To add some low walling around the paved area has the particular advantage of providing useful additional seats: Between 380mm (1ft 3in) and 450mm (1ft 6in) is the most comfortable height for this. In the British climate a pleasant sunny spell may be both unexpected and brief, and by the time the deckchairs have been brought out, the clouds have all too often rolled up again.
To be able to perch on the terrace wall for a cup of coffee in those few minutes is a valuable pleasure. A wider wall 33cm (13in) is more comfortable as a seat.
When designing the layout of the paved area remember to include good-sized planting pockets for climbers against the house walls. Even if the roof eaves overhang the planting pocket, most climbers will find enough soil water, if given a little extra encouragement during the first season.
Most gardens in this country, except for the very small, have lawns. Our climate is ideal for the cultivation ‘of a fine green lawn, and people are often proud to own one. However, it must be considered how much of the garden should be allocated to it. It is easy to becomes slaves to our lawn, whilst other important areas of the garden become neglected. Vast sums of money are spent on lawns in this country, yet for all the effort we are only getting a green carpet and an open space. The space is an important one for recreational use (particularly for a young family) but do we need it to be large?
Consider alternatives, such as bold shrub beds to provide interest, colour and structure. Shrubs and groundcover, although more expensive initially, require very little upkeep once established compared with all the mowing, weedkilling and fertilising that are required for grass cover. Getting the balance right between planting and lawn will save time and money and also look well. The lawn should be considered as a part of the whole garden picture, and not simply as an independent requirement which everything else must ht round: nor should it be simply the ‘bit that’s left over’.
Shrub borders can form the structure of the garden and give colour and interest throughout the year – especially valuable in winter, when other planting, such as a herbaceous border, will have died down. Many shrubs are evergreen and they can be planned to show variation in height, shape and foliage. The choice of shrubs is enormous. Obviously when the shrub border is first planted a lot of ground is not covered for three to five years, and you therefore look for some short-term items to fill in, as well as the longer-term planting.
You can use either annual plants or some of the cheaper quick-growing groundcover plants. These can be left as a permanent feature and will gradually die out as the larger shrubs grow over them. Groundcover plants have the added advantage of reducing the weeding required in the early establishment period, and add variety of colour and shape.
One other alternative would be to use a ground mulch of coarse bark. This both helps to reduce weed growth and gives a neat, attractive finish to the shrub borders. It is especially useful in a very stony soil – the type of soil where however many stones you remove there always seem to be more!