Master Gardeners: Summer styles for the backyard patio | Home And Garden

Good Morning, Sunshine! I can feel the warmth of your rays touching my face as I sit on the patio sipping my morning cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. What a beautiful way to start my day.

Just the beginning

I begin to daydream of things that I would like to do around the patio, which would create a more relaxing and attractive environment. Over the years our back porch patio, which is not very spacious, has taken on many different looks and still has room for improvement.

From the first time that my husband and I sat on the bare cement floor of our back porch looking at the black lava rock, no maintenance landscaping, we had a vision of what could be.

Now major work has been done. We have dual level decks with a free-standing hot tub. However, it isn’t yet finished.

And that brings me to where I am in the process by browsing through my gardening books, taking notes of interesting ideas and pictures of tranquil places we have visited. When it gets too hot to stay outdoors, I google numerous sources on the internet, to stir my imagination.

Heat’s turned up

The heat will soon force me indoors, since we are in those “Dog Days of Summer.” In Doug Welsh’s book, “Texas Garden Almanac,” he states that many folks think the “dog days of summer” refers to that time of year when it is so hot that the South’s hound dogs are found lounging daily under the porch or shade tree to retreat from the heat.

Welsh goes on to explain that the phrase actually has an ancient astrological origin. The Romans noted that the brightest star (Sirius) in the Big Dog constellation (Canis Major) was lined up with the sun during the hottest time of the year. This conjunction of Sirius and the sun was believed to cause the peak heat of summer. That time occurred 20 days before and 20 days after the conjunction, July 3 to Aug. 11.

Go tropical

What plants can stand up to the summer heat in Texas? Tropicals. They love the heat. Go to Robert Lee Riffle’s book, “The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants.” He lists many types of vines, groundcovers and various tropical plants with unique foliage and/or showy flowers.

Riffle also lists multiple kinds of palms that can turn your landscape into a tropical paradise. Close your eyes and hear the rustling of the breeze through the palms and smell the fragrance of flowers wafting across the way. Ahhh, serenity.

Do your research

First you need to know how the sun’s daily path affects your patio area and gardens different times of the year. Does the patio face east or west? North or south?

How many deciduous trees are in your yard that affect the amount of sunlight that your plants and shrubs will need? What kind of soil do you have? Select those plants that thrive in your soil.

Do plan to include some native plants, especially Texas Superstars, which are hardier and more likely able to withstand drought, freezing and other weather issues. Be sure to group plants that have the same watering and sunlight needs.

Make a plan

Sketch out the layout of your new garden areas.

Be sure that you get a good view of your efforts from the places where you have or will have new seating. Now you can execute your plan by selecting, arranging and planting plants.

The final touches will be to accessorize. Pillows, tables and seating will complete your patio making it the oasis that brings you peace and calm.

Now off to pursue my next project. I am wondering what to do with those extra bricks that have been piled up since they were removed to make room for the deck? I like an HGTV idea, to make a decorative brick planter container for the front porch. It will be perfect for yellow annuals like cosmos or zinnias.

What’s the next new landscape adventure at your home?

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or [email protected], or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.