Category Archives: Design advice

How to choose the right driveway

First impressions are so important and your driveway has a big impact on the look of your house. As an accredited Marshalls Paving and Tobermore Paving installer Brett Hardy Landscapes have a depth of knowledge and experience in installing driveways and we can lead you through the design and construction process to help you achieve the right driveway for you, thus giving you peace of mind that it complies with all the latest Government Legislation and construction standards.

So what do you need to consider when deciding on a new driveway?

  • Do I need planning permission?

This is important. Not many people know that in 2008 new Government legislation was introduced to ensure that all driveways drain into the ground and not down the sewers. This was partly in response to serious flooding in 2007 and also to restrict pollution from driveways (oil, petrol etc) ending up in rivers and streams.

This means that if you are paving over an area of more than 5 square meters with an impermeable surface that does not direct the rainwater to a naturally draining area (ie lawn or flower bed) or a purpose built soakaway then you will need planning permission. An alternative to this is permeable paving where the rainwater is able to drain through the surface and planning permission is not required.

Failure to comply with these regulations could mean that reparatory work is required to comply with the legislation at the homeowners cost so be wary of companies offering cheap prices without the experience to ensure your driveway is installed correctly.

  • What are the options for surfaces?

We can offer the full range of Marshalls and Tobermore products. You can choose from ethically sourced natural stone setts, or a more traditional look of natural stone cobbles. There is also a selection of more cost effective concrete block paving or various gravel options. There are a large range of colours and finishes and we can help you select the best option for your driveway. Also as an accredited installer all Marshalls products are guaranteed for 10 years and Tobermore products are guaranteed for 25 years. We will also guarantee the installation for 5 years.

  • So, what should you do?

At Brett Hardy Landscapes we have the experience to advise you on the design and construction of your driveway to choose the best surface covering for you and ensure that the drainage complies with the correct legislation. If you live in a conservation area then we can advise on any specific local requirements for you as well.

If you want to take your first steps to a hassle free new driveway then please contact us here, email brett@bretthardylandscapes.co.uk or phone us on 01225 789990.

Brett

Driveway using Marshalls Tegula block paviours with drainage complying with SUDs regulations

Driveway using Marshalls Tegula block paviours with drainage complying with SUDs regulations

Cobbled driveway showing drainage complying with SUDs

Cobbled driveway showing drainage complying with SUDs

Up the garden path

Paths.  Yawn.  On first consideration – boring.  However a path can be a garden’s backbone – essential in giving definition, dividing or uniting elements as well as providing access.  A path is one of the most prominent design features of a garden, and ideally it is decorative as well as durable.

A slippery, cracked & poorly designed path in need of a re-vamp.

A slippery, cracked & poorly designed path in need of a re-vamp.

A badly designed or poorly maintained path can “undo” the whole garden, dragging it down to look shabby.  In addition paths can become hazardous if they are slippery or uneven.

When designing a path I avoid a dead straight line as this cuts the garden unless I am using it for dramatic effect.  Soft curves are much better and more interesting.  If you are using slabs then the angle of the path is dictated by the curved slabs available – never try and cut a curve yourself, it won’t work.  A professional design trick is to vary the width of the path – for dramatic effect designers will widen the path slightly when coming to a focal point in the garden or when approaching steps or a patio.  The narrowing of a path away from the house will also make the garden appear longer.

The width of the path is important – do you want it as a functional path to get between beds as with a vegetable plot?  I advise a width where it is easy to kneel comfortably between beds – most gardeners advocate at least the width of a wheelbarrow or 2 ft/60cms.  Although you may want as much space as possible for growing plants and want to keep paths to a minimum, you will regret it later if the path is too narrow.  A rule of thumb used to be that the more a path is used, the wider it should be – and 4ft was a good width for two people.  However with a range of materials available a narrow path can be as durable as a wide path.

Materials used for the path have to be right for the garden style – and should either complement or deliberately contrast with other hard landscape features.  In addition the materials should be appropriate for the amount of traffic the path has to withstand.

Here are my pro’s and con’s with popular path materials:

Gravel – gravel will travel unless edged properly. It is relatively cheap, comes in a range of soft colours, and is ideal for light to medium traffic.  It is not ideal for sloping paths (rain will wash it downhill), for coming up to the house (it will be walked in), and it can be used as a litter tray by cats, and small children cannot resist playing with it.

A nice cost effective gravel path.

A nice cost effective gravel path.

Sharp edged gravel will lock together and not move around as much as smooth gravel.  Weeds eventually creep in. My favourite is 10mm or 20mm golden gravel because of the warmth of the colour.  Gravel works well in either formal or informal gardens.

