It has only been in the last decade that the choice of hard landscaping and features has become much greater and more varied. Before, gardeners and landscapers made do with what was available – using local stone for patios and paths, local wood for summerhouses and latterly who can forget the use of ugly council slabs to create that infamous crazy paving effect.
The advantage of using materials from the local environment is that it carries an inherent link with the surrounding landscape and with the building to which it is attached, which consequentially might also be constructed from local brick or stone. If in an estate, these materials will have often been used across many of the surrounding properties.
But today, thankfully we have a much, much greater choice.
The range of materials available to us has broadened for a number of reasons:
• Falling transport costs has made it more viable to import more decedent materials such as heavy stone from around the world, a good example is the sudden influx of Chinese, Indian and even Egyptian Stone.
• We have become material mad and demand more choice. This hunger for choice is already reflected in our home decoration and with the wealth of TV programmes and magazines dedicated to garden design; this is hunger for good design choice is emanating in bucket loads to the living space outside.
• New weather-resistant materials are becoming available and we are learning how to use them from aforementioned books, TV programmes and magazines
When selecting material for hard landscaping in the garden, one of the most important rules is, "less is more".
Choose just one or two complimentary landscaping materials and make sure they suit the style of the garden rather than just follow latest design trends.
Garden designers driven by new, sharp edged contemporary metals such as stainless steel and aluminium will find their choice might work perfectly in a cool, sleek modern garden but fall flat in a more traditional setting such as a English Cottage garden.
Having said that, there’s a substantial range of very interesting new materials and it might be worth revisiting some that have been out of favour for a while, such as terrazzo.