Using patios and paths in open spaces can transform open spaces even if those areas do not have plants. Outside-living or barbecue areas, driveways, turning circles, patios and paths can all look attractive. Lets classify these areas as the essential parts of landscaping. If the landscaping of hard-surfaces can be done with some thought and planning, those areas can look attractive and compliment other areas such as lawns, perennial borders and other planted areas; a special kind of balance can be achieved, especially if the hard-surfaces are carefully chosen. In this article, I will touch on a few ideas, which I think will help you gather the right information to decide what would best suit your needs. One point to remember, these days there are a lot of materials and products on the market - you just need to think outside the square!
"YOU HAVE ENDLESS OPPORTUNITIES IF YOU THINK OUTSIDE THE SQUARE"...
Let's go back to the 1970's, drives and paths were usually constructed with concrete. Concrete drives are harsh and very difficult to try and blend into the rest of the garden. Fast forward till today, and the situation is quite different, with all sorts of imaginative materials available which can be used to cover surfaces subject to hard wear. Fortunately, you don't need a Uni degree to use most of these products! Concrete pavers come in several natural colours and are easy to handle.
There are heavy types, suitable for driveways carrying heavy loads, while the thinner, lighter and cheaper ones are perfect for footpaths. For example, take the slightly-roughened pre-cast 'cobbles', the great advantage is their non-slip surfaces. These are a great option for steep footpaths and driveways. Another method you could use to try and break-up the 'solid' look of a concrete driveway, is to use curved or kidney shaped garden edges, running along the driveway. This will help to break-up the natural feel and look of hard, long straight edges.
Another option, which is one of my favourite if done probably is a garden pond. Even in the dullest part of the garden, it can create a beautiful contrast of light and beauty. Garden ponds don't have to be massive to enjoy. They can be as small as a metre across and will fit into almost any garden. There are so many prefabricated, precast ponds available these days, anyone can have a go at installing one. You can also make your own, directly in the garden, with concrete. It will last a lifetime if you make it well. One tip I can pass on is making the base/bottom of the pond flat, not curving will make it easier if you are going to have aquatic plants. The reason being, aquatic plants are usually not grown on the bottom of the pond, but in pots. If the base is not flat, only a few containers will sit in the centre and there will be plenty of wasted space towards the pond edges. So make sure the base is flat and level. If you are using concrete, be generous and make it at least ten centimetres thick and use plenty of steel reinforcing. Last but not least, the depth of a garden pond does not need to be any deeper than about 60 centimetres. Most aquatic plants are comfortable around this depth.
Lastly, let's quickly touch on shady areas of the garden. These areas are always a bit of a worry. Even to the fairly experienced gardener - what to do, what to plant and how best to landscape these tricky areas can be concerning to say the least. The good news is even the shadiest area can be landscaped and there is a whole range of excellent shrubs, small trees and perennial plants which not only grow in these sunless conditions, but insist upon it. One of the main reasons for having shaded areas in the garden, is the close proximity of a building. Or if the shade is caused by a large, dense tree. The first tip, is to give the area a good clean out. This means not just the rubbish which always accumulates in places like this, but any growth which is unwanted and has become an eyesore. Think about using flagstones or pavers for part of the area. Most garden centres have a great selection to choose from. If you have decided to install a garden seat, a paved area around the seat with a stepping-stone path leading to it will already begin to transform your problem spot.
So there you have it, a few tips on how to best tackle those problem areas and great tips on landscaping those hard-surfaces.
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