Verandas are sometimes neglected in busy families and used only as dusty, unofficial storerooms for toys, sports equipment and gardening tools. Sound familiar? Yet by adding decorative plants, seating, lighting and even small, self-contained water features, such as a stoneware bowl fitted with a bubbler pump, it's possible to transform them into attractive, relaxing places to sit and watch the world go by. Verandas should also look good from the outside and provide a visual link between the garden and the house. A clear landscape design plan will help you create a well-structured, visually appealing effect.
List the ways your family uses -- and wants to use -- your veranda, such as a play area, somewhere to relax in the evenings, or an area for growing herbs and vegetables that's easily accessible from the kitchen.
Study the light levels on your veranda. Verandas are usually more shady than open ground, and light level determines which plants will grow there successfully. Plants should be sited where they receive adequate light according their requirements.
Measure your veranda's dimensions and draw a plan to scale on graph paper. Divide the plan into areas to meet your family's needs, such as seating areas that offer the best views or growing areas within easy reach of a water supply.
Go out into the garden and look toward the veranda. Decide where to place structural plants that frame the view of the veranda and decorative plants, such as hanging baskets and perennials in containers, that will provide flowers and interest. Note plant positions on your plan.
Put plants in decorative containers, ready to go on the veranda. Use containers with drainage holes, put large stones or broken pot shards on the bottom, and fill in gaps around the plants with general purpose potting soil, or soil suited to the plant's requirements as stated on the label.
Place container plants, seating, planters for growing vegetables, hanging baskets, toys, or whatever your plan contains, in position on your veranda. To make moving plants in containers easier, wait until they're in place before watering.
Put lighting in the veranda at nighttime and check how it looks from outside. Lamps illuminating structural plants from below can look attractive, or you may simply want the kids to be able to see the door when it's dark outside.
Provide structure in your veranda plant display by using evergreens with well-defined lines, such as Emerald Wave sweet bay (Laurus nobilis "Monem"), which has a slender, upright, pyramidal form and tolerates partial shade. This shrub is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 11.
Grow vegetables and herbs that produce crops over several weeks. Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) and cucumber (Cucumis sativus) will grow in a sunny area on verandas. Tomato, which is hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11, may overwinter successfully in a sheltered site. Curly leaved parsley (Petroselinum crispum "Crispum") is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8 and tolerates partial shade.
Grow plants that offer long-term interest, such as Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum "Pictum"), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, and Belgian Hybrid Orange bush lily (Clivia miniata), which is suitable for USDA zones 9 through 11. Japanese painted fern has delicate fronds that fade from deep blue-green central ribs to silver edges. Bush lilies are evergreen and bear spring flowers. Both plants grow well in containers in partial shade.
Screen off an area for privacy or as a windscreen with an area of trellis and climbing plants, such as "Ritak" sausage vine (Holboellia latifolia), which is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 10.