One of the things on my “Spring Gardening Jobs” list is “Finish Winter Gardening Jobs List”. One of those that cross over the Winter/Spring season is the annual clearing, cleaning and restoring of the patio across the back of the house.
This begins in late Autumn the previous year, when the night temperatures drop towards zero, flowering is over and the more tender plants risk frost damage. The patio pots are cleared away. All of them, there were around 50 at last count. They’re either brought inside (like the Strelitzia), sequestered in the greenhouse, shed or tucked onto the lower patio against the wall for a bit of protection.
Nothing happens for a few months thereafter. The patio stays clear of “stuff” all winter. Finally in Spring, when there’s more than a remote chance of having some sunny days above 5°C, the whole patio is pressure-washed to get rid of in-grained dirt and algae, moss and other stuff that can cause black-spots on the concrete squares.
Shortly after the wash, the whole patio is sealed with, well, a sealant. This is a clear liquid, applied via a roller (like paint) that dries to a matt plastic-y finish. Two coats is enough. This sealant inhibits aforementioned dirt and soil from becoming ingrained into the stone and causing algae and black-spots to appear.
Unlike the very first year – when we discovered the original colour the patio was supposed to be – we don’t need to acid-clean and then bleach the patio before sealing. The acid and bleach was a one-time effort to reverse the neglect of many previous years. The current regime of washing and sealing is now basic maintenance and we’re even thinking of just using the sealant every other year as we build up layers of protection.
The best part comes at the end when all the pots re-emerge from their winter hiding places and congregate on the patio once more, like an old school reunion. There’s no strict plan for what pot goes where. The display every year is different and unpredictable.
With the patio restored, I can look forward to a season of lounging on it, enjoying the sun while surrounded by pots of flowering plants. There’s still a couple more steps to go to bring everything together. The hanging baskets, bench, annual plants, staging and Strelitzia won’t join the patio until around May, when the nights are always above 5°C. New this year is that I’m thinking of stringing the outdoor Christmas lights along the post-and-rope fence.
However it turns out, the patio is one of the most time-intensive, work-intensive and changeable parts of the garden, but every window at the back looks out onto it. It’s the most visible part of the garden and the most accessible. It’s also never the same twice. This makes the patio an odd contrast of being as solid as the concrete it is made from, but also ethereal; continually changing from month to month, season to season and year to year.