Imagine wearing a beautiful designer gown to a party but neglecting to select the right accessories to finish the look

Today’s pricey custom stone pavers are like that ball gown. Without complementary planting, no matter how well-designed or -built they are, those backyard living areas will never be truly remarkable.

Well-designed planting should offer beauty, fragrance, texture and colour. In the hands of a good designer, these artistic features can offer benefits two ways – in the enjoyment of the patio; and in the view when looking back to the house and patio from deeper in the backyard.


There are six ways to design great planting that enhances the beauty of patios and outdoor living spaces:

1. Exploit close-up detail

While sitting on the patio, you’ll get an eyeful of close-up planting. This is where your designer can use intricately detailed flowers too often overlooked in a larger landscape. Many of the new plants featuring colourful foliage can be mixed and matched here for high contrast all year round.

2. Use trees in pots

Small trees in big pots are powerful tools for patios that lack ground for planting. They solve problems – a palm or crepe myrtle can distract the eye from a large bare wall or a row of them can improve privacy, define space or block unattractive views. Nothing is better for spot shading or to fill an empty corner with foliage and flowers.

3. Plant fragrant flowers

The haunting scent of jasmine adds romance to a patio, particularly after dark. Carefully chosen plants can create a succession of seasonal aromatherapies. Keep fragrant plants close to seating and dining areas for a more intense experience, or give them distance for subtle background fragrance. The scent from those planted upwind will waft into the patio on the prevailing breeze and perfumes from those near windows and doors will be drawn inside.

4. Plant for off-season interest

While planting for warm months is a given, strive to design with plants that feature off-season interest, too. For example, coral bark Japanese maple is one of the most popular small trees for winter beauty with its bark that stands out on dull days or against snow. Make doubly sure to use uplighting to create a beautiful view of these plants after dark.

5. Emphasise diversity

Some homes don’t have pleasant views, so intricate planting combinations can offer the next-best thing. Use a wide variety of small-stature plants with exquisite qualities that won’t overgrow the space. Too often, modern designers fall back on massing a single species rather than carefully mixing and matching species in a visually appealing patio garden.

6. Plant for seasoning

Culinary herbs make some of the finest plants for patio areas, where they are convenient to pinch for fresh flavours in the kitchen. Some herbs such as purple fennel offer outstanding form, colour and texture. Even herbaceous parsley and basil make fast-growing seasonal fillers.

It’s wise to consider all that pricey paving your designer gown, and remember to take your time to get the shoes and bag and wrap just right. The result will look perfectly put together, both day and night, in every season.