Deckscaping

A deck can be the ultimate 'room' with a view. It can function as an extension on your living room and a bridge between your home and your garden. Imagine warm summer afternoons on your deck enjoying barbequed steaks, a wonderful view, and the scent of fragrant blossoms. If you are planning to build a deck, or if you are hoping to transform an underutilized space into an attractive place for entertaining, consider the following deckscaping tips.

Deck Shape

The traditional look for a deck is a rectangular structure with railings perched high up on the second floor of the home. Recent design trends demonstrate that a deck can be a very versatile space that compliments the natural environment around it. A deck need not be rectangular. It can be any shape that you wish including curved. It can even zigzag around rock formations and trees.

On a property where the yard slopes down sharply from the house, a deck can salvage outdoor space by creating a level area for walking and sitting. It may not even require a railing if the garden is built up around the deck or if the structure is low to the ground. This type of open deck contributes to a sense that the deck merges with the garden. Wide, gentle steps are one method of connecting a low deck with its surroundings. Remember that just as with the deck, stairs are not limited to traditional lines. Stairs can curve off to the side or taper from large to small as you descend towards the lawn or vicesa versa.

Instead of being an obstacle, a tree in the middle of a deck can become a distinctive design element. It is possible to build openings for a tree trunk or branches. One note of caution-once the deck is built with space for a tree, it can be labour intensive to undo if you change your mind or the tree dies.

Check your local municipal by-laws concerning decks and other outdoor structures. You may find that there are size and height limitations or rules governing the method of construction. If your deck area lacks electricity, consult an electrician about installing covered outlets.

How much space will you need?

As you are planning a deck, you will also want to make room for some relaxation essentials such as lounge chairs for soaking up the sun and a barbeque for hot off the grill summer meals. Consider how much space will be required for the following elements:

  1. Picnic Table: A table that seats six people is typically about 2m x 2m.
  2. Barbeque: Because of the smoke and heat produced during cooking, allow a space of at least 1.5m ² around the barbeque. Remember to situate the barbeque where prevailing winds will not blow smoke towards guests or into the house.
  3. Lounge chairs: Two fully extended lounge chairs side by side can fill a space approximately 2m x 2m.
  4. Walkways: A walkway should be at least 1.25m wide to allow two people to walk side by side comfortably. Keep this distance in mind as you arrange tables and chairs.
  5. Table and Chairs: A round table that seats six will require a space approximately 3m in diameter. A square table that seats six usually takes up a space 2.5m x 2.75m.

Arbores, Trellises, and Other Structures

Shade and privacy are two essential elements for a transforming a deck into an inviting outdoor living space. You can train vines over an arbour to create shade for an entire deck or on a trellis to create a privacy screen. There are many varieties of vines that can be used including grape vines, Hops, flowering Clematis, Virginia creeper, and Wisteria. Smaller vines for short trellises include roses, jasmine, and some types of Clematis. If you don't wish to have a permanent structure in place all year, you can train annual vines along strings or wires. Some ideal annual vines include Sweet pea, Creeping gloxinia, Scarlet runner beans and Purple bell vine.

Lighting

Light not only makes it possible to use a deck during the evening for parties and late dinners, but it also makes your deck more safe and secure. Place lights along walkways and steps to help people find their way in the dark. Light is also an effective burglar deterrent. Consider installing motion sensor lights high up on the house overlooking the deck. Be sure that the entrance to your home is also well lit.

Plants

Avoid plants that will grow too large for your deck. This will minimize the amount of pruning you will need to do over the years. Select plants that will thrive in the available lighting conditions. By including both perennials and annuals, and choosing plants that are appropriate for your growing zone, you can create a relatively low maintenance garden.

If you want to add wonderful fragrance to your deck area consider the following flowers:

Heliotrope - The clusters of tiny purple flowers on this perennial are fragrant from June to August.

Dame's Rocket - This perennial with clusters of pink blossoms is a European wildflower that can become invasive. Dame's Rocket is a good choice for a pots and planters.

Stocks (Matthiola incana) and Evening Stock (M. longipetala) - This annual releases a scent with overtones of nutmeg and vanilla.

Madonna Lily and White Japanese Lily - Flowering bulbs such as these lilies will open in early to mid-spring.

Hyacinth - The pink, white or purple flowers of this bulb add a sweet, lingering scent to spring gardens.

Ideally, the deck that you design should accommodate your space needs while complimenting the style of your home and surrounding yard. Careful 'deckscaping' can help you create an outdoor living space that is uniquely personal, attractive and functional.

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