Barbara Ellis shows how to ease your deck or patio into fall and winter with these decorating tips.
Although cool weather may signal the end of the gardening season, don't let decks and patios slide into the winter doldrums. Whether frost has already cut down your summer annuals, or cool temperatures are simply fueling a growth spurt for plants that have been plagued with summertime heat, it's easy to dress your outdoor spaces well into winter.
Other shrubs to consider for temporary display or permanent display in large containers include Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) and oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).
Arrangements With Flair
Use large arrangements of seedheads from the garden to fill those now-empty containers and decorate a deck for fall. Or use branches cut from evergreens. Just stick stems down into the soil, or make arrangements in bushel baskets or copper tubs. (Place a crumpled-up piece of poultry wire in containers that lack soil to hold stems in place.) Make smaller arrangements to dress up tables long after it's too cold to dine outdoors. Avoid using Oriental bittersweet (Celastris orbiculatus) in arrangements because this non-native invasive quickly becomes a serious weed in the garden when seeded around by birds.
Collections and Garden Art
Use small sculptures, grouped collections and interesting found objects to create still-life-type groupings (figure C). Ideally, position your arrangements where you can see and enjoy them from indoors. Display a garden sculpture or old watering can with a group of containers, for example. Or, arrange a collection of favorite items driftwood, rocks, old garden tools or frog sculptures to create a still-life display that expresses your interests and personality.
Topiaries also are great for decorating any garden space. Look for ones created with English ivy (Hedera helix), a hardy herb or a clipped evergreen shrub.
Quick Decorations for Parties
Consider decorating chairs or other deck furniture with small bouquets of foliage and seedheads, wreaths of cut greens, ornamental grasses, bunches of herbs or branches of fall leaves. Make table arrangements with small colorful containers planted with sedums or hens-and-chicks, and add other interesting objects, such as blown-glass balls, small sculptures or other collectibles, to create a table decoration that's colorful right into winter (figure D). Tiny white lights strung on deck railings or trellises, as well as over plants in containers, add a festive air to any outdoor space. Or, hang plants with ornaments that attract and feed birds. Candles in hurricanes or lanterns make a deck look magical, even if it's too cold to go outdoors.
(A former publications director for the American Horticultural Society and managing editor of garden books for Rodale Press, Barbara Ellis is the author of Deckscaping (Storey, 2002, Shady Retreats (Storey, 2003) and Covering Ground (Storey, 2007). She lives and gardens on Maryland's Eastern Shore.)