Stone, slate, decking, gravel – modern gardens are as much about textures as they are about plants. So, choosing the right surface materials is all part of bringing your garden plan to life. Whatever surface you go for, getting the design right in the first place will save you a lot of headaches later.
If you’re laying a patio, create gaps in the design by leaving out a few paving stones. You can fill these openings with decorative gravel, slate or plants.
Lay decking planks close together (around 5mm). The surface will be more comfortable to walk on in bare feet – and you’ll be less likely to lose objects between the cracks!
A patio of stone slabs is an ideal way to extend your living space into the garden. If the patio is adjacent to the house, make sure that the surface will be at least 15cm below the damp-proof course. And incorporate a slight fall away from the building, so that rainwater won’t pool. A drop of around 1cm per 1m should do the trick. Design-wise, explore slabs of differing – but related – sizes. The patterns you can build up with these slabs will be much more interesting than a plain grid.
Gravel is the cheapest of the hard surfaces on offer for the garden and it’s also one of the easiest to lay. But that doesn’t mean you can skimp on the preparation. It’s not enough to level the earth, sling down a weed suppressing membrane and scatter some gravel. You need to stabilise the area first. Dig to a depth of at least 10cm and edge the area with pressure-treated timber boards of the same height. Then pack in a 7cm layer of “scalpings” – rough stones. Hire a vibrating compressing machine for this job. Only then can you scatter your 2.5cm layer of surface gravel.
Best of the Rest
The warm hues of brick paths work well in the garden but need regular attention to stop them becoming slippery. They’re also a good edging medium. Cobbles – available in natural and artificial stone – make a highly decorative surface. They can be quite a challenge to lay accurately, though. Bark can do duty as an inexpensive material for informal paths. It also makes a great surface for children’s play areas. Smooth pieces of slate look smart and are much easier than gravel to push a wheelbarrow over.