Paved surfaces have the ability to enhance an entire garden. Of course, the choice of materials is entirely personal, but as they form the main leisure areas around houses they are certain to be noticed. Before constructing a patio, have a look at the wide range available, at garden centers, in neighboring gardens and in magazines, to ensure you make the right choice for your garden.
The range of materials used in the construction of patios and other paved surfaces is incredibly diverse, and while some have a clinical nature others offer a varied and informal appearance. Materials can be mixed with one another to create a more attractive surface, as well as to direct where people walk in your garden.
Some paving materials are very expensive, but remember that a patio or terrace formed of hard-wearing and attractive materials will remain functional, interesting and a pleasure to use for thirty or more years. Materials to consider include:
– Concrete slabs: These range in thickness from 42-5omm (i-2in) and the most common size is 45cm (1 / 2ft) square; there are quarter and half-slabs, so that patterns can be created.
– Plain slabs 6ocm (2ft) square and 75cm by 60cm (2ft) are available, but these are difficult to handle. The surfaces of paving slabs range from smooth to rival, while some have designs that allow them to create larger patterns.
– Hexagonal and round slabs: These usually have smooth or slightly rough surfaces; the hexagonal stones can be laid in patterns, while round ones can be used as stepping stones in a sea of irregular-shaped materials, such as pebbles.
– Granite sets: Often expensive, but hard-wearing and ideal for using in limited amounts to create variations of shape and texture.
– Brick pavers: Hard-wearing and usually laid on a thick bed of sharp sand to create so-called 'flexible paving'. The 'flexibility' arises from the fact that the pavers can be lifted and later replaced if it turns out that repairs to cables and pipes below them are necessary.
– Natural stone: These have an irregular size, shape and thickness and are ideal for creating a natural-looking surface in informal gardens. However, natural stone is expensive.
– Cobbles: These are attractive but best reserved for use with other materials.
Designing with cobbles
Use cobbles to create areas where you do not want people to walk. For example, where casement windows open outwards on to a paved area, a 38-45cm (15-18in) wide strip of cobbles will deter people from walking close to the building and bumping into an open window. Additionally, plants in large tubs can be placed on them to prevent people walking too close and damaging the flowers.