My wooden deck was about 25 years old and badly in need of repair. The smaller upper part of the deck had rotten joists and has been in the process of caving in for several summers now. It was high on the list for last summer until I had an emergency surgery, which landed me in bed for a month. This summer, there was no delaying the project any longer and I decided to tackle it in two parts.
The lower deck was 7 x 16 feet and my sister suggested replacing it with a patio instead of decking. Composite decking is expensive and it sounded like a more reasonably priced solution. Since I moved the table on the deck out into the back garden, it seemed like I could make better use of this space in other ways. Here is the before picture.
I decided to take up all of the lower deck and replace it with pea gravel. Since I have pea gravel in so many other parts of the garden, I knew it would coordinate nicely, and seemed like the perfect answer. A good solution it was, but tons of work. First thing I had to do was cut down the two wisteria on each end post. An extreme cold snap in April had been very cruel to them, from which they never fully recovered. That made the decision to remove them much easier.
As much work as it was to remove the wisteria, it was very much like an iceberg. There was more growing under the deck than above it and vines totally covered the ground.
I spent two weeks ripping up the lower deck and cleaning up the vines. I wanted to be sure they never came up to haunt me again.
Next I laid a thick layer of cardboard, followed by a layer of black landscape fabric weed barrier. On top of all that went the pea gravel. I’m sure replacing the lower deck with composite decking would have cost well over a thousand dollars. For this same area, I used about $125 worth of pea gravel.
Because the lower deck sat about 8 inches above the ground and about 8 inches lower than the upper deck, it was necessary to build two sets of steps between the upper deck and the gravel. This again, because of my limited carpentry skills, involved another couple weeks of work.
Even though it was slow going, I must say, all the work was more than worth it. I love the pea gravel patio more than I ever loved the deck. Because it is at ground level, and on one side is a huge old hydrangea, I can now sit there in total privacy from the neighbor’s view. Whereas I never used my deck before, I now sit out there all the time.
I dug up hostas and ferns suffering from too much direct sun in the shade garden, and planted them along the side of the house, softening the effect of the gravel. It gave the instant feel that the gravel patio had always been there. Most of the potted plants that are sun lovers, were placed around the outer three white posts of the arbor to anchor it and decrease the stark look of the posts.
My focus this year was using potted plants in shades of purple and pink. I love this combination so much I may use it every year. A trio of large potted plants of verbena bonariensis and two types of annual salvia, made a stunning display around the center post, and delighted the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to no end.
To solve the solution of the last white post which was on the corner of the upper deck and right in the middle where I wanted to put wraparound steps, my neighbor suggested I create a planter to fill the space instead. The best suggestions for this project came from others, and I am so grateful for their input.
The planter was made out of mostly scrap wood, since I can never bring myself to throw away any piece of wood that might be reusable. Some of the wood came from a project at my daughter’s house, and some of it was leftover from my gates.
I painted the planter black to match all the other pots and containers used in this area. It serves several uses. One, it anchors the deck and white post on the corner. Two, it saved me from having to make tricky wraparound steps. Three, it covers the ugly ends of the composite decking on the steps. And last, but not least, it gives me a place to add new plants. Because it is large, I can put several plants that will last year round, and still have room for colorful annuals. When the cold nips the annuals, I will plant tulips for spring and then add decorative kale to take me through the winter.
The two foundation plants for this planter are a Fernleaf Hinoki False Cypress with a backdrop of Cheyenne Switchgrass, and they will add lovely visual interest year round. I’m not a big fan of grasses, especially when they get floppy. But this one is small to mid-size, has deep Burgundy tinged leaves, and is ever so delicate and airy.
Coupled with this lovely deep pink/magenta annual salvia, they combine to make the perfect combination.
As expected, they are a hummingbird magnet.
Not one to usually spend money on a lot of annuals, these two salvias more than pleased and surprised me with their stellar performance this summer, and were worth every penny. They will be “go to” plants for the patio area for many summers to come.
New gray Adirondack chairs made from a heavy plastic material similar to composite decking were ordered in August. But due to a factory shutdown, they are back ordered and not set to ship until November. Until then, my old broken plastic green chairs will have to do. How I wish you all could come and sit a spell with me in my new patio area.