Garden Bloggers Design Workshop- Under The Deck

Hi ho blog readers, we almost missed the design workshop for this month sponsored by the talent over at
Gardening Gone Wild. What made the month of June sail by so quickly? Oh yes, there was that beach vacation, how could one forget that? And the fairies took up a good deal of our blogging brain cells too. And there were some daylilies to keep track of. Well I guess that explains it. Back to the topic, please. Thank you. The topic is decks and patios, I think. In the photo above, taken in early April the deck adjoining the loft space above the garage hovers up the stairs from the lower deck outside the addition joining the main house to the garage. While there are garden beds all around both decks, in fact there is nothing but garden beds in the back yard, we are going to talk today about the beds under this upper deck.
This is a unique space, under the stairs. We had the leftover metal from the metal roofing afixed to the under side of the decking, making the area below somewhat dry. The edge of the metal allows the rain to irrigate this bed below as it seeps through the spaces between the boards and runs to the front edge away from the building. Primroses thrive under here and bloom earlier than the ones out in the garden, the blue and white ones show color in February in this photo. The other greenery is wallflowers, which bloom later in the spring with cheery yellow fragrant flowers.
The same bed as it is today. Sort of a mess of wallflowers going to seed, primroses trying to survive the drought, spent astilbes, ostrich and royal ferns, carex and something else.

Skipping back to 2003, the far end of the under deck bed shows the steps we had to add after the excavation for the garage took the ground level lower than the existing steps. Note the dirt slope to the right of these stairs.
Ignore the date printed on this photo, it was taken this January after my camera had a malfunction. I didn’t realize the date was there until it was too late to redo the pictures. Really, it is from this year. Notice the two round beds on either side of the steps. You would think that these would be great large planters for special specimens. What you don’t see are the vole warrens that run just inside the blocks. Often times the little varmints will skitter across the steps from one side to the other while I am sitting under the deck trying to decipher the meaning of life. It always jars me back to the here and now to see their little dark furry bodies.
This side was planted with crocus ‘Pickwick’. Amazingly the voles have not eaten them all and a few managed to bloom prettily this March. You can see down the length of the deck to the lower deck and stairway. Vole haven is what this entire bed should be called.

After the crocus are done, the fern leaf bleeding heart, anchors this side. Just under its foliage is my plaque from
Tina, getting some mossy patina. Thanks again, Tina.

Currently, this bed is full of spent astilbe and foxgloves. They need to be deadheaded and the seed collected from the digitalis for future plants. Daylilies, heucheras and Japanese painted fern are in the upper part. The daffodil foliage has ripened and disappeared. There is a wildflower that has yet to bloom called prunella in this mix also. It was growing here when we purchased the property and we like it so it gets to stay.

Just a couple of weeks ago the astilbe was putting on a plumey show.

Back to the present. It’s not so glamourous, is it?

Stepping into the way back machine, we see the constuction of the block wall. Little did we suspect that the voles were just waiting for this to be built. The block provides a safe, cool backdrop for their tunnels.

Mrs. Bongo Congo holds court here at the intersection of the round wall holding the natural rock staircase and the larger block wall that runs to the semi circular bed at the other end. Yellow acorus grass is evergreen along the curved wall and is interplanted with grape hyacinths for a brilliant blue contrast in the spring. The seedheads of the stipa under the red Japanese maple foliage partly conceal the hill garden behind the main house.

One more glimpse of the past, the pink sweet william, white astilbe and just peeking along the egde and spilling over the block is dianthus ‘Little Boy Blue’. Daylily foliage holds the promise of many colorful blooms ahead. The ramp is visible at the end. I wanted another way to get into the garden from the upper deck and had the ramp built just to the right of the old concrete steps left over from the house that was torn down to build the garage. It is a nuisance sometimes to have that ramp, like when the twelve foot glass patio doors had to be brought around to the back to be installed in the addition. The workmen ended up removing the ramp because the doors were too tall to go under it. It took six men to carry the triple paned, all in one piece doors. They could only go a couple of feet at a time and have to set it down to rest. What an ordeal. Gardoctor, the Financier, our neighbor Mickey, a friend of G-doctor and the two contractors, one being the son of Mickey, were glad to see those doors in place. They were rewarded with daylilies. Except the young guys, they would rather have a refreshing beverage. This tale is told to explain why there is no railing on the ramp. It was destroyed in the take down and has not been replaced. In fact, I hate the spindles on the deck, they do not fit the style of our house at all. I would love to have metal instead. Maybe someday.

