If you're going for low-maintenance , more is better as far as hard landscaping is concerned. However it will be more expensive.
- Essentially it's a very practical element of the garden - is it going to work for you?
- Don't mix too many different types of surfaces together.
- the lowest maintenance tend to be the most expensive - stone, pavers and concrete blocks. The less expensive things tend to rely on a bit more housework from you - decking gravel, bark chips.
1) It's great for creating a flat area on uneven ground; the lengths of the uprights can be varied to give a really good level surface.
2) This is especially important in a small garden that slopes down, away from the house. Decking can be a godsend here, creating a usable space for tables and chairs.
3) It can save a lot of time and effort if you're laying decking over an existing old patio - there's no need to pull up the old stones, they will be a good base for the wood.
4) You can pain it but it will need regular maintenance, as the paint will chip.
5) There are lots of wonderful lights available which can be set into the wood. Coloured LED spots can create great effects.
6) You can create a curve but it's difficult and often doesn't look very good - better to stick to straight edges.7) Hardwood will be the longest lasting and lowest maintenance.
8) Decking boards also come in pre-made squares.
9) You can cut a whole in the deck and plant a tree or tall plants through the decking.
10) Always enclose the deck and surround it with plants.
11) Try to have planting between the deck and any uprights like walls or fences. If this isn't possible at least put some long low troughs along the back to help break up the hard surfaces.
12) Decking can be made on more than one level.
1) Gravel is pretty much the cheapest type of hard landscaping to buy and the easiest to lay.
2) Light-coloured gravel is great at reflecing the light and giving a good foil to the plants.
3) For a weed-free gravel path make sure it has a semi-permeable membrane underneath (or just cheat and spray with pathclear once a year)
4) There are different types of gravel, different sizes, and different colours. It's worth going to a builders' merchant to look at all the different types. For example, shingle is made of small chips and pea shingle has rounded edges. Then there are all the quartzite, slates, and cobbles.........
5) Some people really don't like gravel - the kids eat it, the cats poo in it and it gets kicked everywhere. Two solutions: Only lay a very shallow skim of gravel, most people put their gravel in too deep, so you almost end up swimming through it. Or use bound gravel or self-binding gravel. The former sticks the gravel to a surface (something like resin) underneath; the latter is rolled so the gravel isn't loose.
Bark chips: You can use these like gravel as the surface for a path or area.
1) It is particularly good for children's play areas; it makes a relativly soft landing.
2) It is great for woodland-like paths.
3) You will have to replenish the path every couple of years or so, depending on how much you use the path or area gets - it does get kicked about.
4) Also blackbirds really like it - they will spread it all over the shop.
5) You can also use bark chips as a mulch around plants, but as it breaks down it takes nitrogen from the soil. So either add a nitrogen feed or use bark that's already broken down - composted bark.
paving: The choice of paving available is enormous. As is the way with many things, the most often used are well used for a reason. Sandstone is an ideal material for gardens and is probably the most common natural paving in our gardens. The sandstone imported from India is very reasonably priced (although your environmental conscience may have a niggle about this - several suppliers guarantee that their sandstone is ethically sourced). York stone is a sandstone, but from Yorkshire and more expensive than the stuff imported from India. India York is the confusing name sometimes used for India sandstone.
It's always difficult to choose a stone from a single sample and also to know how it will age. It may be lovely and cream now but in a year's time will it be grey and black? The best way to get a real view of how it will look over a wide area and how it will wear in is to see the paving used in someone's garden. Failing that, many builders' merchants have show gardens outside and it's possible to see how the stone looks over a wider area. But don't just choose the stone, you also need to specify..........
1) Riven or sawn- Riven is split along natural lines and will have an uneven natural-looking surface. Sawn will have dead straight edges and top.
2) Size- the size of the stones - big or small? smaller will look busier and more detailed. I tend to go for bigger - in a small area they look less fussy and in a big area they will look in proportion.
3) Pattern- The laying pattern can be randaom or regular.