How to Create the Perfect Garden Patio Design
How to Create the Perfect Garden Patio Design
Absolutely essential around most types of patio, edgings are also a necessity along the sides of pathways and walkways, and without them, driveways would inevitably collapse as cars ride over the edges. But an edging can also have aesthetic value. It is possible to be imaginative and creative while ensuring that paving bricks, slabs and so on are held in place, and loose materials prevented from spilling out onto adjacent surfaces.
If you have a Victorian-style garden, lay tiles on edge along pathways; if you prefer a more modern approach, a row of bricks may be laid at an angle to retain the surface material. Brick-paved paths and patios are usually edged with the same brick, laid at a slight angle for drainage, although precast concrete edgings (including special kerbstones) are also useful.
Screening and Shelter
Although not always strictly necessary, pergolas and overheads will offer some protection from the elements and increase the usefulness of any patio. Overhead structures could also be useful over walkways, particularly where they lead from a garage or parking bay, or link a gate to the front door.
Of course the roofing material of any pergola or overhead structure will determine the degree of shelter offered. Awning material (including shadecloth), canvas and timber will give some shade, but will not prevent you from getting wet. If the motivation for building a pergola over a patio or walkway is to keep the area beneath it dry, then you will need to choose a more solid covering, like fibreglass, polycarbonate or even tiles, and the basic structure will therefore need to be more substantial to carry the weight of the roofing material.
Screening, on the other hand, is usually erected as a wind break or to make a patio more private. It can also be used to define or divide an area. Screen walls, plants climbing up trellis-work, or hedges alongside a pathway may be incorporated as design elements, defining the route as well as offering some protection. Materials chosen for pergolas and screens should complement those used in the rest of the garden. Although materials may differ in appearance, the basic construction principles are similar for many of them.
When it comes to garden lighting, the illumination of paths, steps, driveways and patios should be top of the list. Not only does lighting extend the usefulness of these outdoor areas, but it is essential for general safety and security as well. Steps can be particularly hazardous at night, and corners where intruders could lurk in the dark are potentially dangerous, especially in and near parking and entrance areas. If a patio is not illuminated at night, its usefulness will be severely limited. While you are taking the time and effort to construct such an area, it makes sense to ensure that you can use it after dark as well as during the day.
Lighting also adds to the decorative scheme outdoors. Used to highlight features alongside pathways and on patios, it lends character and charm to any garden.
Of course, the installation of electric lighting will usually involve enlisting the services of an electrician unless you can utilise existing plug points and light fittings. This is often an option when a patio is created alongside the house. Unless a floodlight attached to the house adequately illuminates a pathway or driveway, it is usually necessary to lay suitable waterproof cabling underground.
Although you may be able to lay the cables and fix the fittings yourself, it is essential to employ an authorised person to connect theto the mains. Once underground wiring is in place, make sure that anyone working in the garden knows where it is, to prevent accidental damage with spades and other sharp tools.
It is worth noting thatsystems suitable for DIY installation are available in some countries, and these have the added advantage of being much safer than standard installations.
Many lights and lamps are suitable for use outdoors, but it is essential that only sealed units are chosen. Although free-standing lamps and pillar-mounted fittings are useful alongside paths, it is best to aim for a good, general light on the patio. Wall-mounted lamps usually cast a warm glow over the entire area, while spotlights may be used to brighten a specific section of the patio, perhaps one used for alfresco eating. Uplighters are effective alongside steps, and floodlights will brighten a large area.
Seating arrangements are found in most gardens. Some seats are fixed, others moveable, depending largely on function, where the furniture is sited, and what it is made of. Although the patio is the most obvious place to sit outdoors, paths may lead to a spot with a good view or even to a particularly pretty part of the garden, and this is a good place to have a bench. If there is some sort of overhead shelter, an arbour or patio roof for instance, free-standing furniture is usually a practical option. If not, it may be preferable to consider built-in seats and tables, or even natural options like logs or planted earth banks.
On a patio, built-in seating can be a real boon; it can be left where it is in all weather conditions, all year round, and simply ‘dressed’ with cushions when you want to use it. There are various materials suitable for permanent designs, although brick and stone are probably the most usual and the most versatile. It is more cumbersome to cast concrete in situ than to lay bricks, but the latter can be an expensive option. Timber is another popular choice, but it is often better suited to decks than to patios.
Of course, some types of moveable furniture may also be left permanently in place. Ordinary precast concrete benches weather well. Left unpainted, they eventually become mossy and naturally aged; bear in mind that although this can look attractive, it can also reduce the practicality of the seat. If you prefer a slicker look, a coat of paint will do the trick. Metal designs are also suitable, especially hardy aluminium, which will not rust. Plastic tables and chairs may be left outside, but constant exposure to the elements does make many types brittle and they invariably deteriorate over a period of time.
The ultimatefor paths, steps and patios, plants can make all the difference. Flowering creepers and climbers will introduce colour on the patio, while hardy ground covers and small perennials will add interest to paths, steps and paving.
There are numerous ways in which to introduce plants. You may want to establish flowerbeds along the edge of a patio, build planters, or perhaps leave out sections of the paving and plant small shrubs in the spaces.
Plants alternating with hard surfaces can be attractive, and this approach may be adapted to paths, steps and patios alike. Sweet-smelling ground covers like creeping thyme
and pennyroyal are good choices. Whatever the plan, it is essential to do a little homework before you plant and to make sure that the plants you choose will thrive in the environment in which you want to plant them. You will not always be able to imitate a look (perhaps seen in a book or magazine) with exactly the same plants. However, it is usually possible to find a species which may be substituted.
All, no matter how simple, require a selection of tools and materials, as well as a fundamental knowledge of the basic construction principles involved. If you have undertaken DIY projects previously, you probably already have most or all of the necessary equipment in your tool bag, and you should be accustomed to much of the terminology used by builders. If not, it is essential to familiarise yourself with the basics and to ensure that you have all the items required before starting work.