Landscaping Ideas for the DIY Deck Design

Taking a break from Mommy Camp this week on the blog (though not here at home!) to give you folks that are sick of all this crafty, parenting stuff a break!  (I hear you whispering....Where are all the DIY tutorials and gardening article??  What has this blog turned into?  Give me some GARDEN!)  So this week we are all garden and landscaping and DIY (Did you SEE Aki's tutorial yesterday?  OUTSTANDING!) and even a little bit of thrifting thrown in there for good measure.  Ready to get started?  Let's dive in with a little DIY gardening, why don't we?

Now remember last month when my brother and sister-in-law came over and gave our deck a makeover with a new, fresh coat of paint?  (Missed it?  See the BEFORE and AFTER HERE!)  Once the paint was finished, it was time to take a look at the landscaping and potted plants to see what worked and what needed to change.  Join me today as we take a peek at some easy porch landscaping ideas and a few that take a little more time to achieve.


Our porch is full to brimming with lines, verticals, horizontals AND diagonals.  It is a pretty good mix to start with, but at certain points there is a bit too much of one directional.  Case in point?  This long, horizontal railing.  The solution?  A trellis!

Notice how the trellis pokes its head up just a few inches above the railing, breaking up that long horizontal line.  Once the morning glories climb that trellis by the end of this month, their curving tendrils and leaves will make an even more pleasant break in the stark horizontal.

Keep reading HERE...

2.  Consider Perennials Foils

In addition to two trellises along this railing for morning glories (an annual climber that returns each year), I also need something permanent to break up the line year round.  The solution?  Knockout Rosebushes.  Any bush will work, as long as its mature height reaches over and above the railing, but something with a little color is particularly nice!

3.  Potted Plants Makeover

After tackling any lines that seem to go on FOREVER on your porch or deck, it is time to tackle the polka dots (HUH, WHAT?) Yes, polka dots.  That is what I consider potted plants on a porch, deck or nestled into a garden.  They are little accents in the round, placed here and there to boost corners, add a little green to bare spots and lush up blank spots.  The main areas of concern for our deck were surrounding our new SHOE BOXES.  They are rectangular and brown, set against a brownish-cream flat wall.  Boring and lifeless.  They needed some polka dots!  A large potted plant will work, but if you only have smalls to work with, go for a grouping of 2-3 plants for a solid impact.  (Wondering what to plant?  Come back tomorrow for my 8 FAVORITE POTTED PLANTS for the CHALLENGED DIY GARDENER).  >>> longest title ever...

4.  Color in the Bare Spots

Once you have added in a little green in the form of potted polka dots, you will probably want to do a little more coloring.  I mean, green and brown is nice, but a little PINK is even better, yes?  The answer to this color problem is simple.  Get in the garden and CUT your blooms!  The bigger the blooms, the easier the arrangements.  In this vignette, there are three tree peonies -- took 1 minute to cut, 1 minute to fill the watering can with water and voila - DONE.

So nothing is in bloom, your potted plants are too tiny to make any difference -- What to do?!?

5. Utilize Dried Plants and Seedheads

Particularly in the summer, fall and even winter months there are plenty of DRIED plants in the garden.  Typically these are overlooked as decor and often chopped down before they set seed.  I personally think these dried plants can be quite beautiful!  They certainly last FAR longer than their fresh counterparts.

In the summer, I have tons and tons of onion tops and they make a cool structural appearance when picked after they bloom.  The onions are mid-sized when harvested at this point in mid-summer, so wait until early fall if you want the onions to get REALLY big.  July is the time for great big beautiful allium heads though. So get pickin'! 

You can pull dried plants directly out of the garden (they dry out naturally after flowering and fruiting in the heat of summer), or you can cut them fresh and dry by hanging them upside down in a dark, dry place.  I cut lavender all summer long to dry in this manner and have plenty to last me all winter for lavender flavored foods, baths and soaps!  

Experiment with plant stalks that you might typically think of as garden trash.  I've been known to make arrangements with everything from dried daylily stalks to clusters of weedy goldenrod.  It CAN be pretty!

6. Create Color Lines

Now that you have some fresh, some dry, some perennial, some potted plants lined up to accessorize your porch -- where do you PUT THEM?  Well, after considering the lines that need to be "broken" (See #1 Above), now you are going to consider CREATING lines, and this time we are going to concentrate on color.  Color is the most basic way to reinforce a garden theme (in comparison to shape or form), so it is great place to start if you consider yourself a beginner.  Take these pink peonies below.  A simple 5 bloom arrangement in a mason jar takes just a few minutes to set up, but placing it directly in front of that line of hot pink knockout roses enforces a color line, adds depth to the vignette and gives your porch a sense of continuity.

Take a good look around the exterior of your porch and note all the colors of plants (foliage counts too!).  Try adding your potted plants and floral arrangements so that the colors complement or contrast against each other.  Have fun with the experiment!  This is one of the joys of gardening - THE ART!

7. Add Height

One of the biggest problems with accessorizing a deck is that it is one large, flat plain.  This is fine when you are looking out onto a lake, ocean or miles of prairie and want to EMPHASIZE the horizontal grandness, but in most cases, it just falls a little...well...FLAT.

There are two solutions that are turned to most often.  Hanging baskets and climbers.   

I like to use SUPER tough plants in my hanging baskets because I don't water them as often as I should.  
My plant of choice?  The lovely smelling and invasive MINT species!  

Learn how I plant my mint hanging baskets HERE.

The other option for adding height are the climbers.  Morning glories are one of the easiest to grow from seed (I grow Grandpa Otts on that trellis below), but there are a HOST of plants to choose from that will vine up and over any supportive structure.  We have a variety of climbers including roses, grapevines, a climbing hydrangea and several varieties of clematis.  You want to make sure you don't plant a perennial vine that will go nutso and overwhelm a small space (like trumpet vine), but there are plenty of nicely behaved climbers that will grow fast and furious all summer then die away each fall.

So whether you are starting off with nothing or already have a decent garden surrounding your porch, there are steps you can take to make it feel "lived in" plantwise.  You don't have to buy all new plants from the nursery (that wild mint in the hanging baskets, dried weedy goldenrod and all your cut flowers can come from elsewhere in the garden!).  Think outside the box!  Think about LINES!  ...and think about COLOR!

Come back tomorrow for a little more info on my 8 FAVORITE POTTED PLANTS for the CHALLENGED DIY GARDENER!

Did you miss the deck reveal?  Visit to see the BEFORE and AFTER HERE!

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