Patios are outdoor rooms, places to live in, to spend time in, and the possibilities for enhancing them with plants are endless. You can go bold with bright colors and dramatic leaves, or subtle, with ferns and wildflowers. And don't forget vegetables! Lettuce, chives, tomatoes and other edible plants work well here, too. Most of all, have fun.
Use Your Walls
Vines are a natural for patios, creating the effect of a secret garden, a private hideaway. You can also espalier many kinds of shrubs and trees, even fruit trees, against a wall or fence or along wires.
You can place a trellis, possibly a decorative fan or rectangle, directly on the wall or just tie your vine or shrub to nails driven into the wood. Look for shrubs with long, flexible branches for especially easy espaliers.
Containers As Instant Gardens
One advantage of containers is the ease with which they can be moved out of sight or up front as the main attraction. Bulbs, for instance, are showy in bloom, but once they fade, they're better left to mature in an out of the way place. If you have a wide selection of potted plants available, you can keep some out of sight, but still cared for, while others become your star performers.
Add Height With Trees
Trees give a restful, sheltered feeling to a patio and, if you don't have the ground to plant them directly, you can grow many kinds in large pots. Since trees (and large shrubs) are part of your permanent display, choose them for at least two-season interest, flowers as well as fall color, or interesting winter bark plus summer blooms.
Consider the possibilities of the large shrubs that grow up to 15 or 20 feet. Training to a single trunk, they often make excellent small trees and have the advantage of not overcrowding your small space.
Add Interest With Art
Sculptures, brightly colored furniture, wall hangings and decorative lanterns are all possible additions that add permanent interest to your patio, but don't forget planters, pots and other containers. Each one is a potential piece of art that will outlast many of the plants you put in them. Up close, where every object is on display, don't settle for dull or shoddy pots. Make them count!