Paving for the Garden

Provided that the work of laying it is properly carried out, paving should prove to be practically trouble-free. There are many different kinds of material to choose from, ranging from natural stone slabs through various types of man-made materials to crazy paving.

Although the use of crazy paving has often been sneered at, there is a great deal to be said for it, provided that the broken stone of which it is constructed is natural and also that it is properly laid. It is those bits of broken concrete or synthetic paving, or stretches of concrete marked out in a random pattern that have given crazy paving its bad reputation. Properly laid random paving can look perfect in a country setting, although it is usually out of place in towns or in association with modern architecture.

For contemporary houses, the best choice would be either slabs of artificial stone paving, obtainable in a variety of sizes and colours; bricks or pebbles set in concrete; or a combination of two or more of these.

York stone slabs, which used to be easily available, are now in short supply and expensive. Although their colour and texture enhance the beauty of paths and terraces, York slabs also have their drawbacks since they can vary considerably in thickness, making it difficult to obtain a level surface. However, since there are now so many attractive paving slabs of artificial stone, including some with the ripples and weathered look of York, and others which give the appearance of granite setts, most gardeners can find an acceptable alternative.

The slabs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but those that are 45 cm (18 in) square or less are the best, since they are easiest to handle. I prefer either natural grey or sand-coloured slabs: white produces terrible glare in summer, while the brighter colours, such as reds and greens, are more suited to swimming pools and seaside promenades.

Laying paving can be hard work, and if you are not prepared for this, you should enlist outside help. However, if you decide to save a good deal of money rather than time, there is the enormous satisfaction of doing it yourself. The easiest way of laying paving slabs is to put them directly on to the soil. This, however, requires a light sandy soil and a comparatively level site. It is not easy to get a good level on heavy clay soils, and uneven levels can cause shifting and even cracking of the slabs. On such soils, the slabs can be laid on a firm bed of sand, which saves the effort and expense of using a cement mix as a foundation.

These methods are suitable only for paths and patios over which there will not be a great deal of traffic.

For more permanent paving, the site should be levelled and a layer of rubble, 10-15 cm (4-6 in) deep, spread over the surface and rammed down. On top of this, a 5 cm (2 in) layer of coarse sand should be spread out, trodden down and raked level. The paving slabs can then be laid directly onto this sand bed. Each slab should be tapped down, making sure that the correct level is maintained as laying proceeds. Individual slabs can be tested with a spirit level, but for the overall surface a straight edge or levelling board will be needed.

When paths or patios are laid dry, you must be prepared for a certain amount of movement. This can be due to various causes – for example, y the leaching of the sand base after e heavy rain or the burrowing activities of mice or moles. For areas in constant use, it is better to lay the slabs in a wet concrete mixture – 1 part of cement to 6 of sand – 10 cm (4 in) deep.

A lot of the hard work involved can be avoided by using ready-mixed concrete, but make sure the site is ready when this is delivered. Guard, too, against concrete burns by protecting your hands with gloves. The paving slabs are laid on the wet surface of the concrete after it has been tamped down with the edge of a board and levelled off with a straight-edge and spirit level. Do not lay the paving above the level of the n house damp course and make sure that any paved area next to the house has a gentle slope away from it to allow rainwater to drain away.

Where a large area of paving is being laid, variety will add interest to an unbroken expanse of slabs. This can be achieved in several ways – by interlaying small stretches of slabs of a different colour, by leaving planting holes in which small shrubs, bulbs or bedding plants can be grown, or by filling squares or rectangles with materials of contrasting appearance such as pebbles, bricks or flints. Omitting slabs at intervals where walls and paving meet will make room for planting climbers and wall shrubs.

Inexperienced gardeners or those with very little time to spare may prefer to turn over the work described above to a professional or part-time workman. It must be remembered, however, that the labour involved is a once-and-for-all project that is going to save hours of work in the long run.


•Patio provides an attractive, easy-care recreation area between house and garden.

•Well-laid anti-slip paving stones are gently sloped to ensure rainwater drains away from house.

•All the plants require the minimum amount of care and attention.

•The culinary herbs are within easy reach of the kitchen.

•The shrubs will eventually hide the fence and need the minimum of pruning.

•All the herbaceous plants have easy-care qualities: should not need staking and will not need dividing or transplanting for many years.

•Creeping and trailing plants ‘break up’ the paved area yet need minimal attention.

27. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Gardening Ideas, Time Saving | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Paving for the Garden


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