Choosing hard landscaping materials
Guest blogger Richard Bickler from Arbour Landscape Solutions discusses the choice of hard landscaping materials and how to choose the best ones for your project.
A good layout plan is the first step in designing your new garden. And I have to say that I love the service offered by the My Garden Design team. Judging by the feedback from landscapers I’ve spoken to, the designs are incredibly well-drawn and very easy to interpret.
Bringing any garden design to life, however, involves, making important choices about the materials you will use.
There are some truly innovative landscaping materials out there. This fence is made from woven corten steel. The steel has been treated so that it won’t decay over time.
Specifying the elements of your design
Quite often, the garden designer will specify materials – or at least colours and finishes. But what if you cannot find those materials – or worse – don’t agree with the designer’s selection? The final choice of materials is of course up to you and should never be taken lightly. Remember that there’s more to landscaping than just the aesthetics. Materials and the way they are installed have a huge influence on the usability and the longevity of your garden too.
That’s where Arbour Landscape Solutions can help. We are a sourcing service for landscapers and can work with your landscape contractor to ensure that every single element in your garden design suits your budget and your taste.
Paving and driveways
Designed by the My Garden Design team and built by Holland Landscapes, this is a stylish combination of porcelain pavers, limestone setts and artificial grass
There are a wealth of choices for landscaping the ground beneath your feet. And I’m talking colours as well as textures. Don’t forget to double-check the suitability of materials – especially if you will be driving vehicles over them. Installation techniques matter – a lot! If you’re not sure, about which sub-base or grout to use, talk to the supplier.
Faced with such an overwhelming array of products, how do you narrow down your choices?
Contemporary or traditional? Most landscaping products fall into either category, it’s how you style them that matters. For a timeless look and feel, I would always recommend natural stone – either brand new or reclaimed.
Do you want a smooth, seamless surface? Do you want to go full-blown rustic or are you looking for something in between? Perhaps you want a slip-resistant surface. Modern porcelain paving products come in a vast range of colours and designs from minimalist white to very realistic timber lookalikes. Likewise, natural stone has plenty of variations, ranging from the strikingly dark hues of natural slate, to the pearlescent whites of Egyptian sandstone. Look out too for fascinating features such as fossils or little pieces of mineral embedded into the stone.
Nothing is impossible. However, landscaping a garden is an investment and you’ll want it to last. Choosing hard landscaping materials in garish colours might make it difficult to sell your property down in years to come. Stick with neutrals for paving and driveways. Colours are great for painted surfaces, plants and pots – things that are easy to change.
Natural v manufactured landscaping materials
Sustainable sourcing and carbon footprint are becoming more and more important in the decision-making process. All pavers have used energy in their manufacture and transportation. Even reclaimed stone has a carbon footprint. There’s a balance between aesthetics, price and environmental costs. So will you go for UK sourced natural stone? Imported natural stone or precision made porcelain?
I can’t speak for all stone suppliers, but at Arbour Landscape Solutions we make sure that we know where all of our products come from and how they impact upon the environment. I personally visit quarries and manufacturing sites to check how staff are treated and find out what the company does to mitigate ecological damage.
Be bold – don’t be afraid to mix and match paving materials
Paddlestone walling topped with bespoke natural slate – a great mix of landscaping materials
There’s no law to say you can’t mix and match colours or sizes of hard landscaping products. In fact, that’s what makes your garden unique. You can edge a limestone patio with natural limestone setts, or why not use different sized porcelain pavers to create a pattern.
You can also use patterns to break up a large area of same-ness and bring extra interest to a design. A skilled landscaper will be able to insert circles, swirls, whirls
Collecting product samples
Photographs are great, and so are the recommendations of your landscaper or garden designer, but nothing beats seeing the product “in the flesh”.
Once the build for your patio or driveway is underway, it’s very costly to change your mind about the materials. Products can of course be returned and/or re-ordered but a landscaper’s time is precious. Not only will a lot of labour been expended in preparing the ground and laying the tiles, removing them takes even more time and waiting for new product to be delivered – well, in some cases that could be days or even weeks.
Always ask suppliers for product samples before you confirm an order. It’s wise to request two or three alternatives in similar colours so that you can compare qualities and prices.
Looking for something truly unique? Why not investigate the world of bespoke landscaping products. Steps, pillars, coping stones – you name it, there’ll be someone who can supply it. I’m often asked to source unusual hard landscaping products and it’s one of my favourite things to do.
Of course, paving is only one type of landscaping surface. What about those retaining walls, screens and dividers? They also need to be carefully selected. The range of modern landscaping materials is forever expanding as technology develops better adhesives and waterproofing methods.
One particularly cost-effective solution for vertical surfaces is a wall of gabion baskets filled with local stone. Or, for a more sophisticated look and feel why not take a look at porcelain cladding tiles?
Getting best value for money from your hard landscaping materials
Hard landscaping should last you a lifetime and need minimal maintenance other than cleaning and possibly repointing. Always think of the cost as a long term investment and choose the best quality materials that you possibly can. It would be great to think that your garden is still in good shape 50 or 100 years from now. Some of the best-loved gardens in the UK are even older than that.
While we’re thinking about procurement and buying landscaping products, don’t forget to ask about delivery lead times before you commit to buy. Project management is key to successful landscaping. If you are working to a tight deadline you won’t want work to be delayed while you wait for a delivery to arrive from overseas.
Seeking inspiration for landscaping products
There are dozens of different websites showcasing landscaping products and even more DIY outlets with displays. But for me, one of the best ways to seek inspiration is to look at what other people are doing out there.
That’s why I have a case studies page on my website. You can see different combinations of hard landscaping materials in different settings. There is a whole range of projects from high-end landscaping with bespoke stone, to down-to-earth garden makeovers using products ordered from our website. It’s a great place to look for ideas.
As for hard landscaping products, you can see hundreds of different products on our website. Trade users can log in to get prices and create quotes and of course, request samples for speedy delivery to wherever you are.
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