Choosing Landscape Materials
The textures and shapes of materials you use in your garden are key to your design. Learn how to choose the right landscape materials for your outdoor space.
From: DK Books - Garden Design
Planting is only part of a garden. Hard materials, whether for surfaces, boundaries or structures, are an integral part of the design, and they must be considered too. Materials which echo the house or the local environment produce a pleasing consistency, while different materials lure you in with interesting new shape, color and movement.
When selecting materials, consider the view from the house. Do you want to soften large areas of hard landscaping by incorporating a mixture of materials - slate with gravel or wood with crushed shells, perhaps? Paths that are heavily used need to be solid, but a secondary walkway can be constructed from gravel, bark or stepping stones. Using the same material for a path and a patio creates continuity; a change further along says, "This is a different part of the garden."
It's not just about texture and shape, though. Layout also matters. Installing hard features lengthwise draws the eye onward, while widthwise directs it to the side. Winding and partially-obscured paths invite exploration. Walls and solid screens shut out the view outside of your garden, while open screens and apertures provide teasing glimpses of what lies beyond.
Furniture, too, should maintain the style of the garden. You must consider your available space: if you want a large dining table and chairs, you may have to build a patio big enough to accommodate them. If supporting sustainable forests is important to you, look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo when you shop for wood furniture.
And then there are the feature elements. Most gardens will have a spot for a water feature, as well as a piece of art. If you plan to include lighting, the electricity supply and cables must be installed by a qualified electrician; solar lighting has to be accessible to sunlight. Outdoor heating is becoming popular, too, but should be carefully considered; it has a large, perhaps larger than necessary, environmental impact.