Tex­tures IN A Land­scape

This month An­nie Green-Army­tage looks at choice of ma­te­ri­als in hard land­scap­ing


AT THIS time of year, the struc­tural el­e­ments of our gar­dens are laid bare as plants die back. Whether this means eye­sore or eye candy is partly down to de­sign, but also to the type of ma­te­ri­als used. I have talked about liv­ing struc­ture – parter­res, hedges and edges – in a pre­vi­ous fea­ture, but hard land­scap­ing is also cru­cial, from walls and path­ways to pa­tios and per­go­las. Mak­ing con­scious de­ci­sions around the use of ma­te­ri­als can add a new di­men­sion to your gar­den, one which com­ple­ments all that care­ful plant­ing (or in our case only-just-con­trolled self-seed­ing).

The ma­te­ri­als you use will de­fine the at­mos­phere of a gar­den space. A roof ter­race kit­ted out in pol­ished stone and wood says well-groomed ur­ban liv­ing, while a rus­tic path­way, cre­ated on a shoe­string from bro­ken pots and ce­ram­ics, in­ti­mates a more laid-back, cre­ative mood.

Con­text is im­por­tant: your house and neigh­bour­hood will show you the way. A clean, crisp look, with well-de­fined edges, is per­fect for a new-build de­vel­op­ment, of which we are see­ing rapidly in­creas­ing num­bers in Nor­folk. In con­trast, a pe­riod coun­try cottage in­vites the use of more tra­di­tional red brick and flint. The key is to stay con­sis­tent, rather than us­ing a wide range of ran­dom ma­te­ri­als; you are look­ing to pro­duce an over­all ef­fect, for ex­am­ple the sea­side feel of sand and peb­ble, or the calm­ing in­flu­ence of zen-like raked gravel and boul­ders.

This is not to say you have to keep slav­ishly to one ma­te­rial through­out. A change in tex­ture can de­note a change in func­tion, where a paved path­way turns to cob­bles at its edges to de­ter peo­ple from stray­ing, for ex­am­ple; or it can sim­ply cre­ate a visual con­trast - cop­per spout against pol­ished blonde con­crete, or warm wooden bench on a grey stone pa­tio.

If bud­get is a fac­tor, gravel is one of the most eco­nom­i­cal and ver­sa­tile ma­te­ri­als at your dis­posal. It has the ad­van­tage of blend­ing with ev­ery­thing from coun­try man­sion to city ter­race, and pro­vides a nat­u­ral soak­away for rain­wa­ter. You will need a level site, and

edg­ing to keep it out of the bor­ders, as well as a buf­fer zone to pre­vent it from be­ing trod­den into the house. It also has a se­cu­rity as­pect, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to ap­proach un­no­ticed.

In ar­eas of high traf­fic, paving is a worth­while in­vest­ment, be­ing hard-wear­ing and solid un­der­foot. Paved ar­eas are par­tic­u­larly help­ful for older peo­ple who may be less steady on their feet, and of course, for bal­anc­ing ta­bles and chairs evenly. In the dreary gloom of Novem­ber al fresco meals may not seem re­motely pos­si­ble but in my head next sum­mer is on its way – maybe.

If you have plenty of funds then York stone is ar­guably still the ma­te­rial of choice, but there are many con­crete and riven slate prod­ucts around now which punch above their weight in style and dura­bil­ity. (The riven part is im­por­tant for its non-slip qual­ity.) Choose colours care­fully and make sure you see them wet as well as dry; there is a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. When we bought slate tiles for our court­yard I cheek­ily asked the guy at the builder’s yard to put a hosepipe on the ones we were in­ter­ested in. He duly obliged with only the mer­est hint of ‘crazy wo­man’ in his eye.

Fi­nally, shapes play a sig­nif­i­cant part in es­tab­lish­ing the over­all style of your gar­den, par­tic­u­larly at this time of year when path­ways and seat­ing be­come fo­cal points. Cir­cles, curves and globes cre­ate a flow and a sense of the con­tin­u­ous, while squares and rec­tan­gles are more for­mal, pro­vid­ing sym­me­try and order. Within the con­struc­tion ma­te­rial it­self, pat­terns and shapes abound: the her­ring­bone brick­weave of an arts and crafts path­way, the gnarly tex­ture of a flint wall, the com­fort­ing uni­for­mity of wooden deck slats. You can play with shapes within shapes: a cir­cu­lar ta­ble on a round pa­tio, or even the vary­ing sizes of cir­cles in an in­sect mo­tel.

We have dis­tinct ar­eas with dif­fer­ent over­rid­ing shapes; next to the cottage we have favoured squares and rec­tan­gles for a sense of for­mal­ity, while fur­ther out, the wild­flower meadow has sweep­ing curves mown into it each year, al­low­ing it to blend into the sur­round­ing coun­try­side grad­u­ally.

Be­low clockwise: Ma­te­ri­als sourced lo­cally - from the gar­den it­self in fact. The flint foun­tain here at Quince Farm, com­plete with robin; Cre­at­ing a visual con­trast: warm cop­per against blonde con­crete in a min­i­mal­ist set­ting; The ar­che­typal ‘city liv­ing

Left to right: The warmth of the wooden box seats con­trasts with grey cush­ions on a grey mar­ble-ef­fect, stepped deck. The re­strained use of two colours and the smooth­ness of tex­ture gives this a stun­ning con­tem­po­rary feel; A path­way lined with bro­ken pots

Above left clockwise: Cir­cles within cir­cles: bird’s eye view of a cir­cu­lar court­yard with its or­nate metal ta­ble and chairs and gi­ant sem­per­vivum cen­tre­piece; Tim­ber and gravel steps (in­clud­ing mini gabions filled with peb­bles as ris­ers) are designed...

Left: A com­bi­na­tion of slate pave­ment and gravel in cool colours, specif­i­cally designed to con­trast with the yel­low-themed plant­ing

Be­low left: An ex­am­ple of crazy paving which works, to my mind, be­cause of its con­sis­tency of colour. It is flanked by Ja­panese maples (Acer pal­ma­tum cul­ti­vars) and lilies (Zant­edeschia aethiopica)

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