When it comes to designing your garden, the main element that often springs to mind is the plants themselves. It’s very tempting when planning a new garden layout to get carried away designing borders, choosing plants, shrubs and trees, and looking ahead to when everything is blooming nicely.
This is all time well spent, but if you’re going to create a successful garden it’s crucial to also give careful thought to the hard landscaping. Hard landscaping is likely to be the biggest expense in your garden, so it’s not something you want to get wrong.
Cawarden Reclaim have created a guide to planning hard landscaping, and reading it has made me realise just how much there is to consider before you even start to firm up plans for your garden design. In this post I’m going to look at different ways to incorporate hard landscaping into your garden for maximum impact and practicality.
Paths are often taken for granted and seen as a functional element of a garden; there to provide easy access to a shed, washing line or greenhouse. It’s true that paths need to be practical: wide enough to suit their use, non-slip and with a sound base of hardcore to prevent sinking. But with a little imagination you can make a path a much more interesting element of your design. Avoid a straight line if possible; a curved path will enhance the flow of the garden and lead your eye around the space. And consider using your path to add extra texture, with materials such as gravel or reclaimed paving stones.
Whether it’s a large pond or a small fountain, a water feature can provide a focal point for your garden design. You can use it to distract from an unappealing view, or draw the eye to an area you want to highlight. Before you choose a water feature, be sure to identify how big a part of the garden you want it to be, where you want to be able to see and hear it from, and how safe it needs to be. Hard landscaping is crucial here: you will need to create a solid foundation, choose hardwearing materials and also incorporate pipework for electricity and water supply.
Adding walls into your garden can be a daunting prospect, but they can be very effective for enhancing your overall design.
A retaining wall is a great long-term option for dealing with a sloping plot, by separating the space into two levels. This works particularly well if each level serves a different purpose, for example a patio and a lawned area. You can choose to ‘hide’ the retaining wall with climbing plants, or make a feature of it by building it from attractive stone, or rendering and painting it.
Decorative walls, on the other hand, serve a purely aesthetic purpose; use them to create ‘rooms’ within your garden, each with it’s own style and planting schemes. I would only suggest using walls in this way if your garden is pretty big; in compact plots they can make the space feel even smaller.
Adding a patio to your design is a great way to blur the lines between house and garden, as well as being a practical option for outdoor entertaining. It’s a good idea to use materials that complement the colour and texture of your house walls, to make the transition more seamless; this is also true when linking a patio to a path. Do think about the most practical site for a patio though. If the area directly next to your house receives little sun compared to elsewhere in the garden it’s worth considering another location.
It’s perfectly possible to create raised beds from little more than some planks of wood, but if you’re looking for a more permanent option then hard landscaping is the way to go. You can create low retaining walls from bricks, stones or even decorative concrete slabs. A solid wall has the added benefit of avoiding soil erosion and weed problems, not to mention real stability, which is a key consideration if children use the garden regularly.
Whether you’re designing your garden from scratch, or just looking to enhance the existing design, hard landscaping is a key element to consider. Taking some time and expert advice to consider the best options will give you a result that suits your garden’s style, and works well for many years. What are your tips for adding hard landscaping into the garden?