Do you enjoy dining outside? Some people are more die-hard outdoor dining enthusiasts than others, to be sure. But almost everybody can remember a pleasant experience at some point in their lives that involved sipping on some coffee, tea, beer, wine or other beverage in an appealing outdoor setting, whether it was at a friend's house or at a cafe. And now you want a patio of your own.
Or perhaps it is reading a book or chatting on your smartphone that you find enhanced if the experience occurs in an open-air setting? Regardless of the activity, improving your outdoor space is the key factor in making it possible for you to enjoy yourself to the fullest. The ideas illustrated here will help you cover all the bases in planning your new patio.
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Sit Around the Fire on an Elegant Flagstone Patio
The material that you use to create your outdoor patio depends partly on your tastes, but also partly on practical considerations. Most homeowners choose hard surfaces, such as the flagstone patio shown in this picture. But as we will see later, there are some instances where a hard surface is not necessarily the best option.Continue to 2 of 49 below.
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Build a Brick Patio and Get Back to the Things You Enjoy
Another popular material for patios is brick. They may not offer the dazzling appearance of a flagstone patio (such as in the prior slide), but one of the virtues of building a brick patio (assuming that you are doing the job yourself) is that the work is relatively easy for beginning DIY'ers. Some brick patterns are easier to lay than others (as will be discussed in the following slides).Continue to 3 of 49 below.
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Herringbone Brick Pattern Adds Excitement
The "herringbone" is one of the brick patterns commonly used. It is a bit harder to lay than some of the others, partly because it will almost certainly involve some brick-cutting. The herringbone pattern has a frenzied look to it and will draw attention to a patio. If it is excitement that you seek (and you have some DIY experience), the herringbone may be for you.Continue to 4 of 49 below.
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Slow Things Down With a Running Bond
The "running bond" is another brick pattern used in outdoor patio construction. In spite of its athletic-sounding name, this pattern strikes the eye as being smoother and has more of a soothing effect on the psyche than does the herringbone (previous photo). That effect is perfect for the patio in this picture, a resting place in the middle of a garden.Continue to 5 of 49 below.
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Use the Basket-Weave Pattern to Avoid Making Cuts
Like the running bond, the basket-weave brick pattern is another that offers a soothing effect. Even more importantly, laying a brick patio in this pattern--under the right circumstances--can save beginners some work and some frustration. Why? And what are those circumstances?
Consider the landscape in the picture above. These homeowners had plenty of room to play in. They were not trying to shoe-horn a patio into a tight spot. Consequently, they could leave off laying bricks at whatever point they felt their patio was big enough, and no brick cutting was required due to space constraints. That is often a relief to beginners, who tend to dislike handling noisy, dangerous tools to slice through hardscape materials.Continue to 6 of 49 below.
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Build a Tile Patio (but Do Your Homework First)
In addition to stone and brick, another hard-surface option is tile. But it cannot be just any tile. If you find tile elegant and decide to begin planning to lay a tile patio, be sure to emphasize that you need a tile product meant for the outdoors when shopping.Continue to 7 of 49 below.
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Get Your Zen On
Wouldn't you like to grow some of the most colorful trees for fall around your patio? Although they would look great, here is the problem: Tree roots can wreak havoc with structures such as flagstone, brick, or tile patios. A better choice may be a "patio" made of a material that has some give to it. With an expanse of sand (as in this photo of a Zen garden), there can be no issue of tree roots causing damage, per se (because there isn't anything to break).
If you desire an authentic Zen garden, though, be prepared for some maintenance. The markings that you see in the sand in the picture above are made with a rake. It does not take much (wind, rain, etc.) to erase them--meaning that you will have to go out and create them all over again.Continue to 8 of 49 below.
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Easy Does It With Gravel Patios
Here is another type of patio that has some give to it: a gravel patio. As with the sand of the Zen garden pictured in the prior slide, the gravel cannot "break" when tree roots attack it. As a result, you need to be less wary of growing trees around your patio than you do with hard-surface patios.
Here is another fact about gravel patios that should meet with your satisfaction: They are not high-maintenance, as are Zen gardens. This fact will only hold true, however, if you take the precaution of using landscape fabric as an underlayment to make it more difficult for weeds to invade the space.Continue to 9 of 49 below.
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Build a Small Patio in the Right Spot and Marvel at the Results
A patio need not be enormous to serve its purpose. If the owners of this patio built it for the purpose of communing with nature, then they could not have asked for anything much better. For one thing, the location is superb: It is tucked into a hillside, forming something of an amphitheater. In spring, the daffodil flowers surrounding it are a great plus.