The area under the deck is a favorite hang out of mine. I stow interesting branches, vines, found objects, pots, wood for the fire bowl, the old grill whose insides hide potting soil in a coir liner, a couple of old tables for work surfaces, a piece of concrete form left over from the lower deck installation. Now that is an interesting bit of building magic. You may have noticed that the upper deck is supported by four by four posts. What you may not know is that the lower deck, which sits six inches off the ground is supported by eighteen concrete posts, the diameter of the leftover yellow form seen in the shot. We may be hit by tornado, earthquake, or bombs dropped from who knows where, but our lower deck will remain standing forever. Eighteen. FYI, the upper deck was built by the contractors, the lower deck was built by the Financier, and yours truly.

Also under the deck is the
collection of faces, some are of the sun, some weather men and many green men. The harsh elements were causing some of these treasures to disintegrate, but they are safe and dry now.

Oh and just so you know that there is something going on now in the bed under the deck, it is the spot where the calla lilies bloom. They have lived well and prospered there, returning each year with more blooms.

They bring a surge of joy everytime we walk past.
We want to thank Nan at GGW for these workshops. They make us think about our gardens in a different way and will inspire us to try new ideas gained from the reading of other’s posts on the topic.

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26 Responses to Garden Bloggers Design Workshop- Under The Deck

  1. Gail says:


    These in between times in a mid south garden are something else! When folks just a bit north of us are celebrating lots of blooms we are saying goodbye to most of them and doing rain dances and wondering if we should plant even more drought tolerant plants. Well, one thing for sure, we are building good upper body strength dragging those hoses around.

    But even in the in between times your garden looks good…it has great bones!

    May some rain fall your way.


  2. Frances, says:

    Thanks Gail. We are in a down time now, but the daylilies, butterfly bushes, and echinaceas are giving us some color. But the really best thing is the lilies, trumpet and orienpets, the orientals aren’t quite open, that scent the entire garden in the early morning and evening. It is intoxicating.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    What an interesting tour through your garden Frances. I think you did a fine job of finding something constructive to do under your deck. I would think it would be a difficult place to do anything with.

    I like the round planters built at the end. Obviously the voles do too. Ha.. Those little rascals always burrrow under the leaves and mulch around the edges of our patio. They squeek and fuss at us when we sit on the patio from time to time. I can grown nothing along the edge of the patio due to their tunnels. Rotten buggers.

    I hope you get some rain soon. It is as distressing to the gardener as it is to the garden when it gets so droughty.

  4. Frances, says:

    Thanks Lisa. The soil under the deck is bad, since it is the hardpan clay they lies beneath the layers here. They excavated several feet down. But we have been adding the contents of the compost pile in the rock lined bed for years in addition to the chopped leaves in the fall so the soil is pretty good now. If it would rain the bed would be moist too, but since no rain, I have been hose watering. I can’t believe anything survives along the wall bed. The tunnels make hollow places that causes the plants above to dry out so. The drought is making that much worse. But the astilbes did the best ever this year in spite of the voles.

  5. Rose says:

    I enjoyed seeing this garden area in all seasons, even when nothing seems to be blooming. I like the way you make use of every space and find a way to use different objects as garden art. There’s always a new idea to be found in your garden, Frances!

  6. Frances, says:

    Hi Rose, thanks for those words of encouragement. We are a bit pack rattish about saving stuff, particularly pieces of wood. Under the deck gets a good clean out every now and then, but quickly is filled with even more items of the same type. We can’t help ourselves.

  7. Nancy J. Bond says:

    What a brilliant idea to use the roofing as you did and water the bed below while keeping everything else dry. You’ve made good use of an often forgotten area, and made it so attractive to boot! In fact, your entire property makes me sigh every time I see it. No wonder the fairies like it so!

  8. Becca says:

    Ai Frances, how beautiful! My astilbe died this year. I tried to treat them like ferns–I’m guessing they need a different growing atmosphere. Yours look lovely. Your garden reminds me of a relative’s garden up in Washington state. Their backyard goes straight up and they have build terraces for their lovely plantings. I’ll have to show my husband your lovely workshop photos.

  9. Frances, says:

    Hi Nancy J., thanks. The roofing guys suggested it when we had so much left over of the metal. They often do that to earn a little extra cash on the side. We were happy to have it, it used the metal up and gave us a dry space to have fun with. The funny thing is, we are all on the short side and can walk under it without bending over. Anyone six feet and up has to bend, short people’s revenge!

