Special Features for Your Garden

Once the preliminaries of planning and major construction have been dealt with, you can turn to any special areas of interest or function. If the scale of your garden allows, a rockery and stream can look natural and dramatic. In a smaller garden do not have too many special features and keep outlines fairly simple.


Timber makes very effective use of a natural plant material in the garden. It may be rustic or formal in character, as you prefer, and can give added interest to trellis work, pergolas, benches, tables or dividing features. The main problem with timber is that it does not last for ever. Either treat any parts that must be inserted in the ground with a good wood preservative to protect them from rot, or embed them in concrete. All garden timber should be treated from time to time with a ‘plant-safe’ preservative, not creosote which can kill seedlings and affects most plants badly.


Ideal for giving support to climbing plants, pergolas are constructed from a series of posts placed at intervals along the ground, with interlocking posts fixed horizontally to the top of the uprights. Climbing plants can be trailed up these. An effective rustic appearance can be gained from using pine or larch, from which the bark should be stripped, although oak and cedar are much stronger and longer lasting. A more formal pergola is constructed from sawn planks of wood. It would be useful to complement a formal pond or to give height to a flat design.


For the garden with walls, white-painted trellis looks attractive against brick, especially if used to display only annual climbers, such as Morning Glory or nasturtiums.


If summerhouse is not practical on grounds of space, then perhaps a timber-framed arbour could be constructed, using trellis for the walls, through which the less rampant clematis or roses can twine to create a summer feature. A wooden or wrought iron bench would look well in such an arbour.


These sometimes benefit from being roofed with a canopy of plants. Supporting woodwork can be constructed to form a ‘ceiling’, along which to encourage climbers that produce good summer foliage, such as the golden hop, passion flower and vines. Some people grow grapes very successfully on patios, though it is necessary to choose the right variety for the conditions. Although the Russian vine (Polygonum baldschuanicum) gives good roof cover, it is such a vigorous-growing plant that it should be used only in exceptional circumstances, where an unsightly shed or oil storage tank needs to be covered rapidly, for example. Timber furniture can be used anywhere in the garden, but is particularly useful on a patio. This can be purchased but comes expensive, so you might like to consider constructing your own. Also available are kits that can be assembled quite easily at home.


A greenhouse dramatically extends the range of plants you can grow in your garden and can give you great pleasure all year round. There are many different designs, some of which make attractive features in their own right. Seek professional advice so that you select the most appropriate one for your purpose and site. A free-standing summerhouse in which to sit on bright days will give you shelter and can provide useful storage for all your garden paraphernalia.


Paths need to lead somewhere. The maxim that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line should be remembered when designing a garden. If you always walk to a certain point in the garden by the quickest route, there is no purpose in planning a path to get to it round the two sides of the triangle. You will walk there in a straight line anyway. So, while not necessarily marking out a dead straight line, it will pay to have a meandering path going in a single direction, rather than two, to get to the object of your walk. Of the various materials to use for a path, the simplest is gravel. If you choose this sort of path, remember that the sides need to be raised to prevent the stones from working their way into the grass or borders. A gravel path is more suitable for less formal areas of the garden and does, in fact, provide some natural drainage. An alternative is concrete, which makes a fairly simple if rather dull path but it is usually less effective than natural stone or brick.


This may be die first choice for many; it is available occasionally, and in small quantities, in the form of broken paving slabs from your local council. When laid as crazy paving, these can look most attractive and, if you care to mix colours, you can have an assortment of grey, yellow and pink. Having chosen your stone, the first step is to lay a firm base, and this can be done in two ways. The approved method is to form a base of rough concrete and then a layer of sand, on top of which is placed the crazy paving. This is then levelled, and cement grouted in between the cracks. The grout soon tends to deteriorate, however, allowing plants to grow in the crevices. You may find this a pleasing feature, but if you prefer a neat and tidy look, then try my alternative method of crazy paving. Lay the stones at the same time as you make the concrete base, so that the whole knits together and causes less cracking and disintegration of the surface. Either method will do perfectly well.


These make extremely attractive paths, with their endless permutations of patterns. My own preference would be for mixed paving and brick paths to give different textures, if it so happens that both are available.

Some manufacturers produce simulated paving stone of various shapes that can be interlocked to form a pattern. Good garden centres should be able to advise you about them.


If you do not want a path, then stepping stones may provide an effective alternative, but do ensure that they are large enough for the purpose. Plants or grass tend to grow over stones, leaving precious little stepping space if the stones were fairly small to start with.

Stepping stones in a lawn should be measured out by your own tread. Too short steps look as silly as extra long ones, and it is after all for your own steps that the path is to be designed.

Although a matter of personal choice, my feeling is that circular, concrete stepping stones in a lawn look just a little disappointing and that it is preferable to have bold, square or crazy paving. The most appropriate stones for smaller gardens are cobbles, but these would have to be sought out from a council which is ripping out a road.

For a handyman, the manufacture of concrete blocks for paths or stepping stones is quite an easy affair and should not cause great problems. A mould, or several sizes of moulds, can be created in wood and filled with a mixture of one part cement to two and a half parts of sharp sand, to which can be added four parts of 20mm (0.8in) stone, if you like a slightly rough finish. If you have a vast area to cement – either a drive or a long path – or are prepared to deal in large quantities, then it is best to hire a mechanical concrete mixer. For really large jobs, concrete can be delivered ready mixed. Wherever possible let plants cascade on to or over the edge of a formal path as this softens the hard line.

09. May 2013 by admin
Categories: Featured, Garden Management, Top Tips | Comments Off on Special Features for Your Garden


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