Building Your Own Paths and Patios
Building Your Own Paths and Patios
Paths, patios and steps are found in just about every garden, regardless of its size. Not only are they practical features, providing a solid and safe route for pedestrians and offering a place to sit outdoors, but they are also useful landscaping ‘tools’. A wide range of materials may be used to construct them and to create an effective outdoor style that will suit your living environment, your tastes and your needs.
Functional factors usually come first, and irrespective of the type or size of your garden, designing any outdoor area is a creative challenge which demands patience and a practical approach. Paths, steps and patios are built from ‘hard landscaping’ materials such as bricks, stone and mortar, but they also rely on planting and otherto look attractive and enhance your outdoor scheme. Since gardens grow and constantly change with the seasons, it is essential to have a clearly defined idea before you begin to create a basic plan or alter an existing layout. Before you start either planting or removing established plants and cutting down trees to accommodate a new walkway, flight of steps or patio, consider all the options. You do not have to be a trained landscaper to succeed, but it does help to have a basic knowledge of plants as well as an appreciation of the various elements that can be combined with them.
For practical reasons, it is always best to tackle the permanent elements of a garden first, and to create a basic layout which will allow for expansion and development later. Once you have laid paths, driveways and patios, incorporating steps and terraces where necessary, and erected fences or walls, you can turn your attention to trees, shrubs and flowers. After all, if plants are to be included in a patio design, or perhaps grown between stepping stones or in planters on a garden stairway, it makes sense to complete all the messy structural work before you even start to prepare the soil for planting.
If, perhaps because of financial constraints, you cannot tackle all thenow, it is usually quite possible to allow for later expansion and development of the plan, but it is best to identify the position of future paths, patios and steps etc. at an early stage.
Apart from their practical functions, which include not only providing easy access and a stable place to walk but also linking or dividing different areas of the property, pathways also have an aesthetic role to play. Imaginatively laid out, they will add interest and charm to the garden, enticing one to follow the route that lies ahead, and they could provide visual and thematic continuity between various sections of the garden.
Whatever the size of your house and garden, the addition of a patio will extend your outdoor living space.
Originally, the patio was an inner courtyard which was open to the sky; today patios may be sheltered or open, and sited alongside the house or built as a separate feature within the garden itself. The design possibilities are almost endless, especially if you consider including additional features which could enhance the outdoor area. For those who enjoy entertaining and cooking outdoors, built-in seating and a brick barbecue are practical additions, while pergolas and screens provide increased shelter and privacy. Water features and planters soften the effect of hard materials and make the visual transition between the built surface and the garden itself less abrupt.
Most patios are built adjacent to the house. There are usually several positions in which you can build such a patio, leading from different rooms or parts of the house. Alternatively, you may prefer to locate a paved area for entertaining in the heart of the garden. This could be a sunken section surrounded by trees, or a terrace overlooking the garden.
Many patios are not built at the same level as the house or garden, and so it is often necessary to construct steps for easy access. While this practical function will always be paramount, steps can still be pleasing to the eye, especially if you include planters, pillars or flower beds on either side. Properly planned and imaginatively designed, they will be an attractive addition to any outdoor area.