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Containers, deck accessories can spruce up patio area

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, May 19, 2013, at 9:18 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, May 19, 2013, at 9:49 a.m.

Decorating by price point

Here are some decorating ideas grouped by price from Mickey Cohlmia, owner of Petals and Porches by Mickey:

$25: Buy wire shelving to hold containers, and add a hanging geranium or vinca.

$75: Buy cool containers to fill with plants and some solar lighting.

$150: "Go for broke" with an umbrella, colorful cushions, a rug and lighting.

Container planting

Here are some container planting ideas from Charolett Knapic, owner of Echo Landscapes:

$25: Buy a ready-made hanging basket or build your own using one of these two combinations: cannas, lantana and sweet potato vine or ruellia brittoniana with orange sun coleus. For shade, try combining a dragon wing begonia with creeping jenny.

$50: For a grouping that tolerates dry conditions, combine variegated yucca, ice plant and purslane.

For shade, combine a Kimberly queen fern, dragon wing begonia and tradescantia, or spiderwort.

$150: Hibiscus with plumbago and asparagus fern; oleander with lavender petunia and purple sweet potato vine or setcreasea; dwarf fruit tree with parsley, basil, marigolds and sweet potato vine.

For shade, try a royal ficus with purple heart setcreasea.

Tips for container gardening

• Think “thriller, filler, spiller.” The focal point is the thriller. Shorter plants that go at the base are fillers, and vine plants are the spillers. For example, combine purple fountain grass or an evergreen, annual flowers such as lantana and creeping jenny or sweet potato vine, Mickey Cohlmia said.

• Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar to a gallon of water; micro-organisms in the soil will feed on it and plants will thrive, Charolett Knapic said.

• Garage sales and flea markets are good sources for unique planting containers, Cohlmia said. Also look for end-of-season sales.

• To make potting soil go further, mix it half and half with soil scooped from under shrubs, Knapic said. Polymer crystals (available at garden centers) help hold moisture. Be sure to wet the crystals thoroughly before filling a pot, because they expand.

Resolve to use your deck or patio for more than grilling this summer.

A couple of chairs, containers with plants, a string of Christmas lights and some colorful cushions can put you on your way to space you’ll delight in. And the transition doesn’t have to be expensive.

“I do a lot at Target, I do a lot at Wal-Mart,” said Mickey Cohlmia, owner of Petals and Porches by Mickey.

Her deck includes pillows she found on sale for $2 each, an old window frame that she turned into a trellis and wire shelving that became a plant stand for ferns.

Charolett Knapic, owner of Echo Landscapes, said one large plant container or three smaller ones grouped together can be color-coordinated with furniture.

Plant containers are like accessories for the deck, Cohlmia said, polishing a look. Choose a low-growing plant for your table, so you can see over it.

For a cooling effect, use blues, purples and lime greens for deck decor. Add a big Kimberly queen fern or a palm, Knapic said. For a spicier feel, go with oranges, yellows and reds. The hot pink flowers of an oleander pair well with the yellows of a Cape daisy.

Don’t have $300 for an artistic container? Consider other possibilities: Five-gallon buckets, old wheelbarrows, stacked cinder blocks or watering cans can hold plants, Knapic said.

And a can of spray paint gives a new look to something old, Cohlmia said, suggesting neon colors for summer.

Lighting sets the mood for evenings. A string of white Christmas lights along a deck rail or up a tree trunk, old hurricane lamps or lanterns, solar lights or even a chandelier are possibilities.

Take cushions and pillows in every night. If you do, “they last forever,” Cohlmia said.

Use wind screens to block hot summer wind. Old windows without glass, a section of lattice or a pallet on its edge can be a place for vines to grow or the backdrop for a cluster of plants. Vines can be trained to grow up a bamboo frame or a tripod made of branches, Knapic suggested. Grasses provide a “kind of singing to your ears” in the wind, Cohlmia said.

Big containers hold moisture better, regulate the soil temperature better and won’t go sailing in the wind. To lighten them, fill about one-third with recycled water bottles or old firewood before adding soil, Knapic said. The wood is better, because it will decompose, improving the soil.

Container plantings can feed you, too. Dwarf fruit trees (take them inside for winter), lettuce and parsley are among the possibilities, Knapic said. Many flowers, including nasturtiums and pansies, are edible.

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