Sensational Spaces: Patio Design to Engage the Senses

Think of your best vacation ever; what made it so exciting? When we travel, we immerse ourselves in an experience for all of our senses. The new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures take us out of our routine and leave us feeling invigorated. While travelling may not be in the cards this year, you can replicate that same sensory experience with a refreshed patio, designed to stimulate all five senses. With these ideas, your patio is bound to become an outdoor oasis you’ll never want to leave! 


Creating a Patio for the Five Senses

patio lights

1. See the Sights

Lighting can elevate a simple patio into a destination by highlighting the best features of the space, especially if you like to sit outside at night! To create a welcoming atmosphere, try:

  • Candles: Large candles in clear or colored-glass containers add a gentle diffused glow to tabletops, which is nice and gentle on your eyes. If you prefer to go flameless, you can opt for battery-operated candles to get the same effect. Experiment with creative, quirky candle holders, like rustic lanterns or apothecary bottles. For extra protection against mosquitos, try citronella candles or torches.
  • String Lights: String lights are great for adding eye-level or overhead light to a space with amazing visual impact! Hang strings of vintage bulb lights along fences or overhang them to illuminate seating areas. Use smart lights to control the brightness and color from your phone!
  • Outdoor Sconces: An outdoor wall sconce adds a permanent light fixture to the area, but you’ll want to be comfortable handing electrical wiring before installing one. For step-by-step instructions, click here.

When setting up your lighting, make sure the brightest areas show off the areas of your garden you want to feature. This could include your prized roses, an elegant rock garden, your favorite garden decor, or any of the other fabulous features around your patio!

hanging basket

While a beautiful garden is always worth showing off, there’s a “yin” to this “yang”; privacy. To create a visually stunning space, what you don’t see (or what others don’t see!) is just as important as what you do. Create privacy with:

  • Trellises: A trellis covered with a stunning flowering vine acts as both a focal feature and a privacy screen! Our favorite trellis vines include Jasmine, Creeping Fig, Trumpet Vine, Bougainvillea and—in the spring—Wisteria.
  • Potted Trees: Potted trees add height, color, and privacy to outdoor spaces. The pot acts as added visual interest, especially when the tree isn’t in fruit or flower. To make it easy to move your potted tree around, mount them on a plant caddie.
  • Vertical Gardens: Green walls are a growing trend (literally!) and they make fantastic backdrops for your patio. You can even install a freestanding green wall to block out unwanted views and prying eyes.
  • Hanging Baskets: A row of hanging baskets adds privacy and a little bit of romance to your patio, especially when filled with tumbling trailing plants!
wind chimes

2. Take in the Sounds

No matter where you are, sound sets the scene. Try these ideas for bringing natural music into your patio!

  • Attract Birds: What our world be without the sound of chirping birds? Bird songs are the soundtrack of the outdoors, and by inviting more of them to your yard, your garden is sure to flourish as they hunt pests, pollinate flowers, and snack on weed seeds. Turn your patio into an avian paradise by adding a birdbath, feeders stocked with high-quality bird food, and planting bird-friendly plants like Coneflower, Manzanita, and California Poppy.
  • Wind Chimes: A decorative wind chime turns each gentle breeze into background music for your patio escape. Different styles and materials—like bamboo, beads, or shells—let you customize the look and sound of your chimes!
  • Rain Chains: While rain chains are often used for decorative purposes, they also provide an excellent source of white noise to drown out the sounds of the street! These beautiful decorations channel water from your gutters, producing a mini-waterfall effect that looks and sounds sensational.
lavender

3. Breathe in the Scents

Dining al fresco is one of life’s greatest pleasures! Savor the California sunshine with these flavor-enhancing plants for your patio.

  • Lavender: Famous for its calming properties, the scent of fresh lavender melts away stress—perfect for a scented patio! Better yet, the flowerheads can be cut and brought indoors for you to fill your vases or make scented sachets for your bedroom.
  • Jasmine: The rich, sweet aroma of Jasmine is the perfect complement to a sunny patio.
  • Gardenia: Often featured in perfumes and scented candles, the heady, summery scent of Gardenia is a must-have for your outdoor space!
  • Roses: Not all rose varieties have a scent, but the scented varieties are absolutely dreamy! The combination of luxurious blooms and intoxicating aroma is enough to make our knees weak. Some of the best roses for fragrance are Autumn Damask, Fragrant Plum, Honey Perfume, and Mister Lincoln.
herbs

4. Create a Patio for Taste

One of the best parts of gardening is treating yourself to all the gorgeous smells of nature! Enhance the ambiance of your patio with the fragrances of:

  • Dwarf and Semi-Dwarf Fruit Trees: Not only do fruit trees add privacy and color with their vibrant foliage and delicate blossoms, they also bear healthy, delicious fruit to finish your summer meals! Fruit trees are best bought in pairs for optimal pollination. Opt for two different varieties of the same species; for example, a Bing Cherry and Lapins Cherry.
  • Fresh Herbs: The perfect companion to every recipe! Here are a few of our favorites:
    • Basil: Enjoy its warm, spicy flavor in soups, salads, pestos, sauces, and stir-fries. Plant in containers and keep in full sun, watering regularly.
    • Chives: A scallion-like herb with a mild onion flavor. Great for topping potato dishes, salads, eggs, sandwiches, sauces, and mixing into cream cheese. Sow into containers ½ inch deep, spacing rows 12 inches apart.
    • Mint: A fresh-tasting staple for freshening breath and improving digestion. Brew into teas, muddle into cocktails, or add to lamb dishes. Grow in a small container by itself; this herb has a tendency to take over! Plant mint root approximately 2 inches deep and allow about 12 inches of space between rows.
patio furniture

5. Good Feelings

We don’t often think of touch when we think of outdoor living spaces, but the textures around us are directly linked to our sense of comfort! For comfort you can feel, make sure to include:

  • Quality Seating: Plush chairs in touchable fabric beg to be lounged on all day. If you find you don’t spend as much time in your patio as you thought you would, try upgrading your seating—it makes all the difference!
  • Pots & Containers: Choosing a blend of textures in your pots and containers, as well as pleasing shapes, can make the space feel so much cozier.
  • Macrame: Trendy woven wall hangings, poufs, and hanging planters add soft warmth to your design. Keep them protected from the elements to preserve the shape and color of macrame pieces. Learn how to make your own macrame pieces here.
  • Touchable Plants: Got kids? These soft plants are safe for curious fingers: Allium, Hyacinth, Verbascum.

By engaging all five senses in your patio design, your outdoor space will be soon become your favorite destination. Contact us today to find out how we can help you create a never-ending staycation in your backyard.


About SummerWinds Nursery: 

A leading high-end retailer of garden and nursery products. Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, SummerWinds Garden Centers, Inc. operates retail nurseries in the greater Phoenix, Arizona area, and in Silicon Valley, California, making it one of the largest independent retail nursery companies in the nation. SummerWinds appeals to both the serious and casual gardeners, with a broad selection of premium gardening products and a friendly and knowledgeable staff.