Wood Decking Ideas – Plants and Water Features

Plants for Your Decking

Whilst more or less anything goes in gardens today, certain styles of planting seem to work particularly well with decking. The crisp, clean lines of these solid wooden structures often confer a markedly ‘architectural’ feel that looks even more impressive combined with bold, sculpted flowers and foliage as well as ornamental grasses and bamboos.

Wood Decking Ideas - Plants and Water Features

You can plant directly on the deck using all manner of containers but for larger elements such as trees and vigorous climbers, it makes more sense to plant through the deck so that the root system has access to a much greater volume of soil. This really needs to be thought about at the construction stage since it is much more convenient to plant a large specimen first and build the deck around it. As well as the purely practical advantages, planting through specially shaped apertures in the deck can produce very stylish results, especially when bands of identical plants are used. If the deck is too far off the ground, consider using recessed planters flush with the floor level to produce a similar effect.


Use Your Imagination

A deck can be thought of as a raised viewing platform providing a different perspective on the garden and its plants. By surrounding it with lush plantings you could create the illusion of a floating raft surrounded by water regardless of whether the ground is naturally damp.

The trick is to be bold. Plant dramatic swathes of taller ornamental grasses and plants with grass-like leaves such as Iris sibirica, crocosmia and daylily (Hemerocallis). Contrast these with broad-leaf perennials including hostas and bergenias. You can also try out large ferns such as Dryopteris filixmas and ferny-leaved plants like the statuesque goat’s beard (Aruncus dioicus). These plants all suggest moisture, yet are perfectly happy growing on any good garden soil.


Diverse Plants

A bog garden adjacent to your deck allows for even more luxuriant planting. Simply line a shallow depression with pond liner punctured a few times to allow excess water to drain away, then backfill with compost-enriched soil and give the whole area a thorough soaking. You can then grow one of the most spectacular of all garden plants, Gunnera manicata, as well as the sculptural rheums and rodgersias, the royal fern (Osmunda regalis) and ferny-leaved astilbes and filipendulas.

In a sheltered city garden you could let your imagination run riot and give your deck a jungle feel. For a subtropical flavour you could use any of the above-mentioned foliage plants, choosing ones with scarlet, orange or white flowers. Then add other ‘exotica’ including graceful clump-forming bamboos (forms of Phyllostachys and Fargesia are generally problem free), glossy-leaved Fatsia japonica and New Zealand flax (Phormium).

Hardy palms like Trachycarpos fortunei strengthen the illusion of gardening in a hot climate and certain small ornamental trees also have the right look. Try the sumach (Rhus typhina), the gold-leaved Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ or the golden form of the Indian bean tree (Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’).


Eastern Influences

Although a shady aspect is not ideal for decks because of slippery algae, a deck sheltered from strong sunlight could become the central focus of a restful Japanese-inspired planting. In Japan it is quite common for wooden verandas (a type of decking) to be surrounded by gravel and stepping stones.

To enhance the atmosphere you could introduce a bubbling water feature set into the deck surrounded by pebbles and cobbles and hang wind chimes from an overhead pergola. Plant the surrounds with mainly cool green foliage, varying the leaf texture and shading as much as possible. Shrubs including acid-loving red- or white-flowered camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, as well as white or blue lace-cap hydrangeas, will provide the odd touch of colour, but the emphasis is on foliage — try combining plants like ferns, hostas, spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica), Japanese maples, bamboos, ornamental grasses and sedges.


Mediterranean Feel

In a hot, sunny spot, decking combined with gravel also allows for a more Mediterranean style of planting with drought-resistant types such as many of the ‘silverlings’ like carpeting lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina), white daisy-flowered Rhodanthemum hosmariense and Lacey artemisias. Use plenty of herbs and aromatic plants like catmints (Nepeta sp.), lavenders, thymes, sages, bronze fennel and oregano to create soft drifts that will contrast pleasingly with the stronger lines of the decking.

Then introduce a few architectural plants including perennials like Acanthus spinosus and verbascum as well as yuccas, phormiums or astelias, the latter with their metallic sword-shaped leaves. Pots of brightly coloured geraniums and succulents would provide the perfect finishing touch.


Water Features

The sight and sound of moving water literally brings the garden to life. And even a still pool generates a special atmosphere with the changing reflections and all the bird and insect life it attracts. Decks offer wonderful opportunities for creating stylish and innovative water features that range from simple self-contained fountains to pools, rills and cascades.

Ready-made kits to construct water features take very little time or skill to install provided you have a convenient electricity supply, though buying the various elements individually may be cheaper and allow greater flexibility of design. Fountains with a hidden reservoir have several advantages. They are child-safe; they don’t need cleaning out like conventional ponds; and there is very little labour involved in their construction. When planning the location of your water feature, try and avoid exposed areas where the wind might blow the fountain jet out of position. Left unchecked, this could quickly empty the reservoir and there is always the chance that it might damage the pump.

When building a pool set into the deck, you may be able to avoid any excavations — just use a black, preformed liner, properly supported, and overlap the planks slightly to hide the edges. A raised pool with a wooden seat going all the way around it is another attractive option, providing a lovely area for socializing with a few friends or contemplating on your own. Square or rectangular-shaped pools look good with the rectilinear layout of most decks, but a circle or semi-circle at the base of a wall mask fountain can also be very striking.


Preparing the Water

The water in your feature will keep clean and clear once you have established some submerged aquatics as oxygenators. A pump connected to a filter will also help to prevent a shallow pool from becoming stagnant. Leave the bottom of the pool clear to create maximum reflection.

Choose your water plants carefully as many are overly vigorous and could rapidly swamp a small pool. Luckily, you can buy miniature water lilies that will flower in something as small as a wooden half-barrel. Be aware that fish need a depth of at least 90cm (3ft) in part of the pool as protection from winter cold. Have the quality and pH of the water tested by your aquatic centre before introduction. If any part of wooden decking comes into contact with the water, ensure that it has not been treated with harmful preservatives that could pollute.

When a deck is split between different levels you have the option of building a series of pools linked by gentle cascades. However, it is vital that you check what power and type of pump you require with your supplier otherwise you might be disappointed at the speed and volume of output.

04. February 2011 by admin
Categories: Container Gardening, Gardening Ideas, Patios and Decking, Water Gardening/Water Features | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Wood Decking Ideas – Plants and Water Features

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