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Hello to the patio: It’s the time of year to plan colour and scent in your favourite hideaways

Hello to the patio: It’s the time of year to plan colour and scent in your favourite hideaways

  • Nigel Colborn shares advice on how to re-jig our terraces and patios for Spring
  • UK-based garden expert says that a well-planted patio is beautiful all year round
  • He says it’s time to replant patio pots with crocus and tulip bulbs to start early 

Storm Eunice trashed our patio. So our romantic corner for summer evenings now looks bleaker than a supermarket car park. 

But we’re not downhearted. The area is lighter now, and roomier. A sheltering hedge still hides the cars and my compost bays. Boundary evergreens also give privacy. So after a re-jig, our terrace will be beautiful again. 

Being sociable places, patios need shelter, privacy and comfortable seating. A fire-pit or barbecue is handy, too. But plants and flowers are essential. Besides beauty and fragrance, living vegetation improves our sense of wellbeing. A well-planted patio is beautiful all year. 

Restore: A colourful corner will bring beauty to your summer evenings. Nigel Colborn shares advice on how to re-jig our patios for Spring

From May to October, we use annuals and half-hardy perennials as short-term container plants. But for year-round attraction, we need long-term plants. Those can be compact shrubs, evergreens and climbers. 

For spring, crocus and tulip bulbs ensure an early start, perhaps with wallflowers or forget-me-nots. Containers with night-scented nicotianas or summer jasmine will scent the air without hogging space. 


Patio planting comes in two halves — permanent plants and seasonal displays. Permanents include modest-sized shrubs, climbers and hardy or near-hardy perennials. These are the bones of your green landscape, sustaining year-round interest. 

Some, such as compact shrubs will look pleasant all year. Controllable evergreens such as Mexican orange, azaleas or even little conifers can work for that. 

Among small but permanent climbers, modest-sized patio roses include fiery orange Rosa Warm Welcome, and pink R. Star Performer. For well-lit walls, controllable climbers include R. Golden Showers, pink R. Strawberry Hill and red R. Rambling Rosie. All can be pruned each winter. 

Summer-flowering climbers can be invasive, so choose cautiously. Vigorous honeysuckles need firm control but are gorgeously fragrant. Manageable clematis such as pink C. texensis Etoile Rose and many small flowered C. viticella varieties are easier and flower generously. Cut those back hard each winter. 

Wall-trained shrubs such as Japanese quince, Chaenomeles, flower from late winter through till spring. Train them as you would wall-grown plums or peaches, cutting new growth back every August. 


Tender summer plants are the stars. They’re unsafe outdoors before May, but choose yours early. Suppliers are already taking orders. 

Novelties are fun to try. The best varieties have staying power, with colours to suit your outdoor seating area. Popular mainstays include petunias and callibrachoas, begonias, pelargoniums — all tried, tested and reliable. 

South African daisies, ­Osteospermum, come in gentle colours, most with dark or contrasting centres. Look for Blue Eyed Beauty, with soft yellow petals around a purple centre. 

Nasturtiums are colourful, long-lasting and fun. The flowers are pretty in salads and the unripe seeds taste like capers. 

When browsing catalogues, keep your colour scheme in mind but try to be flexible. Search for tender plants whose colours and habits will suit that scheme


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