When we added a few pots and raised beds last year, it was the beginning of a transformation that converted a rarely used, unattractive deck into a warm and welcoming haven that has become one of our favorite "rooms".
Although we had comfortable furniture, the deck was a vision in gray and tan, totally lacking in aesthetic appeal. It was not a place we enjoyed spending time. The umbrella over the table provided little relief from the broiling sun that bakes the deck for most of the day and the settee, although comfortable, wasn't at all inviting when temperature and humidity soared into the 90's. As far as we were concerned, it was wasted space.
We tried to dress it up with some potted annuals - mostly petunias and fuchsias - but we spent more time tending them than we did relaxing on the deck. I also grew the climbing rose, "New Dawn" in a pot, hoping it would grow along the rails and posts on the upper section of the deck immediately off the kitchen (the area in the above photograph).
Late last summer I transplanted it into the garden where it is much happier and this spring, I planted some hollyhocks along the rails. We have not given up on potted roses on the deck, but I am finding that miniatures make a much better option for containers and work well with the lavender we have growing there as well.
Then I spotted some inexpensive kits for raised beds made from a composite material. There were only two left and since the boxes were damaged, they were heavily discounted. An idea was born and in the space of a morning, a deck garden had begun to take shape.
|Two raised bed kits gave us a bed that was 4 feet wide by 12 feet long for vegetables.|
|We planted sun worshipers like basil and colorful petunias in window boxes along the railing behind the table.|
|Even the dogs began to spend more time on the deck, especially when the early evening shade gave a respite from the sun.|
This spring, we added both a lemon tree and a fig tree and we'll be enjoying our favorite recipes this fall as both trees are weighted down with ripening fruit.
Our first year with raised beds was successful beyond our expectations but it was also a learning experience. I learned that four foot wide raised beds might be great in the garden, but against the side of the deck, they were impossible to maintain. Reaching the plants in the back meant I had to step into them, and very quickly the dogs decided they wanted to play in them too.
This year we rebuilt all of the raised beds to make them narrower but deeper and easier to tend, and to make better use of the living space on the deck.
We kept roughly the same amount of total planting area but with the beds and open space laid out in a more user friendly arrangement, the deck is much better suited to gardening and entertaining.
I love the fact that salad greens, vegetables, and the herbs that I cook with the most are a few steps from my cutting board.
Perhaps the most dramatic and important change we made last year was the addition of a canopy.
It took one brief thunderstorm to realize that bolting it to the deck was critical. The canopy top is held on with Velcro and when high winds or rain are expected, we simply lift the corners and undo the Velcro and let the cover sag between the struts to prevent damage from wind and a heavy collection of water.
We also found some heavily discounted cushions in an attractive blue and green print that matched the color of the house. The new cushions completely changed the color palette to one that was more to our liking.
I used 22 foot nylon window scarves that I draped loosely and secured with plastic cable ties. They are easy to install in spring and come down with a snip of the tie in fall.
Casual dining has a luxurious feel under the draped canopy and a paper and bamboo lantern fitted with an electric bulb attachment adds just enough light for dining after dark.
|A lantern is suspended from the center of the canopy. The white cord is secured to the struts with white cable ties and is relatively unnoticeable. The on/off switch is tucked in the draped curtains that cascade along theh poles for easy access.|
|The area lends itself to both fancy teas with china and casual cook-outs with paper plates.|
|The beds provide zinnias and cosmos for cutting, herbs such as basil and rosemary, and an assortment of vegetables that changes with the seasons. Hollyhocks are planted along the back and are just beginning to mature and set buds.|
|The Meyer lemon is full of buds and small lemons.|
|Squash, cucumbers, peppers, and lettuce share the space with marigolds and petunias, geraniums, and some house plants. Earlier in the season we had sugar snap peas.|
|The hydrangea, Meyer lemon, and a lilac create a verdant corner.|
|The wider beds have a much greater visual impact than the narrow window boxes and we were able to plant more herbs and vegetables for a true kitchen garden.|
|We've added annuals to most of the large pots for extra color as well.|
|These lilacs bloomed later than the shrubs in the garden and added dramatic color to the deck in June.|
|Our first year with a fig tree promises to be a tasty one!|
|We've added hanging pots in every nook and cranny. Here, they form a lovely backdrop for the cherub fountain.|
|Early in the season we had an enthusiastic crop of sugar snap peas that climbed over and through the deck railing.|
|Our Katie enjoys an afternoon nap on the settee.|