    Hi Becca, thanks so much, but you wouldn’t compare the garden lately to the Pacific northwest with the severe drought situation we are in. We are in the process of switching to xeric plantings, which can take the dry conditions. So sorry for your astilbe, I know they like wet and really do best with some sun, not dense shade if you can keep them watered enough.

  10. tina says:

    So nice! I loved the area under your deck and remember a special Matron sedum was awaiting my arrival last month. Was it just last month? Wow, time does fly.

    You are very welcomed on your marker stone. Moss should form in no time and it will last forever. I have one in my garden that has some character-it was broken in two but still works. Sigh. I ran over it one too many times with the tractor I guess. lol

  11. Frances, says:

    Hi Tina, those are pretty tough markers if the only thing that happened was being broken into two pieces, not pulverized. Ha. I do love that space under the deck, it is out of the sun in the summer, but gets more sun in the winter when the angle is lower, warming the space. Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Lets Plant says:

    I am so jealous. I love your garden, the rock walls and stone steps, the elevation. It is perfect!

  13. Frances, says:

    Hi Aaron, welcome and thanks. We are good with elevation here, if not rain. I am looking forward to spending my golden years with a little less elevation however, dragging the hose up and down the hill is losing its romance, fast. ;->

  14. DP Nguyen says:

    I also really like what you’ve done under your deck. It’s really creative and a wonderful use of space that you’d never think could be used.

  15. Frances, says:

    Thanks DP, we have no extra space that can’t be used for something garden related. ;->

  16. Annie in Austin says:

    One of the things that I like most about your garden, Frances, is that everything is so personal – tailored individually to your life and likes.

    With a one-story house there’s no way I can do something similar to induce my leafy callas to produce flowers. Who would have guessed we’d all be jealous of your dry and decorated hidey hole under the stairs?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  17. Gail says:


    Have you gotten any of the thundershowers that are scattered around the state? Nothing here…we have great hope for the weekend.

    I have orientals budded and ready to open but have never planted the asians, not sure why! My older daylilies are almost through and would you believe…not a butterfly bush in sight. Must remedy that one! Is it too early for sales at the nurseries?


  18. Mr. McGregor's Daughter says:

    Your use of space continues to amaze me. I’m afraid of what I’d have under the stairs (if I had any). I don’t think any garden that has blooming Calla Lilies can be described as a “mess.”

  19. Frances, says:

    Hi Annie, thanks. The only way I can do things is to my own tastes, what else is there? You should see the inside of my house, kinda weird but definitely my way. ;-> The spot under the steps is a great place to ponder.

    Hi Gail, no sign of any rain yet, but we have hopes. We have company coming this weekend for a member guest golf outing but would still welcome any and all rain. Lowe’s has some stuff on sale, and usually butterfly bushes are easy to find. You need some of those! And try the chinese trumpets, I can’t believe the fragrance.

    Hi MMD, you are so funny. Under the steps really is a mess even though I try and organize it, the tools have a way of accumulating there instead of where they belong in the shed. But the callas are a highlight in spite of everything else. Thanks for the encouragement.

  20. Skeeter says:

    Cleaver to plant under the deck! I would never think of that…

    I have a Love-Hate relationship with the Voles and Moles around here! I love animals but hate what they are doing to my garden and lawn. We seem to have them under control in the grass (for now that is) but not the pine straw areas… ARgggg…

  21. Frances, says:

    Hi Skeeter, thanks for stopping by. We have more of a hate hate relationship with the voles. There is nothing charming about them. We also have bunnies, but can live with them. I think the rat snakes help with mice and rats, even though snakes are not my faves either. But we are still able to grow some things in that area, so it is okay.

  22. chuck b. says:

    How nice that you can walk under the deck like that. I love to have paths everywhere. The more labyrinthine the better.

  23. Frances, says:

    Hi Chuck, glad to see you. You would, will, love to traverse the paths here, but look out you might get lost!

  24. Nan Ondra says:

    Hi Frances! I’m so glad I finally made it over for a visit. Once again, you’ve come through for the GBDW with something different and unexpected. I so enjoy reading this kind of post, where you explain and show how your garden has evolved over time. It really helps us to get to know your space and feel at home when you talk about it.

  25. Frances, says:

    Hi Nan, thanks. My deck area is not what one would consider normal, due to the steep slope, but we do enjoy it. Thanks for those encouraging words, it means a lot coming from you.

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