Bring color, calm and comfort to outdoor space

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published May 27, 2015

METRO DETROIT — Looking to create plush, peaceful outdoor spaces that also pop?

For The Great Outdoors program held at the Michigan Design Center May 14, interior designer Paul Feiten transformed the MDC’s lobby in Troy into virtual outdoor space that he said was inspired by a European veranda.

Feiten’s vignette featured footed urns on pedestals with evergreen orbs and cypress planted in boxes around a sitting area. He completed the space with a large couch with acrylic fabric designed to withstand the elements, an aluminum and glass table, and two resin chairs simulated to look like wicker.

“This is only achieved through technology, better-performing outdoor fabrics, cushions that won’t retain moisture and allows water to flow through it, and 100 percent acrylic fabric that will not fade,” Feiten said of the furniture.

He said the larger sofa is ideal for taking a nap outside or providing a lot of seating at parties.

“Consumers are more sophisticated,” he said, noting that more-substantial outdoor furniture is taking the place of folding patio furniture. “People are making outdoor spaces luxurious.”

Master gardener Pat Seibel, of Proven Winners Four Star Greenhouse in Carleton, Michigan, spoke about how to create inviting spaces outdoors with his pick of Proven Winners annuals.

The first thing to do is to look at your soil, Seibel said.

“It’s a critical part. If there’s a lot of clay, amend the soil so it’s more porous,” he said. “Another key is water-soluble fertilizer. They (plants and flowers) need all the energy they can get.”

For full-sun areas, which he said realistically get four to six hours of sunlight a day, he said Pansiola (a Viola and pansy cross) and Lantana are good choices.

“Lantana loves hot, dry sun and brings hummingbirds,” Seibel said, adding that Cuphea also loves heat and attracts hummingbirds.

While geraniums thrive in full sun, they will tolerate shade.

He said Caladium will tolerate full sun to partial shade.

In shady spots, for those considering alternatives to the popular standby Impatiens, Seibel said to consider Coleus and New Guinea Impatiens.

“Try different things,” he said.

Add height and different textures with the green shrub cypress for shady spots, and use King Tut, Purple Fountain and Fireworks Grasses, which can grow to 24-30 inches tall, for sunny spots.

“You can see it move in the breeze,” Seibel said. “It catches the wind and looks like it’s flowing. The movement of water and movement of plants really brings you into nature and the elements.”

Vary heights in the same space

Salvia flowers like sun and will grow to 48-55 inches tall and keep flowering, Seibel said.  He suggested combining low-growing flowers, such as Petunias, with taller-growing flowers or greenery in the same space.

“It pulls the eye into the combination,” he said.

One of his favorite combinations is sweet potato vine, which is green, with Petunia.

New Proven Winner flowers this year include Supertunia Black Cherry, a Petunia hybrid.

“It’s very distinctive. As the flowers age, they change color,” he said.

Also, he added, they last longer into the fall than mums. Dark Knight Lobularia is another Proven Winner bloom debuting this year.

“It looks great till fall, is sweet-smelling and doesn’t go to seed,” Seibel said. “Also, Snow Princess Lobularia, which takes full sun, will flower all summer long, has fragrance and will be the last plant you pull out of your garden.

“Supertunia is our top performer in the country and fairly drought-tolerant.”

Seibel said to combine cool and warm colors.

“If there are too many hot colors, the eye doesn’t know where to look,” he said. “Also, complimentary colors show up much more impactful.”

Monochromatic colors, such as white, can be calming, as is repeating similar colors, he added.

“Container gardening can add interest and color. Placing containers around a bench, it’s going to call to you,” Seibel said. “It’s a very pleasing aspect.”

Put filler into the bottom of the container, and about 8 inches of dirt, Seibel explained. Steer away from cheap potting soil, which holds more moisture.

“Better soil has more peat and more drainage,” he said.

Change the soil each year, if possible. Seibel said to consider hooking up an irrigation system.

“The ultimate key is plenty of moisture,” he said.

Seibel said that window boxes could create a focal point and break up a brick wall.

Also, if you’re short on space, you can create a “great little sitting room on a front porch with a hanging basket, table (and) two chairs in a small space,” Seibel said.

Seibel said to consider night lighting.

“You don’t have to make your garden disappear when it gets dark out.”

For more on Proven Winners products, visit Feiten’s vignette may be seen at the Michigan Design Center lobby at 1700 Stutz Drive in Troy during business hours.