My Great Outdoors: Terra's Low-Maintenance Deck

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Name: Terra
Location: Portland
Type of space: Backyard Deck

Tell us about your outdoor project and how you enjoy it: This yard has been an easy-to-maintain collection of potted plants for years, though I've spent the last two Springs adding to it quite a bit. I spent my high school days working on an organic fruit/veggie farm, so when I moved into Jim's house last year I thought I was gonna explode with all the space to plant! The front of the house is primarily edibles and xeriscaped, so the back is where we indulge in lilies, echinacea, and hummingbird-attracting plants -- with such a large deck, there's plenty of space but it's so low-maintenance that, once it's all planted, we get to kick back and enjoy it.

Summers in Portland are beautiful and my favorite way to enjoy the space is with at-home "Happy Hours" -- Jim plays stand-up bass while we sip Belgian beers or local wine. We're both social workers so having a an outdoor area that's both soothing and interesting feels really important to us. We have tapas-style dinners with friends in the summer and, as you can see in the photo, our lovely kitty Rubia indulges in some sun-bathing whenever possible (I swear, I've never seen her on the table before today!!).

In the middle of the city, this space feels like an oasis for us and is definitely an extension of our living space. I spend time on the deck daily: having a cup of tea or coffee before work, practicing yoga, reading, spending time with friends, hanging out with Jim.

How did you create it?:

Jim purchased this house 10+ yrs ago so a lot has been done bit-by-bit, over time. We both like a little bit of 'wildness' to a landscaped yard and, even with potted plants, we try to create that look. He built the large planter boxes years ago out of untreated Cedar from the house in order to give the otherwise square deck some structure then, slowly, pots were added to round things out a bit. Understanding that potted plants tend to use more water, we try to balance that with more environmentally sound additions: the potting soil is homemade from compost, the Adirondack chairs are from sustainable wood sources, the rug is recycled plastic -- other additions are simply found objects that we decide to try out on the deck for fun.

Recommended store, site, product or resource?
For plant stuff, I primarily stick to local suppliers, including Garden Fever and Portland Nursery. Garage sales, Goodwill and Craigslist are great for pots, our local Rebuilding Center is a goldmine when it comes to wood for trellis or box building -- we also like funky little second-hand stores for unusual garden additions.