Are you looking forward to summer and the idea of sitting out in the garden? Have you got anywhere to sit?
Maybe you are planning a patio? If you have a new home with a garden, perhaps you’ve been concentrating on the house up to now and haven’t thought about the outdoor space?
Or perhaps you’ve already got a few paving slabs where you put a table and chairs in summer?
Before you do anything – here are ten factors you should consider:
We all tend to think that the obvious place for a patio is adjoining the house. Step out of the back door, or patio doors, straight onto the patio. In reality the aspect is really important.
Think about the position of the sun when you are using the patio. If the far corner of the garden gets the evening sun, when you want to sit there with a drink, would that be a better place?
On the other hand if immediately outside the patio doors bakes in the sun all day, and you want shade, you might want to re-think.
This does depend on how much you will use the patio and what you are going to use it for.
If you are going to eat out regularly don’t locate the patio miles from the kitchen at the far end of the garden. You just will not use it on a regular basis. You may need to compromise somewhere between accessibility and aspect.
This is one of the most important factors. I often advise people to choose their garden furniture first, then plan the size of the patio.
If you really need a six-seat patio set, the clear paved area needs to be big enough to take it with plenty of room around to allow comfortable access.
On the other hand, if you just want space for couple of sun loungers, a vast paved expanse can look hard and uninviting, especially in winter.
Your patio does not have to be a regular rectangle, perhaps led by the shape of the paviours. Soft curved edges, which ideally blend into the surrounding planting can be more appealing.
Many are put off this by the thought of cutting slabs. You don’t need to – just have an irregular edge and fill the spaces with gravel or stone chippings if necessary. Think about practicality.
If you’ve got to mow around it plan accordingly and avoid tricky corners.
These need to be inkeeping with the construction materials of your house and the style of your garden.
Do not choose paving materials in isolation or from a glossy image on a website. Get some samples, put them in situ and imagine what a larger expanse will look like.
The paving is not the dominant feature, it is part of the space of the garden. There to showcase the surrounding planting, pots, furniture and features. Avoid strong patterns and dominant colours: you will soon tire of them.
6. Relationship with planting, lawn and other surfaces
Plan to integrate your patio with other surfaces and planting. Hard edges between paving and lawn look awful and are difficult to maintain.
A transitional edge or soft planting joining lawn and patio is always more pleasing. A paved area nestled into planting feels more secluded and inviting than a barren space of paving and grass surrounded by fencing.
Pots and containers: Integrate the patio and garden with well-chosen and grouped pots and containers. Maybe the patio is your whole garden?
That’s not a limitation. It is a fantastic opportunity to focus the planting into containers. In any case you need to allow space for them. Be bold: nice big pots and plenty of them.
8. Appearance in winter
You may only use your outside space in summer, but its appearance in winter is really important. I want the patio to look attractive through the windows of the house: paving, pots and furniture.
For me the most depressive sight is a set of furniture under a patio set cover on a barren expanse of paving in midwinter. If it looks like that – draw the curtains and hibernate!
In a sunny. Open position a well-laid paved surface should be maintenance free – apart from the occasional sweep up.
Whether you lay the paving yourself or get someone else to do it, think about drainage. In shady situations, or if water hangs around algae, green slime, tends to accumulate.
You may then need to use a pressure washer or patio cleaner. This can be harmful to planting so a drainage channel of gravel around the paved surface may be the answer.
10. Making it happen
You’ve been meaning to do something about it for years, but have never quite got around to it. The garden often takes second place: the house takes priority. Think of it this way:
If you really hate your sitting room carpet, or it starts to look worn and threadbare, most will replace it. If you have unattractive, broken, uneven paving outside, and a hard-surfaced area that is too small, or in the wrong place, most will live with it.
Laying new paving or changing existing paving always seems like hard work and just too much to take on. Besides which it will be so expensive – or will it? In reality paving costs about the same as buying a new carpet and having it laid. Get it right and it will last a lot longer than your next carpet.