Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Crazy World of Paving – A Guide To Choosing the right Patio Slabs for your garden

Frequently I am asked by clients “what are the right patio slabs or stone to use?”  I always say that there are four main factors:

  1. Style – this should link with the style of the house and garden. Should you be looking at traditional, rustic riven or modern sawn faced types of stone?
  2. Colour – as well as choosing a colour you like – ask yourself whether you want to have a colour that contrasts with, or complements, the existing walling of the house and garden. Or more than one colour.
  3. Function – what is it going to be used for? How much traffic, footfall and weight will it have to endure?
  4. Cost –the cost of the stone in a landscaping project is usually only 20% (approximately) of the total cost – the majority of which is in labour and other materials. So going for a more expensive stone may not impact dramatically on the cost. sunny border of Mediterranean style plants

One good rule of thumb re: design is that small areas suit smaller stones and slabs, and vice versa.  Large stones in a small space can look wrong proportionally.

Another thing to consider is how the stone will weather – the more porous the stone, the more green with algae it will go.  Generally concrete stone tends to fade and natural stone tends to darken with weathering.

The main selection is between natural stone, reconstituted stone and Porcelain.

Natural stone tends to look better – each stone will have its own individuality, its own texture and colour, which overall can give a marvelous finish.  It is high quality, hard-wearing, and – sadly – more expensive.

FairstoneLimestoneRusticOchre

Natural stone can be imported or from UK quarries.  Indigenous readily used products include:

  • York sandstone
  • Portland stone
  • white and blue lias
  • Welsh slate.

The benefit of imported natural stone, such as Indian sandstone, is that it is much less costly than indigenous stone due to cheaper production methods.  Look out for ethically sourced stone from suppliers such as Marshalls who are now working with UNICEF.

Reconstituted stone 

There are many products made of reconstituted stone:

  • Wet cast (tends to weather slower and has a smoother look –Premium product– big variety of products)
  • Pressed concrete slabs – cheap and can give a very neat, uniform look , cheaper product (whether smooth or textured/riven)
  • Blocked paviours – usually used for drives because they are so strong but can be used for patios due to their decorative effect. Concrete and clay forms in many different sizes, finishes and colours.
  • Impressed concrete –can be created to look like natural stone, or slabs. Dye is added to colour the concrete surface. Saxon Natural Drivesett Argent Dark

Porcelain paving

  • Porcelain stone – Relatively new product designed for outside use 20mm thick in many sizes. Very robust, less slippery than concrete and stone, lots of finishes from smooth to textured – Very good resistance to staining. Mid-range price

And finally – one thing to consider is how much “give” does there have to be in the surface?  On drives, large slabs may crack as they are very rigid and may have to bear a large uneven weight over their surface.  Smaller elements such as block paviours are better suited in this situation as they can flex slightly due to the base make up and so are less likely to crack.

Sourcing patio slabs and stone has never been easier and there are dozens of products available. I would look at the practical elements before the aesthetic – because, with so many products out there – you are bound to find the right colour and texture – it’s much more important to pick the right stone.

Bye for now

Brett

Next post: 20th April

Japanese inspired contemporary design

The Golden Rules of Small Garden Design

Do you get annoyed when almost all television programs on garden design look at large gardens and don’t include ideas for small gardens? And yet, because of the limited space and planting options, this is one of the most difficult areas of garden design.

When I designed my RHS small garden I was very conscious that every decision I made was crucial as with a small space there is no margin for error – mistakes stand out.  Show garden photoFirst of all I looked at the advantages that small gardens offer:

  • they are usually sheltered from direct sun, wind and frost
  • they can be easy to maintain
  • they offer a perfect space for scented plants to work well
  • walls and fences offer workable structures for vertical planting.

The next step is to decide how you want to use the space.  In my experience the most common “wants” from a small garden are somewhere to escape and a picture – something that looks good from the house all year round.  With that in mind, I would like to offer my “golden rules” with regard to small garden design.

  1. The right choice of plants – plants really have to earn their keep with several seasons or a long season of interest. Foliage lasts longer than flowers and is just as important as it gives texture, contrast and visual interest.
  2. If you have a poor looking plant don’t be merciful – no room for stragglers in a small space – get rid of it and plant something that looks healthy and vibrant.
  3. Consider large plants or plants with large dramatic foliage. Large plants can make a small space look larger and provide perspective, more so than using lots of small, low growing plants.
  4. To “light up” shade use plants with shiny surfaces, or silver or gold variegated foliage – especially to contrast with plants such as Hostas and ferns.
  5. Use colour to create depth. Hot colours in pots close to the house, such as reds, oranges and yellows, can be eye catching and contrast with softer pastel background colours creating an illusion of depth.
  6. Don’t be tempted to use too many materials or plant types as this can look fussy. Clever minimalist planting and a pared down choice of materials can look better and more classy.
  7. Use the verticals without compromising the floor space. Put up wires and trellis on fences and walls to support climbers.  An arch, a bamboo wigwam, or even a couple of inexpensive wall pots can look great and introduce height and pull the eye upwards.
  8. Play tricks with perspective – Setting the paving on an angle can make the space feel bigger by using the diagonal distance instead of front to back or side to side. Mirrors, well placed ornaments and unusual features can also make a garden seem bigger.
  9. Blur the boundaries with planting to blend with the surrounding landscape and gardens. For example, it’s easy to make a neighbour’s tree complement your planting and contribute to your garden visually. Hiding the boundaries makes the garden feel bigger by extending the view beyond your fence or wall.
  10. And finally – pots! There seems to be a heavy reliance of pots in small gardens.  They can work well as they can be moved, replaced and provide tiered planting, but they can look cluttered, stain the patio, crack with frost, hide pests and can be high maintenance with regard to watering.  Be selective and use with care! Choose similar colours and larger types.

In the next few weeks I will return to small garden design, providing more detailed information about plants that work well in small spaces.  But this has to be all for now – the days are getting longer and there’s much to be done.

 

Until next time – Brett

 

Next post “Choosing the right paving” – 19th March.