Garden Paths and Patios – Different Styles
Garden Paths and Patios – Different Styles
If the architecture of your house is distinctive, it makes sense to aim for a similar look in the garden, with paths and steps following a complementary pattern. Certainly a severe, formal layout will not suit a typical country cottage, and a wild garden, intersected by winding gravel paths, will usually not complement the precise lines of a Georgian manor house. However, you do not need to have a Victorian house to create a Victorian-style garden, or a Mediterranean villa for a garden planted successfully in this style. The important point is to aim for harmony in every possible way.
While fashion affects gardens as much as it does interiors and clothes, the 20th century Western garden, perhaps more than any other, has constantly borrowed from other times and places. People have been making gardens for thousands of years, and there is much that we can learn from history. Indeed, anyone striving to achieve an authentic look should imitate surface finishes, period features and structures as closely as possible, and should try to reproduce similar patterns of planting. Research your chosen style and do not be afraid to copy what you see.
Accepted garden styles range from a period look to the exotic. Some of the most popular include those which are reminiscent of the grand, formal European (and in particular Italian) gardens of the Renaissance; those which seek to evoke the timeless qualities found in certain famous English country gardens; and, of course, the Victorian approach.
While the origins of this style can be traced back to ancient Rome, it is the large, centuries-old Italian villas that give us much of our inspiration. Many of these gardens have been restored to their former glory and a number of them are open to the public. Of course, few people today have properties this vast, but ideas can often be scaled down quite successfully.
In essence, the look is classically formal, with symmetrical pathways and grand stairways leading to balustraded terraces. There is very little colour, but structures and statuary abound.
The modern interpretation involves a geometric layout with an abundance of paving. Various materials are suitable, since walkways of the genre were often of grass and gravel and pathways and patios were made using anything from marble to plain cut stone or pebble mosaic. Ideally, you should lay patio surfaces to form bands and panels of different colours and textures.
Oriental gardens, both past and present, provide an extensive source of inspiration. Historically the Chinese have been more flamboyant than the. Japanese, and their long tradition of garden-making is unlikely to be matched. Ideally one should have a thorough understanding of the ancient culture to interpret it correctly, but there are elements anyone can introduce to create an Eastern feel successfully.
Outdoor spaces are usually divided into a series of enclosures which are intended to be viewed independently. According to traditional Chinese belief, evil influences travel in straight lines, so pathways invariably wind and courtyards are sheltered and private. There is a focus on natural elements and both water and stone are symbolic.
Reconstituted stone and pebbles laid in concrete are quite acceptable materials in this sort of garden, and it is also appropriate to tile or pave the floors of patios and terraces.
The simplicity and serenity of the Japanese approach, particularly that established by Zen Buddhists, is one which appeals to Westerners the world over. Design are asymmetrical, with winding stepping-stone paths, gravel walkways and pebble ‘rivers of life’. Low-maintenance materials are a common feature, with stone, granite or evenforming both path and patio surfaces. Timber often leads from the house itself.
The tradition of the English cottage garden is quite specific, although authenticity of this style is surprisingly difficult to attain. The garden style of the early cottagers developed out of necessity, with a profusion of flowers for the vase mixed with vegetables, herbs and even fruit trees. There were no lawns or empty spaces and certainly no place for patios or swimming pools; all the available ground was cultivated, with paths and steps having a strictly functional purpose.
To a large extent, it is the pathways which give shape to the cottage-style garden. There is invariably a main path from the garden gate to the front door, as well as several secondary paths which enable you to gain access to the many plants. While these usually curve slightly, creating an informal impression, the route is reasonably direct.
It is not surprising that cottagers originally used local materials for surfacing their paths — these were obviously the cheapest available. Well-trodden earth, stone and gravel will all, therefore, fit the picture. In the contemporary cottage garden, brick, timber andmay also be used, but they should be artificially weathered to age the surface. There are many of ways of doing this, such as rubbing substances like dung or yogurt over the surface, sowing seed in gaps, and simply encouraging moss and fungi to grow by providing constant moisture.
Scale and style should be carefully considered when steps are built.
Keep construction simple and match materials with those used for pathways. Step slopes with logs, railway sleepers or even concrete lintels, backfilling with soil to secure them.
If the Victorian interior was cluttered and fussy, so too were the gardens of this era. Strong and varied colours and a busy layout are the order of the day, while arbours, gazebos, arches, tunnels and elaborate plant supports are found on patios and within the garden. The Victorians favoured formal rose walks and pathways which led to arbours and retreats. Herb gardens, divided by paths leading to a central sundial, were another common feature, as were fussy carpet beds planted to imitate mosaic. Strong colour contrasts were popular for carpet bedding, which involved planting low-growing flowers, ground covers and plants with coloured foliage to create formal patterns. The plants you choose will depend on what is available locally, but some particularly suitable species include ornamental kales and cabbages, begonias, dwarf marigolds and thyme.
Brick, grass and gravel paths are suitable for this style, and patios may be surfaced in brick or crazy paving.
If you have a porch or verandah which you use for outdoor living, the obvious surface finish is elaborate encaustic tiles. If you cannot source copies of authentic Victorian tiles, it is possible to achieve a similar look by laying tiles of several different colours to form geometric patterns.
Wrought-ironwork, so popular during this era, may be incorporated along paved terraces or as balustrades for garden stairways.
English Country Garden
Just as the interiors embody a timeless feeling of gracious living, so do the gardens of this genre. Surfaces have a patina of natural weathering which has allowed moss and lichen to take a hold. Paths and steps are charmingly overgrown, with plants breaking all straight lines as they tumble from borders and crevices, often growing between stones and bricks. Gravel, grass, stone (including reconstituted stone) and old bricks are all suitable materials.
Period-style pergolas are common along walkways and on patios, and arbours are often constructed to shade seating in the garden. Encourage moss to grow and plant flowers that will seed themselves between the bricks, stones, concrete and other materials used for paving and steps.
Suitable only in hot-climate countries, this style evokes images of the Mediterranean region, rather than a particular era. Walled courtyards and patio gardens, typical of those found in Moorish Spain, provide privacy and shade and offer an opportunity to introduce varied themes.
The classical Mediterranean garden was formal and based on the teachings of Islam. Two canals often divided a rectangular courtyard in four, symbolising the Rivers of Life and creating an intimate oasis (or paradise).
There are a lot of ‘hard’ surfaces in the Mediterranean garden and this is where container planting comes into its own. Just about any paving material will suit the style, from concrete to textured tile, but terracotta tiles and clay bricks are particularly appropriate. A popular option for paths and steps is to set cobbles or small river stones into concrete, creating patterns and motifs with varying shades of brown, grey and white. Covered patios may be surfaced with ceramic tiles (make sure that they are non-slip ones), since these were a feature of both Moorish and old Portuguese gardens.