Plants and patios can complement each other. We will be looking at many examples of the marriage of plant and patio in upcoming slides. Beginning with spring, let's examine how you can plan your patio in such a way as to make it enjoyable for all four seasons of the year. This will involve astute plant selection as well as creative solutions to some nagging seasonal problems.Continue to 10 of 49 below.
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Celebrate Spring on the Patio With Potted Bulb Plants
Bulbs such as tulip plants are to spring what fall foliage is to autumn. Make sure you will be able to enjoy some of your favorite spring-flowering bulbs from a comfortable seat on your patio. If you live in an urban area and cannot grow the plants in the ground around your patio, simply grow them in containers, as in this photo.Continue to 11 of 49 below.
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Include the Best Late-Spring Plants in Your Design
Early spring is magical, but a greater number of fantastic plants come into bloom later in spring. This scene shows two such plants:Continue to 12 of 49 below.
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Don't Scrimp on the Annuals in Summer
While a number of long-blooming perennials can see you through the summer if you are patient, there is nothing like annual flowers (such as the geraniums in this slide) for quick, inexpensive, constant color. Grow them in a flower bed within view of your patio and/or in pots right on the patio, according to your desires.Continue to 13 of 49 below.
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Know How to Deal With Uninvited Guests to Your Patio Meals
This spread of tea and dessert treats suggests a wonderful time on the summer patio, doesn't it? And the flowers on the table are a nice touch. But bees can be drawn to those flowers. And those pesky yellow jackets are sure to horn in on the desserts in late summer, claiming their share. Make sure you know how to treat insect stings, just in case your flesh gets in the way of one of those stingers.Continue to 14 of 49 below.
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Enjoy Your Patio on Summer Evenings
A little bit of light goes a long way toward making the patio a great destination on sultry summer nights. Your outdoor lighting need not be fancy. The simple string lights in this image work just fine. A trickier issue is dealing with mosquito pests, especially if you are a proponent of natural mosquito control. We will see one way of dealing with the problem in the next slide.Continue to 15 of 49 below.
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Keep Mosquitoes at Bay on the Nighttime Patio
Sitting around the flame gushing out of a portable fire pit helps keep mosquitoes at bay so that you are better able to enjoy those wonderful evenings on the summer patio. We will see another major use for fire pits later in this presentation.Continue to 16 of 49 below.
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Enjoy a Lush Tropical Feel
Tropical plants say "summer," and you can make use of them on and around your patio even in the North (if you take them indoors during the winter months). Tropical flowers such as dahlia bulbs color up the patio splendidly. But do not forget the tropicals that function as foliage plants, such as elephant ears: They may not provide magnificent flowers, but their large leaves furnish a terrific background for the showier specimens on your patio throughout the summer. A versatile tropical plant popular now on patios is the famous papyrus plant: Use it in a water feature or simply grow it in a container.Continue to 17 of 49 below.
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Exploit the Harvest for Vibrant Fall Color
The fall patio has its own allure. The growing season may be winding down, but the bounty of the harvest is at your fingertips. Exploit it to decorate your patio with the shades of orange, yellow, bronze, etc. that give autumn displays their unique feel.
Pumpkins are begging you to breath life back into their orange flesh by carving them into jack-o-lanterns. But make sure you carve and display your pumpkins with safety in mind, especially if you have children around. In terms of a broader decorating plan for fall, browse the following pictures for help deciding between a harvest theme or a Halloween theme:Continue to 18 of 49 below.
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Select the Right Tree to Grow Near Your Patio
It is a real treat to be able to appreciate a dazzling fall-foliage display from your own patio. Just be careful in your plant selection if you will be growing the tree right near your patio, since, as mentioned earlier, tree roots can damage hard-surface patios. Japanese maple trees double as great fall-color trees and relatively safe trees to grow around patios.
There are also shrubs that you can grow for fall color. Being smaller than trees, shrubs also are generally less threatening to hardscape structures.Continue to 19 of 49 below.
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Make Your Patio Usable in Winter With a Fire Pit
How can you make a patio more usable in winter if you live in the North? Well, in discussing fire pits earlier, I mentioned another major use for them, and this is it: to keep you warm outdoors in the winter (supplemented by dressing properly, of course).Continue to 20 of 49 below.
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Have a Fireplace on Your Patio
Let's take the thought in the prior slide up to another level: Having a wonderful outdoor fireplace like this one on your patio would give you even more incentive to spend time on it in winter.Continue to 21 of 49 below.
