When considering seating areas, pathways and outdoor dining rooms for your landscape there are hundreds of types of surfaces available. Choosing the wrong material for an area can be a frustrating and costly mistake. With some planning and a bit of guidance the outcome can be extraordinary. Here are some tips, tricks and pointers to help make the decision process a little easier.
Walkways/pathways are functional elements in the yard that take you from point A to point B. You want to consider what type of traffic is using the walkway and how often. If, for example, the path use is to take you and a wheelbarrow from the garden to the shed, you will want a surface that is fairly smooth and durable. Imagine a heavy load of topsoil bouncing merrily down a slope to the garden. How merry do you think the driver of this load will be? In these instances where heavy loads are being wheeled or dragged a sturdy level material is needed. Poured concrete, large patio slabs or pre-cast concrete pavers would lend themselves ideal in these types of situations. If you wish to go more natural try a compacted limestone path, shredded wood mulch or saw cut flagstone pieces. Avoid natural flagstone as it is uneven and generally has large joints in between each stone that, although look very nice, are not conducive to this application.
On the other hand, casual pathways for strolling are limitless in terms of what material to use. There are many inexpensive and easy ways to create attractive strolling paths through the garden. Shredded wood mulch is right at home in a natural woodland or shady garden. Even the smell of it reflects the space perfectly. River stone and pea gravel paths provide a pleasing crunchy sound to the garden adding another sense to the experience. Walking on pure gravel can sometimes be challenging so take the effort out by adding a few larger pieces of natural flagstone throughout. This allows for a more stable walking surface while creating a beautiful weed-free pathway. Jumbo flagstone (pieces in the 9-16sq.ft. size) gives a modern and clean look when cut into existing lawn areas. Casual walkways are those that have no structure and simply meander through the space. In comparison with a formal style path, these are much easier and less time consuming to install. Formal paths require keeping symmetry and balance (which boils down to math and measuring). Saw cut natural stone, poured concrete or pre-cast pavers are better suited for this style.
If the decision comes down to natural stone keep in mind that it is available in hundreds of styles and colours. For some fun with colour try a Golden Pea Gravel path bordered with lavender or catmint. The combination of pale yellow and purple gives a wonderfully soothing effect. Very French!
Decks in our area are generally constructed from one of two materials, cedar or pressure treated lumber. By code, pressure treated must be used for the structural portions of the deck however the decking boards themselves can be either. Cedar has a beautiful look and feel to it. It is nicer to cut, ages well with or without staining and smells fantastic however it will take a bigger bite out of your budget. Pressure treated may not look as nice but stands up to the test of time and can be stained any colour you wish (which is nice because the natural green hue it has may not suit your outdoor décor). Just be sure to let it breathe for a year before staining.
When considering the addition of a patio to the landscape the same question of ‘What is it going to be used for?’ should be addressed. In terms of dining areas, it is much easier to push a chair away from a table if the surface is nice and smooth. This is another instance where natural flagstone may not be as effective. Loose materials such as mulch or pea gravel can be sloppy when adding furniture and accessories so you may want to keep these materials strictly to pathways or small seating areas such as secret nooks and garden view points. When adding a large patio area incorporate garden pockets into the patio to break up the space so it appears less static and formal. This cuts down the square footage of material that is required therefore also cutting the cost!
No matter what the material or application be sure to research the installation process if you are an avid Do-It-Yourselfer. Patios and driveways require extensive base preparation that requires the use of machinery and tools. Professionals have all the equipment and can have the job completed properly in a fraction of time it would take an inexperienced installer. To avoid wasting time, money and your body, know when to seek help or hire a contractor. Here at Pathways to Perennials we developed a remarkable landscape design centre to help homeowners view quickly some of the most popular choices out there. If you schedule a complimentary design consultation at Pathways to Perennials we can walk and talk prices at the same time. The basic point we’d like to make is living well outdoors is worth the investment and choosing products, size and style to satisfy your long term goals is priceless. See you soon. Lisa Hunter, Landscape Design Professional.