Need some design ideas for a narrow patio

paulsiu(5a)March 5, 2013

The patio is 8' x 20' and faces Northeast. The patio is wood, and so are the railings and has a roof. The living room opens into the patio through a glass door. There are some HOA restrictions in place. Plants can't be more than 12 feet tall and must be in containers with drip saucer. No hanging plants. The right side of the patio is more shaded because there is a bunch of evergreen tree across the street.

What I am trying to figure out is how to put in a small balcony garden consisting of container plants. The garden should be visible from the living room as well as the balcony. I am thinking just green plants and hopefully flowers and at most some herbs. There's no plans to grow veggies.

The books suggest starting with a focal point, but it's unclear to me what that means? What would you do?


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There are forums dedicated to container gardening and balcony gardening that might be of more help for your small space and planting in pots.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 1:59PM
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Ah that's true, but I guess this was a design thing and not stuff like type of soil or containers, so I posted this in this forum.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 3:12PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

You mention a 'focal point', which means a primary element that draws your attention into the space.

Because you have a fairly narrow space that is viewed directly from your sliding glass doors your focal point needs to be somewhat narrow so as to not impede the pedestrian flow on the patio.

There is also the issue of scale in relationship to the railings that should be taken into consideration.

I could see a couple of narrow rectangle containers flanking a slightly higher focal point at the center of the patio.
This focal point could be an urn, a pedestal with a sculpture or planter with a speciment plant in it.

Attached is a project that shows a narrow plaza level hi-rise patio . We build up a shadow box as a focal point and placed a sculpture in the box. It is flanked by narrow rectangle planters.

I wouldn't recommend the 'scale' of this project for your patio but the basic layout / concept could work out well - showing a central focal point with bookend planters.

The planter boxes are from Ore Containers. High end beautiful quality.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ore containers

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 3:34PM
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Unless you're making an effort to contain the view within the patio area itself--as you would in an interior room--I'd disregard the advice about having a "focal point" and consider the view to the outside world, the "objet d' vu." Using greenery to frame the view could be a nice feature. The plants could be more or less out of the way and rather than BE a feature, just be the edge to the "windows" that are already there. A climbing vine such as heavenly blue morning glory, moonvine, or Mandevilla or something capable of climbing a cord trellis would work, The "trellis" could be hung on a couple of stout hooks in the wood ceiling members. The hooks could remain permanently but the cord trellis could be lifted off and removed as necessary. As a practical concern, a planter needs to be large enough to support plant life in a healthy manner, but other than that, not having it any larger than necessary would help preserve balcony space. A half-round planter such as the one pictured below could work for the center post. Quarter-round planters are hard to find, so you could use anything that's compatible, and probably narrower, for the outer walls. Some shade tolerant, blooming annuals planted around the outer edge of the planter (begonias, lobelia or something along those lines) would spill over its edge and be a nice touch, too.

I like that the rail and pickets have a light/view filtering effect rather than act as a complete screen to the lower portion of the view. If they were mine, I'd prefer not to cover them to any appreciable degree with foliage.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 9:59PM
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deviant-deziner and Yardvaark, I greatly appreciate your replies.

The shadow box is an interesting idea, but may look better with a more concrete type patio, though if the entire railing was hidden by the green, it wouldn't look out of place.

I really like the vine idea, though I have no experience with vines. I like the idea of keeping the railing open.

You have both given me a lot to think about.



    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 12:50AM
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Paul, in order to have success with vines growing in containers, you'd need to have containers that hold plenty of soil. For the center position, I'd be looking for something the size of 1/2 whiskey barrel. At the end positions, 1/4 of a whiskey barrel. (The center container would be holding twice as many plants. The actual containers you get would, of course, be something much nicer than whiskey barrels.) A good potting soil mixture that holds a decent amount of water, but drains well would also be a must. If you're not experienced with container growing, a common place to fail is in the watering. Soil at the top of the planter might seem like water is needed, while the soil near the bottom can still be a wet muck. You might want to invest a few bucks in a moisture meter device unless you already have experience with container watering. Using water soluble, high phosphorus fertilizer--such as Miracle Grow Bloom Booster--might be the easiest way to go for fertilization. The phosphorus will make a difference in how much bloom you get. If you want any tips on how to create a trellis using rope, let me know.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:42AM
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Chris_MI(z5 MI)

since dripping pots could be a problem with your association and neighbors below, please consider self watering containers, using two 5 gallon pails or larger--sitting inside each other. Larger rectangular totes would be perfect too.
Do a search on self watering here, and they are easy to put together and use. Spray paint them to fit your color scheme. The hardest part will be lugging all that soil mix and those plants upstairs onto our patio. I insert a water measurer (cork and a straightened clothes hanger with some tape -marking the overflow point) in the fill pipe to let me know how much water is in the bottom unit.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 3:32AM
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