by Kate and Len Lucas.
This article is not about how to landscape or design a garden but much more about what we have learned not to do. When it comes to “hard landscaping”, once you have made a mistake it is often difficult to put it right, if at all. As always, we are trying to reduce maintenance rather than create it.
We have a garden path laid by an expert which looks a real treat and cost hundreds of pounds.
Not wishing to repeat the extravagance we recently laid a path ourselves. First, do we put down a membrane? No. We have experience of membranes and whatever else they do, they do not stop our weeds. We do get a few but they are easy to remove, and some worm casts which we cover up with more gravel. Second, we used RHS washed 10mm quartzite grit, available from any good garden centre. It does tend to creep to the sides as you walk on it but raking sorts that out. For about the same length of path, it was a lot less than a hundred pounds.
A paved path in a lawn can look very attractive but you will have a constant maintenance battle with the grass that wants to grow over it, and while we are at it please think carefully before putting bricks around the outside of a lawn for the same reason.
For us, small-sized slabs, 450mm x450mm are best. Large slabs can look like a car park and are far too heavy. Avoid slabs with strong contours because the garden furniture will never be level. We used a contractor to lay two patios where the slabs are cemented in. One is grouted and one isn’t. The frost over the years has lifted the grout and we can’t move the slabs so we will have to re-grout it. We think it might have been better to lay the slabs on the sand and not grout either.
For many years all our boundary fences were made of wooden panels secured with wooden posts concreted in the ground. High winds and rain meant that many posts snapped or rotted away at the bottom. We did a temporary fix (lasting several years) by using “Metpost Bases” each is a square metal cup with a long ground spike. The ground spike is hammered into the ground and posts were just hammered into the cup. They worked a treat until finally, we were able to have someone replace all the wooden fence posts with concrete ones.
We do have wooden posts in other parts of the garden but we no longer concrete them in instead we use these metposts so replacing a post is so much easier. No more concrete, just a matter of taking out the old post, removing any old wood in the cup of the metpost and hammer in a new post. Saving us time, money and those aches and pains you get at our age.
Paint and Painting
We once made the terrible mistake of painting trellis with inexpensive blue paint before they were put up only to find that the climbers prevented any further maintenance painting. The paint soon came off and green algae grew all over it. We no longer paint trellis or any other decorative wooden structures.
The new boundary fences are painted with proper preservative paint that matches the colour of natural wood. No green algae.
To avoid the climber problem once the fences were painted we attached brass hooks to the top of the fences and hung sheets of green coloured metal garden mesh on them and attached all the climbers and roses to them.
In the past, we have bought large plastic pots the colour of terracotta and they still looked like plastic pots even with plants in them until we painted the pots with matte blackboard paint – cracking result.
All this outdoor stuff has taught us that if you feel you can do it then have a go but think it through and if you can’t do either then use an expert. Not everything that’s made of wood outside needs to be painted and if you do paint it, buy the best you can afford and make sure you use a brush.