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Outdoor Kitchens: All the Comforts of Home on a PatioContinue to 22 of 49 below.
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Lounge About on Your Patio Chair and Let Your Stress Slip Away
Without some type of furniture, your patio is just an area in the yard to pass through, not a true outdoor room. You need chairs (or at least benches) on a patio so that you can rest while getting a breath of fresh air, reading a book, or dining. Furniture installation is a major step in making this outdoor space more livable, more truly an extension of the home.Continue to 23 of 49 below.
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Have It Made in the Shade With a Pergola
If you will be spending a lot of time on the patio during the summertime, it is of critical importance that you furnish yourself with some shade. Erecting a pergola structure over your patio is one way to accomplish this. Cover the pergola with something (to form a "roof") so that it can cast shade. Some pergolas have retractable awnings. But nature-lovers sometimes prefer to grow vines up their pergolas and let their foliage supply the roofing that will cast much-needed shade. Wisteria vines are commonly used for this purpose.Continue to 24 of 49 below.
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Take a Dip in the Pool--in Privacy
Swimming pools often go hand-in-hand with patios, especially if you live in a hot climate. But that raises the question of how to furnish your patio area with some privacy. Plants are one option. But landscaping around swimming pools is tricky, because there are a number of factors to consider to ensure that you get the right plant for the spot. In this slide, a hedge of shrubs supplies the homeowner with privacy.Continue to 25 of 49 below.
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Erect a Living Bamboo Screen for Privacy
But there are other options for furnishing your patio with privacy besides a conventional hedge -- consisting of yew bushes or privet shrubs, for example. Another type of "living wall" for privacy consists of a looser collection of plants that you allow to grow freely--rather than trimming them into a tight "hedge." In the slide shown above, the homeowners have chosen bamboo plants to serve this function.Continue to 26 of 49 below.
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Good Fences Make Good Patios
Hardscape fencing is another popular choice for achieving privacy around a patio. There are various styles from which to choose. The most visible boards in the wooden fence in this picture have a vertical orientation.Continue to 27 of 49 below.
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Choose a Fencing Style That Suits Your Tastes, Needs
Here is another wooden fence used to provide a patio with privacy. But its style is quite different from the one in the prior slide. The prominent supporting posts here call attention to the sturdiness of the structure. Not sure what fence style suits you the most? Check out these fence pictures for ideas.Continue to 28 of 49 below.
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Screen Out Prying Eyes in the Simplest Way Possible
Portable wooden screens such as the ones shown in this picture represent a simpler and less expensive option than does a full fence. If you are really looking to save money, it is easy to build one on your own using lattice. Such a privacy screen further functions as a trellis upon which to grow vine plants.Continue to 29 of 49 below.
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Divide and Conquer
Do not think that the only use for a fence is for privacy or security along a property line. An internal fence such as the one displayed here can help define outdoor spaces, giving a clear sense of the separation of the patio area from another portion of the yard. The presence of the fence makes this patio seem cozier. "Divide and conquer" is a handy principle to keep in mind when creating outdoor living spaces.Continue to 30 of 49 below.
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Put the Finishing Touches on Your Patio Masterpiece
The privacy for this pool-and-patio area is furnished partly by a masonry wall. As a finishing touch, a simple mural has been painted on the wall, suggesting cactus plants. If you are not much of an artist, check online for sources for plant stencils.
By painting plants onto the wall, these homeowners have avoided a thorny problem commonly faced by folks who decide to grow the real thing (as we will see in the next slide).Continue to 31 of 49 below.
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Beware of Invasive Plants
This fence is covered with a plant that--while attractive--also has a negative quality: Namely, it is an invasive plant in many areas. It is called "English ivy." Invasive plants can cause you headaches. Do your research before you begin growing plants so that you can make wise decisions. A better choice here than English ivy may have been the tamer Boston ivy vine.Continue to 32 of 49 below.
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Plants and Patios: A Match Made in Heaven
Patio plantings can turn a ho-hum patio into a nice one and a nice patio into an awesome one. Container gardens are particularly effective on patios. Is your concrete patio showing its age? Does your budget currently preclude investing in a new one? Then dressing your old patio up with plants may be the best solution for the time being.Continue to 33 of 49 below.
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Ways to "Take the Edge Off" Your Patio
If you are not a green thumb, have little time for plant care, or simply are not in love with growing plants, you may well wonder, "Should I even bother incorporating plants into my patio plans?" Here is one argument that may sway you: Plants help soften the harsh, straight lines of a rectilinear patio. But if you are dead set against growing plants, there is another way to "take the edge off": Build a patio with a rounded edge, as in this photo.Continue to 34 of 49 below.
