – they look great grouped together. You can buy galvanised zinc and tin planters online here.
6) Cleanliness is next to stylish-ness
I’ve done many books on interiors with Liz Bauwens and Simon Brown (our most recent is Upcycled Chic & Modern Hacks. One thing I’ve noticed is that stylish interiors are always beautifully clean – even if they’re furnished with vintage or distressed things.
Looking at the patios and terraces I admire, I can see that the same applies.
I hadn’t thought of using a pressure washer on the terrace, but as we were sent the Karcher K4 for review, we tried it out. Both our table tops (one granite and one teak) had got very grubby. Although I like lichen, I don’t really want to eat off it. So Mr Middlesize and I spent about two hours super-cleaning the terrace. It really does look much better.
Karcher say that the K4 uses less water than the equivalent time cleaning with a hose. We found it easy and quick to use, and much more effective than just hosing the terrace. The pictures below were taken two months after cleaning the terrace with the K4, so this really is a ‘spring clean’ that lasts.
I haven’t bought many new plants for the terrace yet, but re-arranging the pots, clearing them out and doing lots of cleaning has certainly revived our terrace. I’ve trimmed the bay tree and other evergreens into a neater shape. Then I’ll look out for some seasonal flowers from the market for the other pots, and aim to change them a couple of times over the summer.
Good luck with your terrace, deck or patio re-vamp. It should only take a morning, but it’ll last all summer.
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