The success of any landscaping project can be distilled to just two areas: the quality of workmanship and the quality of the products used. We do our utmost to keep the quality of work high on every contract. But we are also concerned with the longevity and performance of the materials we use. It is for this reason that we are very selective when it comes to recommending products for a landscaping application.
Due to a nationwide surge of interest in garden development, fuelled in no small way by television make-over programs, general building and landscape merchants have risen to the public demand for more and more diverse products. The choice of materials on offer now is staggering. Major landscape merchants such as Silverlands and Pinks Hill hold huge stocks of varied materials, many shipped in from China, India and Turkey. But our local landscape merchants also have the ability to obtain a colossal variety of products too.
Much of the natural stone is now available for the same cost as reconstituted stone so many of our projects will use natural stone in the form of flagstones or setts. Most concrete paving uses Portland cement to bind the aggregates and sand. Cement production is one of the most energy intensive manufacturing processes in the world. The process also gives off a cocktail of air pollutants such as dust, dioxins and hydrocarbon compounds. Using natural stone is one way to avoid adding to an already problematic environmental state.
For this section of our website we have chosen to focus on just a handful of products that we feel happy to use and that will give years of pleasure as part of a landscaping scheme. It is by no means exhaustive, and we regularly use many other materials, but these highlighted examples are sometimes overlooked.
Antique bricks and cobbles. These are sourced from within Europe. Once they have been lifted from their original source, often a cobbled street that is being redeveloped, they are cleaned, palletised and shipped to the UK ready for laying on a compacted sand bed or a mortar bed if a more substantial look is required. The finished effect is a recreation of the same look as the cobbled streets they used to grace.
Shalbournes are another brick that should be viewed when it comes to period properties. This too is fine for laying on a sand bed but only for pedestrian use. This brick has an over-sized, very rough textured hand-made appearence reminiscent of the clay pavers of yesteryear. Clay pavers made by Freshfield Lane Brickworks although machine manufactured have a distinctive hand-made look and so will age beautifully too, without the rustic charm (and cost) of the Shalbournes.
Another often overlooked brick is the Staffordshire Blue. A very heavy, dense brick, this was the brick of choice for many stable yards due to its effortless ability to withstand years of punishment from the clattering of hooves. Laid over a sand bed this too is worthy of consideration for projects where materials need to complement older properties.
If the choice is to use a flagstone rather than brick the choice is wide. Indian Sandstone is very widely used, and very appropriate in many circumstances; some shades will over time age to an almost identical Yorkstone colour. There is a huge selection now with most merchants stocking these for viewing. In a time when genuine reclaimed York flags will fetch between £80-£100 per square metre, and are in fact very subject to availability, the ability to order a good substitute that doesn’t cost the earth is much appreciated by those wanting to upgrade their garden. If you are prepared to allow the Sandstone to age, which it will do, especially on a north facing terrace, then Sandstone is fine even for older properties. Think carefully though if using in full sunlight as they will take much longer to age.
Newly quarried York flagstones should also be considered if price is of concern but appearance is a close second. Price-wise these sit between Indian Sandstone and reclaimed York flags; they are generally more riven than Indian Sandstone, but softer, so will absorb moisture more easily and hence age quicker than Indian Sandstone. They vary in size, and depth, so laying will take longer than the much thinner and consistently sized sandstones.
One other flagstone we have used extensively is aged Thai Limestone. A completely different class of stone, this has a very dense yet fairly brittle consistency. It must be laid onto a full wet mortar bed for best results but if laid correctly will give years of use. This will not absorb moisture easily so will maintain its colour well; pressure-washing will bring back any dull colours.
Reclamation yards can often be a great source of original products and usually offer a good selection of brick and paving. An online search will often show which yards have good stock levels and most are willing to arrange transport around the country.