One of the lovely features of an
arbor is that it allows you to plant cooling, climbing
vines, such as grapes (Vitis vinifera) or Trumpet
Vine. Both are lush green in summer and lose their
leaves in winter to allow in warming sun when you need it.
You can see an arbor with grapes on our
A photo of the Trumpert Vine in glorious bloom is on our
The Shady Tree.
Strategically planted trees are an excellent alternative to
an arbor -- especially if you have a south-facing or
west-facing patio. Be sure when you plant any tree to
install it far enough from your home to allow for its mature
size. As a rule of thumb, plant smaller trees, such as
an ornamental plum, a minimum of 20 feet from the side of
your house. Larger trees, such as a graceful, weeping
Chinese elm (Ulmus
parvifolia), should be planted 30 feet or more away
from your home. You can also find photos and
information about other fast-growing shade-giving trees on
Fast Growing Trees
Pistachio (Pistachio vera) is another tree that
loves hot, dry weather and grows rapidly, too.
||This young Chinese elm can
reach a height of 30 feet in five years and 60 feet
at maturity. It is a low water usage tree
after it is established.
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Take a Seat.
choice of patio furniture is enormous -- from rustic to
elegantly sophisticated. There is, however, one
suggestion for seating that is suitable for every style: low
wall seating. At the high end is a custom-designed
masonry wall capped with flagstone or ceramic tile for you
and your guests to sit on. It may be expensive but
will look great and add considerable value to your home.
On the other hand, you can add a low
wall using the cast concrete, interlocking wall systems now
available in garden and home improvement stores. The
wall is usually 15 to 18 inches in height and needs a
concrete or tile cap on top. It will give a finished
appearance to your patio and clearly define it as a separate
room in your garden. Be sure to keep in mind the
traffic patterns from your patio and allow for easy access
to other areas of your garden when you add a wall.
The Great Pot Wall.
way to define your patio room is by lining up large pots
filled with gorgeous greenery and flowers along the edges.
We strongly recommend that you use larger size pots for a
couple of reasons. First, pots that are 14 inches high
or higher will give you the same visual effect as a patio
wall: clear definition of an outdoor room. Second,
large pots hold moisture far better during the hot summer
months, helping your plants survive. Place your
smaller pots in the shade of larger ones.
Potted Plant Survival.
These recommendations are designed to avoid
plant death-by-dehydration. One technique is to
double-pot. Place a smaller pot inside a larger one,
then stuff moss, wood bark mulch or other organic filler
between the two. When you water the plants in the
inner pot, be sure to lightly sprinkle the moss to help with
Next, there are plastic pots.
Oh, how ugly they were in the beginning! But now some
look exactly like beautiful, aged terra cotta and unlike
terra cotta pots, plastic ones do not permit evaporation
through their sides. Yet another way to keep your
plants alive in the heat is to install a drip irrigation
system in each pot. Be sure you have made a final
decision on where each pots is going to be placed before you
install the drip system -- this is a permanent solution.
And, finally, add polymers to your
potting soil mix. Polymers do an excellent job of
holding moisture in the soil.
Hot Pots. We
noticed this spring that many gardening magazines are
advocating the use of metal containers, such as buckets, for
patio plants. Do not do this! Metal containers
will transfer heat into the potting soil so fast that your
plants' roots will fry on the first hot day. Your
plants will turn into vegetable crisp!
A Final Touch.
systems are very, very effective in cooling a patio --
allowing you to dine comfortably outdoors even at lunch.
Unfortunately, because of drought restrictions, they are now
banned in some localities. Be sure to check local