Concrete – this used to be unpopular as can look plain and because of its permanent nature – but those were the old days and concrete now can be fantastic in modern or highly stylized gardens and has become trendy again.  It is ideal for heavy traffic, can accommodate interesting design shapes, curves and angles, and is the most low maintenance of paths.

Contemporary looking concrete steps and stepping stone path

Contemporary looking concrete steps and stepping stone path

A colouring agent can improve the colour and the surface can be roughened before setting to give texture and better grip.  Concrete begins setting in two hours.  As there is little room for error I would advise using a professional landscape gardener to lay it.

Bricks – an extremely ornamental but expensive material.  This works best for narrower paths and is good for light to medium traffic.  The use of red brick is very popular in pottagers, cottage gardens, country gardens and vegetable beds.

Brick paths can be used to great effect

Brick paths can be used to great effect as seen here

There are traditional design patterns such as running bond (see photo), which can be used for straight or curved paths and which draws the eye along it, or parquet and herringbone which are used for larger areas and are more ornamental, giving a formal look.  Bricks work well when combined with slabs and concrete.  A firm foundation is necessary and weather-proof bricks are needed to withstand frost.  Again I would advise getting professional help.

Earth paths – these work very well in sheltered gardens with good drainage and a lot of sun.  They give a rustic effect, are low maintenance if the soil is compact, and complement a naturalistic planting style.  The path shown here was in “A Perfumer’s Garden” at RHS Chelsea this year.

'A Perfumers Garden' -RHS Chelseas 2015

‘A Perfumers Garden’ -RHS Chelsea 2015

Green paths – grass, thyme, chamomile or clover – either singularly or in combination, provide soft walkways through borders and work well for light traffic.  These are cheap but are high maintenance as they need mowing, and regular aeration to avoid compaction.  Also there is a danger that, even with edging, the plants can invade beds.  Anti-slip grass mesh, or grass pavers, can provide a stronger pathway for medium traffic.  This provides a more solid foundation allowing the grass to grow through.

Slabs – including pre-cast paving slabs, Porcelain, natural stone and pre-cast paving. In my previous blog, “The Crazy World of Paving”, I explain about the differences between natural and pre-cast slabs.  Natural stone – such as sandstone – gives a very stylish, expensive look – but it is hard to cut cleanly, is heavy and needs a lot of foundation preparation.  Pre-cast slabs come in a variety of styles and colours and are much cheaper and lighter.  Slabs are ideal for medium to heavy traffic but must be laid correctly to avoid issues of puddles, drainage, cracks and sloping.  A softer effect can be created by allowing plants such as thyme to grow up between cracks. Stones may need to be treated to avoid algae and greening.

Mulched paths – in the larger garden centres there is a growing choice of mulching materials made from wood.  These can range from simple bark chips to wood shavings to bio-mulch.  The more chippings, the better the drainage and the suppression of weeds.  Bark chipping paths are usually good for 2 – 3 years, are cheap, and don’t need a lot of site preparation – they can be laid in a shallow trench over landscape membrane.  The chippings can also be composted after use.

Bark mulch paths are cheap and fit a woodland setting.

Bark mulch paths are cheap and fit a woodland setting.

These paths work well in wildlife gardens, allotments or between raised beds, and in “wilderness” areas.  They are good for producing pathways that softly blend in with the planting.  However, as with gravel, the chippings may travel or attract cats.

Rounded stones or cobbles – these have become unfashionable in recent years but can look amazing when combined with other materials, such as rounded polished stones, modern slabs or bricks.

Cobble paths can be highly decorative.

Cobble paths can be highly decorative.

Set in cement the cobbles can give a soft informal path of muted colours, however they can be uncomfortable to walk on and slippery when wet or icy.

Setts  – these are small paving blocks made of stone, or imitation stone.  They are like small bricks and can create a lovely tapestry in either formal or random patterns.  They are hard-wearing and highly decorative – but they are expensive, fiddly to lay and may become uneven over time.

At RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year I was very impressed with how paths had been made glamorous (but not very practical!!).  Chris Bearshaw incorporated water jets in his path – which although highly slippery – made the polished stone shine and glisten.

This years Chelsea Flower show garden entry for Chris Beardshaw featured water jets in the path.

This years Chelsea Flower show garden entry for Chris Beardshaw featured water jets in the path.

Paths needn’t be boring.  They can be fun, they can lure, they can be pretty.  So look at your garden path with fresh eyes – you never know where it may lead you.

Bye for now – Brett

 

 

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.