Patios and terraces mark the transition between the house and the garden. They should be though of as an extension of the house or an outdoor room. Thoughtful planning should go into choosing the appropriate materials for the hard surfaces of the garden.
As a rule of thumb, two materials, colors or textures should suffice, too many and the design becomes a bit overwhelming. Simple designs usually work best. A simple solution to stones set in the lawn with grass between each creates a soft semi-patio.
When planning and designing your patio, keep in mind its possible uses. Outdoor entertainment and cooking will require more space than a patio intended for just sitting.
Stone found locally can tie your garden to the surrounding landscape. Another way to unify your design is to consider using stone which will complement the architecture of the house. Brick houses with a brick patio and cobblestone edging works well to create a transition space between the house and garden or lawn.
To create the feeling of an outdoor room, consider the use of arbors and trellises. Arbors can provide the patio with dappled shade and provide a place to grow climbing plants. Trellises can prove the patio with privacy and serve a garden wall with vines such as clematis or morning glory growing through them.
Take note of the physical qualities of stone as they will determine what is most appropriate for your needs. Color variations, texture, fractures and size and shape all contribute to the stone’s character. Smooth stone, such as evenly cut bluestone, conveys a feeling of formality as done uniform color, texture and shape. The opposite is true of irregular, uneven natural fieldstone which is ideal for the meandering path or freeform patio.
Beginning The Design Process
Before you begin the design process, evaluate the area where you’re planning your patio. Assess the soil and scope out the surrounding conditions. Look for ledge which may impede your construction. What type of soil is present in your garden? Clay soil will be poorly drained and require a more substantial sub-layer of crushed stone. Sandy soils are better drained and easier to build in.
Patios and walkways need to be well drained. To build a stone path or patio remove six inches of subsoil and replace with four inches of crushed stone, this will help provide adequate drainage. On top of the crushed stone, place 2 inches of sand or stone dust. Set the stone evenly on this layer. If the ground is extra wet due to clay soil excavate deeper and add more stone. This will provide better drainage. Slope your patio gently to one side, preferably away from any structures, to prevent water from collecting, this is important especially in areas where water will freeze in the winter.
As a result of working with stone there’s usually great deal of soil compaction so protect your plants while you build you patio or path. Soil compaction can damage plant’s roots and make it difficult for water nutrients to penetrate the soil. Temporarily relocating them may be required. Transplant your shrubs and perennials to a new location during construction. You can also dig them out and set them in a shady spot with their roots covered with a moisture retaining material such as bark mulch or if the plants are small, transplant them into pots.
However you decide to create your patio, thoughtful planning and careful construction will be sure to enhance your garden and outdoor living experience.