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Originally published Friday, August 9, 2013 at 8:06 PM

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How to ‘grow’ a beautiful patio

Whether you have a new landscape or are just sprucing up your old patio, deck or terrace, consider these dos and don’ts from the pros as to what and where to plant.

Scripps Howard News Service

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It’s easy to create a drop-dead-gorgeous outdoor area for summer gatherings.

Whether you have a new landscape or are just sprucing up your old patio, deck or terrace, consider these dos and don’ts from the pros as to what and where to plant.

Don’t oversize plants. Designers know that a plant too large for an outdoor living space will eventually be hacked down to size or just removed altogether. Double check every plant for its mature height and diameter before using it in tight spaces.

Don’t use sharp plants. The recent interest in succulents includes many with potentially painful thorns and spines. These plants can seriously injure adults, children and pets. Having such plants at the edge of a patio or walkway can be especially hazardous.

Don’t use toxic plants. Because children tend to touch and sometimes eat much of what they discover, it’s wise to avoid patio plants that are poisonous. Some of the major offenders include morning glory, euphorbia, castor bean, foxglove and oleander.

Don’t use pungent plants. Not all flower scents are appealing, and some blooms mimic pheromones that smell musky and unpleasant to humans. Others can become unappealing if they’re too potent so close up. While this is a personal preference, beware of privet, female ginkgo tree, stinking hellebore, toyon and carob trees grown in and around outdoor living areas.

Don’t use oversized pots. Large planted pots are very heavy, and may bear more weight than an aging deck can handle. Large pots used for planting small patio trees or tropicals can be difficult to move or remove without heavy lifting. Whenever possible, place wheeled platforms under large pots so you can move them around to clean or relocate for winter protection.

Do plant fragrant flowers. The haunting scent of jasmine adds romance to a patio, particularly after dark when the source is less visible. Careful planting design can create a succession of seasonal aromatherapies. Position the various species to maximize the experience for you and your guests.

Do exploit close-up detail. While sitting on the patio, you’ll get an eyeful of close-up planting. This is where to grow intricately detailed flowers too often overlooked in a larger landscape. Plants with colored foliage can be mixed and matched here for interest in all seasons.

Do utilize trees in pots. Small trees in big pots are a designer’s most powerful tool for patios that lack ground for planting. They are great problem-solvers, too. A palm or crepe myrtle, to name two possibilities, can distract the eye from a large bare wall behind it. A row of such trees can become visual partitions to improve privacy or block unattractive views.

Do use diversity. Some homes don’t have views as such, so intricate planting combinations can really help. Use a wide variety of small plants with exquisite qualities.

Do plant for seasoning. Culinary herbs are convenient to pinch and cut when you need fresh flavors in the kitchen. Woody herbs such as rosemary and lavender make first-class landscape plants in pots or in ground.

Whenever you consider a new plant for porch or patio, keep these tips in mind. There is no other part of your yard that will receive such scrutiny, so it’s worth the time, money and effort to choose the right plants.

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