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Go Southwest Without Leaving Home
Do you adore plants and decor that promote a Southwestern theme? Then be sure to include some pots of cacti and succulents on your patio.Continue to 35 of 49 below.
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Break Up a Large Patio With an Island BedContinue to 36 of 49 below.
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Grow Fragrant Flowers for the Sweet Smell of Success
Here is something that neither cactus nor barberry offer your patio: sweet fragrance. The latter is precisely what the owners of this patio have chosen. It is festooned with fragrant flowers. The wonderful smell coming from flowers such as Easter lilies adds to your quality of life on the patio. What floral smells attract you the most? Be certain to include some of them in your patio plantings.Continue to 37 of 49 below.
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Bring Rusticity to Your Patio With a Cottage-Garden Planting
The cottage garden is a landscape style that is quite popular. It has a wild-but-controlled look to it that many gardeners admire. If you will be building your patio in the city or suburbs and want to give it a rustic feel, give it a planting in the cottage-garden style.Continue to 38 of 49 below.
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Dress Up Your Patio
In contrast to the previous slide, which featured a patio with a cottage garden, this one sports a very formal landscape design. This style is less popular but still eye-popping.Continue to 39 of 49 below.
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Make a Meditation Garden
You have seen a number of pictures in this photo gallery showing scenes of people congregating on a patio, perhaps for a meal or for a party. In some of those pictures, the patios have been accessorized in a sophisticated fashion, culminating in examples of glitzy outdoor kitchens and the like.
With the present photo, we dial all of that back for a moment, doing a 180. Instead of a social scene enhanced by fancy gadgets, we have a patio with a simple bench. From this bench, we look out over tranquil flower beds.
What a perfect place to relax and collect your thoughts! This is a patio designed with seclusion in mind. It is part of a meditation garden, where the eye falls upon plants such as Russian sage shrubs. This is a patio not for parties but for unwinding after a hard day at work.Continue to 40 of 49 below.
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Shoot for the Moon!
Moon gardens are characterized by white flowers (and other brightly-colored blooms), especially those that are fragrant. Why have a moon garden adjacent to your patio? The idea is to achieve a planting that you can appreciate on those warm summer evenings that we talked about earlier. White flowers show up with even just a bit of light, and fragrance is not dependent upon light at all.Continue to 41 of 49 below.
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Beach Landscaping: Rewarding, Yet Challenging
Who wouldn't want a patio with a beach backdrop such as this one boasts? But there is a challenge here, too (if you wish to incorporate plants): Some plants tolerate salt well, while others do not. Choose plants wisely.Continue to 42 of 49 below.
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Edge Your Patio Beds for a Refined Look
If you have a planting bed adjacent to your patio, make sure to edge it--as in this photo--if you desire a neat, finished look.Continue to 43 of 49 below.
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Incorporate Ornamental Grasses Into Your Patio PlantingContinue to 44 of 49 below.
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It's Your Call: Genius or "Cracked?"
Here is an interesting look for a patio. The designer has left a grass strip around each of the pavers. The resulting "crack" sets off the pavers nicely. Here's the trade-off, though: This patio is hardly low-maintenance. Why give yourself more mowing work than you already have to do? But it's your call.Continue to 45 of 49 below.
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Reduce Lawn Space, Reduce Workload
Speaking of lawn mowing (prior slide), this property has a huge lawn. Some people admire a lush, green lawn, but it comes at a cost--including the maintenance entailed in mowing it. Among its many other virtues, a patio such as this one could save you work. If the space were taken up by additional lawn rather than by the patio, the homeowners would have an even bigger mowing job on their hands.Continue to 46 of 49 below.
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Install a Cool Water Feature
A water feature can add great value to a patio. If you choose to have a fountain, the sound made by the cascading water is very soothing. Here are some fountain styles to consider:
But even a garden pond (without a fountain), such as the one in this picture, can be soothing to look at. Also, it doesn't need to be large to have an impact. Read about plant choices for small ponds here.Continue to 47 of 49 below.
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Play With Colors
As a finishing touch, it is always fun to play around with color. The owner of the patio in this photo clearly has a thing for orange. Patio furniture is one thing; plants are another. Working with plant colors is more complex, but here's some help in choosing a landscape color scheme.Continue to 48 of 49 below.
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Install a Complementary Walkway for Your PatioContinue to 49 of 49 below.
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Deck Out Your Patio
Here, the patio is accessed via a floating deck, obviating the need for a walkway altogether.